What it’s Like Having Foot Surgery in Germany

by Brea

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I’d been having foot problems for years and once I couldn’t run anymore or do much without a significant amount of pain, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get surgery. The only trick was, I now live in Germany and getting major surgery in a foreign country is pretty damn scary (and difficult with the language barrier). I’d been putting off the surgery for a long time, I was okay giving up high heels, but once running and lifting and working out too much in general started hurting a lot I knew I needed to do something about it. 

After many appointments I finally decided on a date to get the surgery done. The reason I had kept putting it off was because I would be out of work for a bit, and each foot takes about three months to recover, and that is no fun. No working out (except upper body) and no aerobic exercise…at least not much I can think of that I could do with one foot. I also can’t drive for at least a month, and basically need to sit around and keep my foot up. All this sums up to no fun for me. Oh and I had heard from multiple people that the surgery hurts worse than childbirth (yes, multiple people told me this in person…okay okay two, so I guess a couple) and I don’t like being in a lot of pain.

I had a pre-op appointment the other day and that was interesting in itself. I ended up at the hospital for about 5 hours and was carted around to many different places. First was the administrative office to get my paperwork, then off to the surgeon to go over the surgery. He explained in general what they were going to do, and made some drawings to try to show what was going to happen. His english wasn’t so great so there were a few questions not answered completely, but he assured me all was okay. After that, I had to go wait for the anesthesiologist and then back to the surgeon’s office to discuss my hospital stay. Each place I went to had a waiting area, and that took up the bulk of my time. Most people also didn’t speak any english either, which is strange because most people you meet in this area of Germany speak english rather well. Many times they would have to track down someone who spoke enough english to explain something to me. I understand quite a bit of German now, but medical terms are a whole different story. 

The anesthesiologist made a funny comment though, which can be fully attributed to a language discrepancy. She was explaining that I couldn’t eat anything the night before, no smoking (I don’t smoke so not an issue) and also that I needed to be sober. I laughed a little and said of course I’ll be sober. She gave me an inquisitive look and then asked if sober only meant alcoholic drinks. I explained it to her and she rephrased to say no drinks at all. I can see how that could be confusing but it was still pretty funny.

So, after five(ish) frustrating hours trying to ask questions and waiting around, I left the hospital. Then two days later I went in for my surgery. I was told to be here at 8 o’ clock, but my surgery wasn’t scheduled until 10am. I didn’t really get why, I thought maybe to do prep stuff or make sure they weren’t waiting on me. So TJ drove me here in the morning at we got here at 8am. I don’t think I needed to get here that early since I was in my room and hanging out at 8:20. Then there was an emergency so I had to wait until 11:30 to get in for my operation.

Once 11:30 hit, a guy walked in and wheeled me out. I said a quick bye to TJ and tried asking the nurse a question, but he didn’t speak any english. So I was wheeled all around until I got to the pre-op room (I’m not sure of the technical name for it). Another guy then instructed me to shift over to the operating bed next to me. I did that and then when I was getting wheeled to yet another room he called out ‘Good Luck’. He didn’t speak much english so he probably didn’t realize that’s not the best advice to give someone before they go to surgery, especially when they’re a little freaked out about it, hah. One of the nurses got my IV going, and soon the doctor came in, introduced himself, and then told me I was going to feel (in his words) like I’d had two beers, or whatever it is I like to drink, then I would fall asleep. I’d had anesthesia a few times in my life, but wow that hit fast. There wouldn’t have even been time to count to five. I was out so fast! 

If you’ve ever been under anesthesia, you know that it’s just like time traveling. One minute you’re awake and falling asleep fast, the next you wake up in a different room and have a bandage, cast, or in my case a big boot on you. Also, you don’t dream either (at least I don’t) and normally I have very vivid dreams. This is probably a good thing now that I think about it. Anyway, I awoke in what they call the waking room. And you are a little dazed and the world is hazy. I think it took me about an hour to finally wake up. The surgery was scheduled to take about 90 minutes but must have gone over because I wasn’t fully awake until about 4pm. My husband had been waiting for me the whole time, I felt so bad! He had to take off by 330 and before he could see me, though, to take care of the dog and get some dinner. 

They bunked me up with another person in a room. The room is really nice, but I felt bad for the lady I was with. The pain lived up to its expectations. It’s manageable, but even with a morphine drip every hour or so I was still in so much pain! I had someone come in every hour or so throughout the night to help with the pain, and woke up the lady next to me each time.

At this point in the day, I hadn’t eaten yet. My girlfriend at work told me that all they really serve is sliced cheese and bread. So I brought a few Larabars just in case she was right (I’m in a different hospital than the one she stayed at). Well as it turns out, she was mostly right. When I woke up fully and was back in my room, they went and grabbed some food for me. They gave me fried schnitzel and fried potatoes! I feel as if this combination doesn’t really help with the body recovering, but I guess that is German hospital food. The plate did thankfully have a small yogurt and the dish had peas and carrots on the side so that’s what I ended up eating. 

However, for dinner, that is exactly what I was given; three slices of cheese and two pieces of bread. Needless to say, after not being able to eat or drink anything before the surgery and having had just peas, carrots and yogurt, I was pretty hungry!! So glad I had Larabars with me! I guess they will give me a menu tomorrow to pick a lunch and dinner. In Germany lunch is the big meal of the day, and dinner is usually something quite small. 

My roommate’s selected dinner had a beer with it. Yes! A beer! I guess it was non-alcoholic, but it was really funny seeing someone in a hospital bed drinking a beer, alcoholic or not. 

Lucky me too, I get to do this all over again in about four months!

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