Jul 222012
Disoriented Showering


It was late Sunday morning and we were all still getting ourselves up and dressed.  DD had taken first shower after being banned from the computers for fighting with her brother.  DS had just returned from his Post-Sibling-Drama run.  I had just started eating breakfast when we heard the familiar sound of the shower doors banging.  David sighed and walked over to the bathroom.  We guessed that the door with the faulty runner had fallen again and DS may have trouble getting it back on.

“You OK in there?” David asked.

“Um, er, No!” came the reply.

David asked if he could come in and help.  From his tone on entering, I was suddenly aware that DD’s “No” was not just in reference to the door.  I was already up and across the room when David called me:

“Steph!  She passed out!”

The next couple minutes are a blur.  DD, dripping wet and looking frightened and unclear was holding on to David as I started checking her.  She was confused and unable to answer questions.  Then, her eyes rolled back and she went down again, convulsing a little as she went.  The bathroom floor is quite hard, so we got her to the bed as David declared the obvious: “We need emergency services NOW”.

I grabbed the phone, but it wouldn’t dial at first.  We rarely use the house phone and the keys all looked foreign.  I passed the set to David, who cursed as it locked up. I sat down with DD as she came-to once again.

David got his cell phone and managed to dial with that.  But, in Germany, unlike the US, there are two emergency numbers.  110 and 112.  We only remembered the first one, and wound up connecting with the police.  The dispatcher declared that he didn’t speak English, but, when David popped in and out of German on the phone, he proved his English was far better than advertised.  At first, he couldn’t understand why we were calling- he seemed to think that we were making a missing person’s report!  “Your daughter is not with you?”  Finally, he figured out that we needed an ambulance and promised to send one for us. 

The ambulance took a bit longer to arrive than we might have expected.  But, it was good to have the time.  DD was feeling better.  We got her dressed, and she was even able to brush out her wet hair.  The rest of us also threw on clothes and shoes and got ready.  There was really no question that this was going to involve a trip to the hospital.

We sent DS downstairs to meet the ambulance while we sat with DD and turned off the coffee, etc.  Soon, two uniformed, burly young men arrived at our door.  Luckily, they both spoke excellent English.  Unlike in the States, they carried no equipment and made no motions to examine DD.  They stood back and asked her what had happened.  She talked them through the events from her perspective and David and I added in info when necessary.  They consulted briefly (epilepsy maybe?  Hmm…), then told us that they needed to take her in.  We got directions to the hospital and agreed that David, with his superior German, should go with her in the ambulance and I would follow with DS in our car.

The ambulance looked just like this one

They were taking her to the Children’s Hospital, and I was really unsure where that was, so I rushed to make sure I would be able to follow the ambulance.  As it turned out, though, I needn’t have hurried.  They stayed in the parking lot for a while, as the driver spoke with someone on the phone (the hospital, I assume).  Then they headed out.  Following was still a good idea, though, because town is a series of road blocks for road work, construction, and a neighborhood fair right now.  Garmin would have gotten me there, but the ambulance knew the best routes.  I noted that as they drove, the rear compartment bounced a lot.  I guessed, correctly, that they were busy doing tests, etc, as they drove.

At the Hospital

DD, pale and still damp from her shower.  She is
wearing her brother’s jacket to get warm.

By now we were feeling considerably less afraid.  I parked and caught up with the ambulance crew as they entered a modern looking building tucked at the back of the hospital complex.  I noticed that there was a playground out back, and passed a very pregnant woman as I hurried down the sidewalk.

The hospital staff were expecting us, and sent us down to room 13.  It was a large friendly room with a single hospital bed in the middle, several chairs, and a cafe table to one side laid out with refillable bottles of water and plastic cups.  There were toys and books, too.

The ambulance crew stayed with us until a young, female doctor arrived.  They explained to her what had happened, while an older nurse busied herself with doing a finger-prick blood test on DD.  Apparently once they had her in the ambulance (krankenwagen), the crew had conducted the usual first exams.  They had done an EKG (normal) and a finger stab for blood sugar (also normal).  This last test had occurred during the bumpiest part of the ride and resulted in a sore finger and frayed nerves.  So, when the nurse came to take blood from another finger, DD was not pleased!  But, the nurse was used to tough customers, it seems, and was quite kind.  DD’s hands were icy cold, so we warmed them to make sure there would be enough blood flow.   Still, it took several minutes to milk enough blood out of her poor pale fingers!

Interestingly, the doctor seemed to speak no English at all.  And that did make things a bit more difficult.  She did assure us that the ambulance crew’s fears of epilepsy were unfounded given our description of events.  But, honestly, it had never been a big concern, so that was OK.  

After doing a blood pressure test (which I was surprised turned out in the normal range). They decided that the best route was to keep her there for observation for 2 hours to make sure she didn’t pass out again.  They wanted her to walk about some, drink some apple juice, and basically just kick back.  So, they showed us into the Spielzimmer- the play room!

The room was quite large and airy and, of course, filled with toys and games.  While we were there several kids came through.  Most seemed to know each other, so I am guessing they were folks who were hospitalized for a while.  One girl had casts and was in a wheel chair.  The rest looked normal, but maybe a little thin.  Some, I am pretty sure, were siblings of kids in the ward.

DS made a friend
Tall tower!

Offenburg Monopoly.  Hee!

You can see one of the kids eating her lunch while another plays a game
beside her.  Lunch was spaetzle with a pool of gravy next to it, cauliflower,
yogurt and a salad.  She ate the spaetzle.
DD had already read the entire Calvin and Hobbes book DS brought.  By
now she was ready to go home!

By that time, DD was bored and quite ready to be in her own familiar surroundings.  So, David went in search of the doctor.  She told us to be patient for another 10 minutes. But, they fetched us in about 2.  Only now did the doctor do any real examination.  That is something we have noticed in general in Germany.  They do a lot more listening to the patients and a lot less examining on their own. The default is to give the patients time and space.  In any case, she listened to DD’s heart and lungs, did another blood pressure test, gave us info for our family doctor, then sent us on our way with admonitions to come back if DD had any repeated issues or seemed worse in any way.  They were still waiting on the blood test for anemia, but the quick hemoglobin and blood sugar tests and the EKG had all been normal.  They ruled out everything emergent that they could, and now it is up to our family doctor to help us decide whether this was just an isolated incident, or something we need to be concerned with longer term.

Poor David probably had the roughest day of the non-fainters.  He says it may take years of therapy to deal with the memory of having his daughter say “help me, Daddy” then faint in his arms!  (no one but him is sure she said that, but it doesn’t really matter as far as the therapy issue goes!) So, grabbing hold of the one thing he is currently sure might be helpful, he has decided that DD MUST EAT MORE IRON.  David is absolutely convinced that anemia is the most likely suspect- which it well might be.  DD is not much of a protein eater, it is true.  So, until we know for sure (and probably after) he is pushing the meat eating, big time!*  Luckily for DD, though, we will be seeing our doctor tomorrow, so it is unlikely he will have a chance to follow through on his threat to put raw meat in her pumpkin pie.

*yes, he knows it is not only meat that has iron.  She will be getting force fed broccoli and black strap molasses, too, I am sure.

She is humoring him by eating a
really red local cured beef lunch meat-
it is sort of like prosciutto only beefier.
I must admit, her color is a bit better now than it was at the
hospital.  But, that could just be light
bouncing off the Bünderfleish.

Back Home
So, you spent the morning in the hospital for fainting, what should you do in the afternoon?  Well, in Germany, of course, you go for a good, healthy walk!

After getting everyone home, cleaned up, snacked and basically in better spirits, we decided to walk down and check out the local fair that has been blocking our main route into town.  As it was now 2ish, things were starting to get cleaned up, but there was still a lot happening.  They had sand laid out for kids to play in, hay bales lining the street, live oldies American rock music (I put a hex on you!), food stands, and, since this part of town has the police station, access to the emergency vehicles, guns(!) and history of the local police force.

DD hated all the people and noise and we wound up leaving pretty quickly, but, it was nice to check it out anyways. 

Kids pitching hay bales onto the truck.
local rockers

DH and a model of a German motorcycle policeman from
the 1960’s.  The car behind is what our current officers drive.
Looks a lot friendlier, no?

So, that is where we are at.  DD seems to be doing fine, knock wood.  We will take her in to see Frau Doktor Kleiber tomorrow.  Both DD and I have been fighting a cold that seems to have gone into some sort of secondary infection, so that is another thing she will need to check out.  No one at the hospital seemed concerned when we mentioned it, though, so I guess it isn’t what they figure caused the fainting.

Also, a shout out to DS who handled himself beautifully through the entire thing.  He was helpful and thoughtful and patient. His German skills filled in a couple blanks for us.  And, he unselfishly shared both his jacket and book with his sister when she needed them.  Plus, he helped to entertain the other boy who was definitely bored in the speilzimmer.  So, Yay DS!

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