Once my knee replacement operation was scheduled for the 13th August at Hospital Particular do Algarve, Alvor, I was advised to go into social isolation for 14 days prior to surgery – leaving home only for essential situations. I was also advised to wear a surgical mask in closed spaces and ensure a social distance of two meters from other people.
Fine, I complied. I never went out, which was tough. No eating out at cafe’s and restaurants which complied to the socially distancing rules and sanitizing tables and chairs between each customer, or trips to the supermarkets and beach. We did not even see friends. It was a long, hard, and lonely two weeks.
A schedule of pre-op tests was set which in theory I should have completed in about three and a half hours.
»08:00 – Covid 19 test – 1º Floor – New building; take the ticket M
»08:25 – Blood tests – New building, take the ticket H – fasting
»09:00- EKG – New building, take the ticket H
»09:40 – Chest X-ray – Old building, Floor -1
»10:30 – Consultation with the nurse – 1º Floor – New building; take the ticket M
No, it was five hours of hell and the schedule went to pot before it began. Despite arriving 30 minutes before my scheduled appointment for the pre-op COVID test, Triage (a portacabin outside the hospital) did not open until 8.06am by which time there was a queue of people.
When I missed the scheduled appointment time with the nurse my husband received a call from the hospital wanting to know where I was. Needless to say he was NOT happy and told the woman I was in their hospital somewhere. I’d already informed him I was STILL waiting for my blood test and I’d yet to find my way to another building for a Chest X-ray.
Mentally and physically drained, I finally, limped up to the first floor took and M ticket to see the nurse. I tried to tell the receptionist but was waved aside and I had to take my turn. I’d tried to explain … the nurse was waiting for me … my words fell on deaf ears and I waited and waited and WAITED in a hot, airless, overcrowded waiting area to book in with the reception team. I knew people were also queuing for COVID tests in this waiting area because that’s where I started my journey at 8.15. I watched in anxious frustration as I waited for my number to be called.
My number was never called as someone eventually came to find me and I was given a form to fill in. Eventually, I was led up another corridor and told to wait until called by the nurse.
Once I’d seen the nurse who explained COVID protocols aka no visitors, no clothes, no toiletries etc. the only things I was allowed to bring in were my iPad, phone, Kindle and a book (oh, and I assume my reading glasses). I dashed (haha) downstairs to pay. Well that was a joke! I took my ticket at 12.09 and waited and waited and waited. It was 13.00 before I left the hospital and I was dehydrated, feeling extremely faint and was on the brink of a meltdown.
Unlike restaurants, I never saw anyone sanitizing the seats or wiping down surfaces despite the mass of people passing through the various waiting areas.
The whole experience left me traumatized and close to tears. There was no social distancing in overcrowded waiting areas. Lifts – impossible to social distance as everyone just tried to pile into a space no larger than a sardine can. A notice restricting the numbers in the lift might have helped especially as able-bodied people were using the lift rather than taking the stairs.
Under normal circumstances, I would have taken a book, sweets, and a drink and sat it out as I watched the world go by. It made me wonder why I had bothered to cut myself off from the world for two weeks when I was exposed to more risk in these five hours than I would be under normal circumstances. My husband and I fall into the high-risk category so I would NEVER sit in an enclosed space with so many people where there was no social distancing. I would NEVER get in a lift with so many people. I feel angry.
We finally arrived home at 13.45 when I immediately showered in hot water and scrubbed my body with a scrubbing brush from head to toe. Having worn a mask and visor for just over five hours I can only say the staff who need to wear these all day, every day, need a pay rise. They have my respect. Thank you.
UPDATE: Another visit to the hospital was needed on Wednesday for a Crossmatch blood test with the nurse. Poor lady apologised for running late but they were having problems with the computers, again.
I returned home, and after another good scrub in the shower I’d just sat down to relax when I received a phone call from the hospital to say my knee had not arrived from the USA and my surgery was canceled and it was rescheduled for next week. Needless to say I went from blubbering jelly to rottweiler in the blink of an eye. I told her to ring me WHEN they had the knee because I was not rescheduling anything until they actually had the knee in their possession. She thought it would be with them on Friday. We will see what Friday brings.