“Some might say that we will find a brighter day” – Noel Gallagher.
Life is full of ups and downs. In my case, I’ve endured a lot of bad luck with injuries. I am clumsy, I am injury prone, I have been in more different hospitals in different cities in different countries at different times for completely different reasons down the years than anyone else I’ve ever met. That goes for professional footballers.
“Roses in the hospital” – Richey James Edwards.
I pray that this will be my last serious injury, at least for a while. Nothing good ever seems to happen to my health. Whether it’s mental pain, depression, deep suicidal thoughts, emotional trauma, hurt, or physical pain. I’m rarely a few weeks away from disaster. Down the years I’ve had so many injuries and hospital visits, that I never really know what’s around the chimney corner…
“My cheeks are turning yellow, I think I’ll take another pill” – Richey James Edwards.
On the flipside, despite these illnesses I’ve somehow managed to –
– be fully vaccinated against COVID.
– never had COVID.
– visit 200 countries, writing about all of them, mostly on my Don’t Stop Living blog.
– live around the world, in 7 countries across 4 continents.
– win a national football cup in my home country of Northern Ireland.
– hike the highest peak in Central America- Tajamulco.
– hike the 20th highest mountain in the world (on topographic prominence), Mount Kinabalu, Borneo.
– go bungy jumping, skydiving, airdiving, paragliding, canyon swinging, speedjet riding, ziplining, quad biking, stroke crocodiles that were awake, feed hyenas mouth to mouth and many other wacaday physical activities.
Apart from a few chapters in my book series Backpacking Centurion, I haven’t often written about my physical injuries or hospital visits. I will do that sometime in more detail. For the sake of this post, I will focus only on my recent hospital visits and experience. I will not mention mental health, emotional trauma or dentist visits. This is a serious shoulder and arm injury, on my left side. I got this injury in May 2022 while living in Warszawa, Poland.
I fell over after hitting a bus stop after a night out. It was a clumsy, silly injury sustained due to my own stupidity. It was dark and cold. I was tired and drunk. I was dressed for summer, yet it was still like winter. No protection on my body and my slim bones which are basically beside my skin. Being slim has huge downfalls. If I had worn a protective winter coat that night, or if I was fat, this injury would simply NOT have happened.
But here I was faced with a shoulder in agony. At first I slept it off and thought it was a small fall, slight bruise that would pass in a few days. But the pain got worse. I didn’t just go to the local doctor, this was a case for the Accident and Emergency unit. In English, this is known as “A and E”. The “A and E” sign is clear in every UK hospital. In Polish hospitals, it became harder to find…
Where Is the Accident and Emergency Unit in Warszawa?
Good question. Neither Google nor your friends might even know. Unless they’ve been there. Plus there are many of them when you Google, but which one to choose? Which are the best? Which are the fastest? Of course I had been to Accident and Emergency in Poland twice before, firstly in Gdańsk with Monika in December 2016, secondly, more recently back in June 2020. However, that 2020 visit was a deadly incident whereby I was hit by a train, knocked unconscious and rushed luckily by a passer by straight to the hospital. I wasn’t awake or aware. The ambulance took me that time. I had a hattrick of days in hospital but I survived. I could have died that time. It wasn’t my time to go.
“Somehow I’ve survived” – Jon Bon Jovi.
On Google you can search for “Ostry dyżur”, this is apparently “accident and emergency “. However, I was to learn that even Polish people, and hospital staff may not be able to help you find this place. It’s a hidden gem, disguised under the headline SOR. Ironic to high hell, here I was sore in SOR! SOR stands for Szpitalny oddział ratunkowy.
The first two hospitals I went to, they couldn’t help. I won’t detail where they are or what they are called as I’m about to tell you how to get it right. I’m telling you what to do correctly, not what to do wrongly. So much of my life has been a calamity of terrors.
Arrival at Hospital Wojskowy Instytut Medyczny
I arrived around 12 noon at the address Szaserów Street 128 in Grochow, Praga Poludnie, Warszawa – this is the place to go!! The opening hours for Accident and Emergency are 9.00 – 19.30. Here is a huge medical institute and hospital. On Google, I had seen this place but I had no indication or idea that it was the right place for me. Maybe I got lucky? The third hospital I tried was the right one!! Success but the Accident and Emergency unit was NOT easy to find.
First of all I checked for signs in this huge hospital. I was looking for “Ostry Dyżur”, or “OD”. There was nothing. Even the huge notice board on reception had nothing like that written on it. I was at a loss. I was down and out but I joined the queue for the reception, which was womanned/ manned by two members of staff. They could help me.
I told them I needed “Ostry Dyżur” for my “boli na bark” (this was me trying to say in Polish that I needed “A and E” for my “painful shoulder”). The lady on reception was polite, she pointed to her right and in Polish told me that the place I needed was out the door on the left, down the stairs and into the first ward on the left.
I needed an orthopedic surgery, with a doctor, access to an X-Ray (rentgen) machine and a tomography scan. Of course, I’d have to wait, and wait and wait.
Reception at SOR (Szpitalny Oddział Ratunkowy)
I walked through the automatic doors at the SOR centre. In front is a machine to take a ticket for the queue, to be seen by a member of staff at the reception, and registration. I pressed the button and was given the number “Zielona S049”. Within 15 minutes, my number comes up.
This reception worker spoke and understood English. Of course, this was excellent for me and a surprise. I love the challenge of speaking Polish and trying to communicate, some might say that I buzz off that. But here in an emergency, this doctor understood and told me to wait outside room number 3 in an adjacent corridor.
This room was known as Gabinet Lekarski Numer 3, literally Doctors Room Number 3. On the door were the magic words “Ostry Dyżur: Urazowy”. I had finally found the right room. It was now 13.30 p.m.
It stated on the door that this room operates from 9.00 – 19.30. I had 6 hours left on that timescale so I was confident I’d be seen today.
I went to the reception window to register but oddly the lady there told me, as she had told others, that we didn’t need to register. We just need to wait by the door. There was a huge queue of people though. There was only one empty seat, so I sat in it. All around me were people with arms and legs in slings, more plasters of Paris than Paris had ever known.
Wheelchairs were all around me. I was on painkillers at the time, my own medicine from the local Żabka shop. Ibuprofen somehow isn’t strong enough.
I could see that others around me had been waiting by door number 3 for a long time. It was now 14.00. The frequency of the door to room 3 opening was once every 30 minutes. Somebody would come out, and the next injured patient would go in.
The queue system was organised by us – the patients. We had to know who was next. As I was the last to sit in a seat, I was last in the queue. The wait would be long.
I hadn’t brought a book, or any food or drink. Or my medication. I expected to be here a maximum of four hours. Of course that was wrong.
As the hours passed, the length of the queue didn’t decrease. More new patients would come in, some of the patients already here would go home. While the queue size didn’t decrease, at least I was moving up it.
At 16.00 or thereabouts, I finally got seen by the doctor. There were still many behind me. I had brought all my documents with me. Passport, PESEL number, European Health Insurance card etc. They checked all that, then the doctor asked about my problem.
After a quick check of my very bruised torso, it was clear that this was a serious injury. Much worse than I had thought. He put a strong sling on my arm, in a position not to be moved. He immediately told me to go up to the second floor for an x-ray.
I went with my documents to the second floor but they then sent me to the fifth floor. It was here where I joined another queue, this time for Rentgen, an X-ray. Please note that neither rentgen nor x-ray might be written anywhere. Here on the fifth floor, it read ” Pracownia RTG Ortopedyczna”, so the rentgen part becomes RTG. Polish people and doctors here may interchangeably call it a Rentgen, an RTG, a zdjęcia (photograph) or indeed an x-ray.
Once I got into the x-ray room, the x-ray was taken and I was told to go back down to the ground floor. The view from the fifth floor is nice, but no saving grace…
Again, here I would wait for the doctor at the same “Ostry Dyżur” room.
The thing about all this waiting around in hospital is that you also cannot relax. There is no time for that as you are moved from ward to ward, from room to room, from doctor to doctor. If you snooze, you lose as they say. If you pop to the toilet, while they call you then it is tough luck. The doctors have no time to waste, so if they call you and you don’t go, they will take the next patient. Simple and fair.
Even if I had taken a book, the reading of it would not have been enjoyable. It would be stop start stop start. I went back down to the ground floor, by lift. Here it was about another one hour wait for the findings from my x-ray.
The news isn’t good. I have multiple issues here. Firstly, there is a “clean / clear” crack in the upper shoulder bone, known in Polish as “bark”. The doctor refers to this as a collarbone which is confusing as the crack is nowhere near the collar.
This crack in the bone means the joints in my shoulder are all out of position. This will take between 6 and 8 weeks to recover.
Nextly, I have a broken bone in my rib cage. It is the second rib bone from the top. Wow . That’s two major broken bones. It’s the first time that I’ve broken a rib or a shoulder bone. The rib bone should recover naturally in 4-5 weeks.
The exterior bruising is not such a big issue of course. It looks ugly and my skin is yellow, blue, green, red, blue, purple, brown and orange. My shoulder is a rainbow 🌈 of pain.
In the past, I have broken a few bones, including bones in my right arm and right leg. This is not even mentioning the times I was in hospital for a head collision, a willy (penis) operation, a broken nose, being hit by a train, an eye operation and an attack in a bar where I was punched on the skull three times and required a head x-ray. There are more than that…
The doctor says I now need a tomography scan. This means going up to the first floor for another wait. Standard. Standardzik.
I had tomography scans before. They are like a detailed 3D scan. After the tomography scan, I am back downstairs to wait for the doctor.
As this department closes at 19.30, it’s worrying as the queue is still long. I took these photos without the other patients of course, for privacy.
However, I am seen around 19.00, for the third time. The doctor informs me that they need to wait for my tomographic scan to be checked. He suggests that he is unsure when this will be, or what they will suggest. It could be an operation, a sling, a plaster of Paris or anything. Most importantly they have my x-ray and tomographic scan now and can make a diagnosis. There are five of us waiting as the operating time of 19.30 passes. The others are as worried as me about the waiting time, since there is actually no doctor here now.
At 20.45, a nurse comes to say that there will probably not be another doctor here for 9 more hours but an emergency doctor will see all of us in 3 hours. As no new patients will be accepted, at least I’m in the first five patients to be seen when that doctor arrives.
The five of us decide we should leave and come back to this department at 23.45, when we are told the emergency doctor will be back.
Luckily I live nearby and am able to walk home, albeit slowly. So I walk to my flat, tell my family, friends and work about the injury and grab some food and painkillers.
I get back to the hospital at 23.30 and the nurse informs me that for sure the doctor will be here at midnight. So I wait with two other new patients, while the 5 patients from earlier are not here now. I never found out why, my own health is paramount here anyway.
At midnight, low and behold, a doctor arrives. This time, I am ushered to a different room to be seen, probably around 00.30.
The doctor has good and bad news. The good news is that I am not being recommended for an operation tonight (at least for now) and that I am being given a week to try and heal. Tonight, I must keep this sling on and in the morning, I must go to a specialist to get a special shoulder and rib harness. I must also go and get more medication from the chemist (pharmacist). I have a prescription for the tablets. I have a hospital note for the harness. I have a six week sicknote for work (physical work). I have my diagnosis and treatment schedule for the next week.
I read everything myself, with the help of Google translate and Diki.pl. I learn a few more Polish words through these injuries and doctor visits. Not much consolation for being unable to travel anywhere for 6-8 weeks.
At 1.55 a.m. I am finally at home and I sleep. However, I waken up at 6.00 a.m. as I’m teaching English face to face for a nice business in Rondo Daszyńskiego. I am able to walk okay and as I need to go to the chemist and the rehabilitation shop, it’s no issue for me also to go to work for a few hours. I had to leave the flat anyway.
I teach English in a business for three hours face to face – it felt too late and irresponsible to cancel that. I sit down there and can use my right hand to write. It goes okay and the chemist is a 5 minute walk.
I get my medication from the chemist. It’s 3 types of medicine.
1.Doreta tablets. 1 every 8 hours.
2.Paracetamol tablets. 1 every 6-8 hours.
3.Dexal to be absorbed in liquid 3-4 times a day.
Then I get the metro and a tram to ActivOrto. They are based on Grochowska Street in Praga Południe. The lady in there, Karolina supplied me with the required Orteza support clothing. It’s a black padded velcro shoulder and rib cage harness. It’s a bit painful putting it on.
On the way home I grab a coffee ☕ and croissant 🥐 at the nearby Cafe Vincent. However, after this trip on buses and the Warszawa metro, I am tired. I also realise that I shouldn’t travel anywhere for now. The public transport can be bumpy on buses and trams and it hurts my shoulder and arm.
Also on the diagnosis when I left the SOR section of the hospital that night (early morning), it informed me that in one week’s time, I’d be back at the same hospital, same department for a check-up.
In the meantime, I rested at home. I did some online teaching, I wrote some travel articles for companies and I got my emails all up to date. I was still working. I never want to stop working.
I also update my social media, and focused on writing more blogs and more books. I had more time for that now I was housebound.
I also signed up for Netflix for the first time ever, which allowed me to watch some movies, serieses, football stuff and documentaries. Those are things that my busy, nonstop wacaday life wouldn’t allow.
Life had changed again. I’m housebound for 6-8 weeks now. I’ve given up alcohol again
I’ve given up live football, bars, and restaurants. It’s time to reflect on my life again.
Onto the next chapter.
Stay healthy and stay happy!