The hospital which has given me a home these 11 weeks is named OLVG East. There is an OLVG West, west of here I guess. The ambulance brought me to this one because it was closer to the cruise ship.
The hospital was built around a chapel at the close of the 1800’s by an order of nuns, the original nurses. The connection has not been lost; just a day ago, I heard a patient call out: “Sister!” At its founding, OLVG went by its full name: Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, Our Sweet Lady Guesthouse. Although the full name has been left in the past along with the old chapel in the secular modern age, a new chapel serves patients and community parishioners alike. Ray and I attended an excellent American songbook concert at the Kapel, and went to a service together for the first time in years. Didn’t understand much (Dutch is challenging) but were warmly received.
The hospital’s attitude towards patient care — guests, not heads in beds — caught my attention during my stay in the gastric care unit. I was sharing a room with a Turkish man (men and women in shared rooms is the common practice here); he was a sad, quiet older person, and he was often not in the room. I finally asked about his absences, and was told that he went home during the day. “He is more comfortable with his family.” Amazing. And once their health allows, patients are encouraged to get out into the fresh air, including several hospital courtyards and the gorgeous big park across the street.
The Dutch healthcare system is in synchronized with the humane philosophy. Health insurance is mandatory, and uniform. So, my NYS insurance coverage made me no different than the humble Turkish immigrant, the drug addicted African man, the raging Dutch musician, or the weather-worn socialite who shared my room.
The OLVG philosophy is in practice across the board. Doctors communicate in a relaxed manner, taking pains to be sure patients and their families understand and taking time to hear and answer questions and concerns. My doctor is my champion.
The nursing staff have been patient, kind, and encouraging, They’ve helped me through the frightening moments as I’ve struggled to reconnect with my body. When I failed, my embarrassment was met with ease and a smile, and they celebrated my successes. They have become very dear to me.
These pictures are from the Gastroenterology Unit. There are many more nurses and doctors whose pictures I did not take with my phone but who are imprinted on my heart: all of the ICU staff, who kept me alive; Houda, the medical student intern who was my first blog reader (hi, Houda!); Hannah, who just completed her third degree; Andreas, who was so kind to me my first night on the unit; and many more.
There were even prizes acknowledging my longevity. When my stay passed the 10-week mark, the OVLG nutritionist, Renske, treated me to pannekoeken met poedersuiker (Dutch pancakes with powdered sugar). The OLVG 8th floor training center gave me my body back. My goal was to lift my butt off the bed; my physiotherapist’s goal was to get me walking. Better goal. And I did walk out of the hospital!
To all of you, dank u wel!