Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My First Doctor's Visit in Germany

As promised yesterday, today I plan to post about the experiences I had while in the doctor's office for my knee yesterday. I have been reading a lot of blogs recently and found a few posts that were quite helpful to me, and this situation in particular. There is a woman from Canada living in Germany with her German boyfriend (husband now maybe) and she had to go to the doctors for a minor knee surgery. Two of her posts really helped me prepare for the day at the doctors and the shock I had when the first doctor and the second nurse told me to drop my pants, right in front of them.

Why I'm Afraid to Have Surgery in Germany & Cultural Shock in a German Hospital, her two most influential posts can be found at the links connected to the titles.

It's not a bad thing by any means, but coming from a culture where you undress in privacy and are given a gown to cover yourself, it was a bit of a shock when I was told to just take off my pants. I did as I was asked, though I felt quite uncomfortable with my unshaven legs and hugely bruised knee.
"Privacy in Germany is an interesting concept for foreigners.  On the one hand, Germans are very private.  When Google Street View finally came to Germany, such a fuss was made over the privacy issue, that Germans were given an option to have their house blurred out of the photos."

"On the other extreme, privacy doesn’t seem to exist in certain aspects of life in Germany.   It is not required in Germany when it comes to the human body. Most saunas require that you enter naked, i.e. bathing suits are not allowed, although you can bring a towel.  So perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised at my first doctor’s appointment for my knee, when the doctor said, 'OK, I’ll examine your knee now.'  J.P. who was sitting next to me, whispered 'Take off your pants.'  I whispered back, 'I will once the doctor and his assistant leave the room.'  J.P. bit his lip to keep from laughing 'They’re not going to leave the room.  We’re not shy in Germany, like you are in Canada.'  OK, then.  So red faced, I proceed to take off my pants, while another assistant entered the room as well without knocking.  I was beyond grateful that I had worn a longer shirt that day."
See what I mean? German's are weird, though I'm sure they would say the same about us! The first doctor I went to was recommended by a colleague, my boss in fact, and I walked there immediately. I got into the office around 9:45 AM and spoke with the receptionist. Apparently, they have had issues in the past with US insurance companies so I had to pay out of pocket for the visit. Whatever, I just need to see a doctor! I sat in the waiting room for maybe 20 minutes and then I was told to follow the doctor into the room. I did and had to explain the 'injury' / pain I was having and that I had had knee surgery in the past. It is difficult to explain medical things, I thought, but honestly, the medical community is pretty much the same in all languages, especially with things like the ACL, he knew what I was talking about. He put pressure on my knee making me cringe and mumbled something about my meniscus.

Crutches in Germany are much more comfortable
 to use than the crutches in North America.

He then proceeded to inform me that I needed to stay home from work for a week, keep my leg elevated and gave me a prescription for Ibuprofen 600 mg tablets. I was to go up two floors to the next doctor. I didn't know it until later, but this was an Orthopedist, a doctor who works with broken bones and joints.
"The next culture shock came with regards to how much more conservative and concerned German doctors are than Canadian doctors. It was recommended that I stay in the hospital for 3 days and 2 nights.  I balked at this as when I had very similar knee surgery last year in Canada I stayed for 4 hours after my surgery.  Both of the German orthopedic surgeons were aghast by this, but in the end we compromised and I stayed for one night."
This is how I felt about the staying at home all week suggestion and doctors note I received from the first doctor. I mean, what the hell would I do alone in the apartment all day? I decided to just not even say anything at work and continue working like normal. The pain medication I'm taking is helping a lot. Though I have been a bit loopy at work today.

I went upstairs, with the "lift" as the Brits call it, and in turn so do the Germans when trying to speak English. I went into the doctor's office and handed over what I can only assume was a referral. I was asked to wait in a small room with a lot of old ladies and very few chairs. I found a seat and sat, then I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Too bad I didn't bring my book with me because I was in the waiting room for three and a half hours! Finally they called me back into a room and, again, I was asked to take off my pants. The doctor came in after a few minutes and he started speaking fast German with me. I just began to cry. I'm not sure if it was the pain or the stress but I couldn't hold it in anymore. He calmed me down and began speaking slower and I explained that I had surgery before in America and he switched to English. What the?! Oh well, at least I could be at ease knowing that he understood me perfectly.

He talked to me while messing with my knee and finally he told me I needed an x-ray. Like every other doctor in the world, he (and even I) know that an x-ray won't do a thing for an ACL. He then explained that in Germany they refused to do cadaver grafts and only did the hamstring grafts and so he wasn't too sure about the knee's health but he thought that it never really healed from the surgery and that the weakness I have been having is due to that (are you reading this Dr. Schmitt?! Told ya!) I had an x-ray and waited some more in the hall for my name to be called and to go into a room. The doctor came in and he was the first to explain to me that the x-ray is necessary to make sure that the bones haven't spurred or are out of place which could also lead to problems with the knee. Finally, someone to explain.
He set up an MRI for next Thursday and then we'll know. He hopes that we can fix it with physical therapy rather than surgery but since Germans don't do this type of surgery, I'll have to wait until I'm in the US again if I do need it. He suggested crutches, like the ones above, but I refused them. He wrote me a script anyways.

I went back to work and was only there a few minutes before I decided that I wasn't going to stay home all week. Riding a bike is, after all, one of the best exercises for the knee. I went home soon after that and put my leg up. Ice, is an issue here, Germans don't use it often and the apartment has no freezer. Yes, this means no frozen pizzas either (not to mention the lack of an oven.)

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