Thursday, 3 June 2010

Cultural differences in Health Care

Throughout my pregnancy with my son, I made regular visits to the mid-wife for control and it was during the last visit, when I was ten days overdue, that my blood pressure was found to be high. I was assured that there was nothing to be worried about and sent home. But worry one does and I decided to phone my doctor about it, just to put my mind at rest. Again the same reaction, I was not to worry and just sit it out.

But what if there was something wrong how would I know? High blood pressure is after all is a sign that something could be wrong. I phoned my family in England for advice, as by this time a little scared. My family felt that it was ridiculous that I wasn’t being checked out, just in case and that I should do something about it. At this stage in pregnancy when one resembles a large ball and is full of mind and body bending hormones it's hard to be forceful and decisive. Demand attention, I just felt like having a good cry instead. So, I phoned my (Dutch) partner, and filled him in on what had happened, who more or less told me I should have demanded to be seen and immediately took action. He phoned the doctor’s surgery and was referred to the hospital.

Not so long after, with an appointment in the hospital (UMCG), I found myself being told that I would have to remain in the hospital and would be induced the next morning. Somewhat shocked by the idea of it all and the sudden turn of events, I said I wanted to go home and pack a bag. Well, that was what one did when going into hospital for an overnight stay, didn’t one? That, I was told, was out of the question! My partner said he would go home, pack an overnight bag and come back later.

After a sleepless night, due to the other heavily pregnant woman in my room being a snorer, the likes of which I hadn’t heard before nor since, I was led to a room where they would induce childbirth. 

With no previous experience on which to base this experience and receiving no advice, I decided to proceed without any aids for pain. Bad move! With induction, there isn’t much of a gradual build-up of pain, one goes from 0-60 in no time and by the end of two hours I was demanding anything they would give me! 
We started with a morphine substitute, which made me extremely happy to be on this planet, but did absolutely nothing for the pain. Next there came an epidural which numbed my right leg and nothing else. After several hours with 5 cm dilation they discovered that my hips wouldn’t play the game and I couldn’t give birth in the conventional manner. It was at this point my body started a fever and I was told that an immediate C-section was the only option. I told them that I didn’t care what they did as long as they got it out of me!

At 11 pm that evening my son, Sam was born but due to all the drugs and aesthetics I had received, they had problems in rousing him, so the first two days of his life were spent in the children’s’ ward. As a result, I wasn't able to see my new-born boy at all and when I finally did, he was only used to being bottle-fed, so breast feeding became irrelevant.

Now, I don’t want to sow total doom and gloom with this story, but I would like to stress that if you are worried with any health issue, don’t be palmed you off with the ‘so on a scale of 1-10 how much does it hurt scenario’. This invariably results in them giving you the impression that you are just being a nuisance and whatever ailment you have will eventually go away. If necessary, overplay the pain/fever, don’t wait until you are dropping body parts all over the place and demand to be seen. One doesn’t have to play the Prima Donna, but after all we do pay for health insurance. 

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #20 Summer 2008 

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