Life Lesson 20: Be Grateful for Little Things, Especially When Life Isn’t Going Well

Have you ever had a day where everything is going along great and then, all of a sudden, you wind up in an ambulance on your way to the hospital? Well, that happened to me Tuesday, March 30th. I was attending an English immersion program, working as a volunteer to help Spanish people improve their English. We were at a hotel in Mengibar, in the old part of town, where public sidewalks and private pavements can be uneven.

I had left the hotel at the coffee break in search of cloth masks to wear as required during this awful pandemic. I had brought two pretty cloth masks with me but both had disappeared over the course of the five-day conference. Once outside the hotel I started to search around for a pharmacy. Unfortunately, at that very moment, the sidewalk had gone from a flat surface to a steep step downwards. I put my left foot out into the air and landed on the ground with my left leg turning at a sickly right degree angle. I also heard my bone break.

Once down on the ground, I called out to a young man nearby wearing a red sweater to, “Llame una ambulancia.” He was kind and took off his sweater, putting it under my head to give it support. He asked me my name and, luckily, I was thinking clearly and gave him my lanyard with name badge that conference attendees wore during the event. He went inside the hotel and brought out the kind middle-aged man who was in charge of the conference. We waited together for the ambulance to come. It was very hard to wait as I was in a lot of pain. After about 10 minutes, an ambulance arrived and the medical workers slowly and carefully got me into the white van for the 15 minute drive to the Neuro-Traumatologico Hospital in the mountainous Spanish city of Jaen, in Andalucía.

Thankfully, the conference leader was with me for all of this, both on the ambulance ride and in the emergency room. I was grateful for his companionship.

Upon arrival, the medical staff decided I needed to have a Covid test so I got Q-tip-like objects stuck up both nostrils before anything else happened. Now this is a definitely a prime example of adding insult to injury! (I received a text message that night that my test result was negative).

The conference leader had gone outside and bought me an I-Phone charger at a nearby store so I could continue to use my phone while in the hospital. This phone was my lifeline to my family and friends.

After I left the emergency room, I was X-rayed. It was discovered I had broken my femur, the longest bone in one’s body, in two places! After this painful procedure was done, I was transported to my room. Now I was truly alone and decided this was a really good time to cry. I did this without hesitation. Many tears were shed.

My husband couldn’t join me at the hospital as he was four hours away in Orihuela Costa, in the Province of Alicante, taking care of our cat and dog. Also, travel between provinces was not allowed and our car was still in the hotel parking lot in Mengibar.

Later that evening, medical staff wrapped my left leg in gauze and attached a rope to my ankle with a big weight at its end to help realign the leg. Two mornings later, a surgeon was available to do my operation.

While waiting for my surgery, I got to enjoy the beautiful mountain ranges around Jaen. As a flatlander from Chicago, seeing mountains always gives me a thrill!

Great view from my hospital bed of the mountains around the city of Jaen

When they wheeled me down to surgery Thursday morning, I took the opportunity to ask the surgeon in Spanish if he had a lot of experience doing this kind of procedure. He replied that he was 44 years old and had been doing this operation for 20 years. “Okay. We are good to go, I thought!” This was great news and the exact type of thing to be grateful for during such an awful experience: I was in capable hands.

After about 3 hours of surgery (so I was told since I was out for the whole event), I woke up and promptly threw up. I only had enough time to say to the medical team, “Voy a vomitar” and voila, it happened.

I always had to speak Spanish during this ordeal as no one admitted to speaking more than a few words of English. Here are some new words I learned in my own hospital-based Spanish immersion program! Cuña is bedpan, pañal is diaper, muletas are crutches, manta is blanket, pastilla para dormir is sleeping pill and timbre is bell (to call the nurses). This last one is key!

Here are some Spanish phrases I learned: To tell the nurse that my bell, my pills and my charger cord fell down, you need to say, “Mi timbre, mis pastillas y el cable del cargador se cayeron.” If you want the nurse to open the window, you need to say, “Puedes abrir la ventana?” If you want your IV off, you say, ¿Puedes quitarlo?” This whole experience helped me improve my intermediate-level Spanish. So that was undoubtedly a blessing!

Once my surgery was over and I was wheeled into recovery, I discovered I was the only patient in a post-op room normally as busy as a train station. The two nurses there said the room typically had 20 to 25 people in it. It turns out that this was the day before Good Friday, though, so only emergency surgeries were taking place. I was lucky to have been operated on when I was. Semana Santa is a big deal in Spain so things really slow down Easter weekend. This was something to be grateful for after such a traumatic injury.

Anyway, once back to my hospital room Thursday night, I was glad to have the operation behind me. The next day was Good Friday. Nobody came by to help me start walking again, as one doctor had led me to believe might happen.

Both Friday and Saturday were days of resting in bed and replying to the many messages of sympathy and support I was receiving from family and friends via What’s App, text message, email and Facebook Instant Messenger. I had never felt so supported by so many people in my entire life! This was another blessing during a dark ordeal. For example, our older son Alex called me three nights in a row and this was something that had never happened before. I was feeling the love!

Finally, on Easter Sunday, one nurse let me use a walker with a plastic seat to move around my room. “Nancy Klein is risen today. Al-le-lu-i-a!” I was never so happy in all my life to be able to use the toilet. This is something we take for granted in normal times, of course. But after five days of using bedpans, I mean cuñas, I was thrilled to use a toilet. Plus, I could never bring myself to take a dump in the bedpan so using the toilet after five days lapse was a major blessing!

I got wheels and could use the bathroom!

Also on Easter, I received the best meal of my stay. It included roast pork, green peppers, paella and fresh peaches. This was something else to be grateful for. I was so pleased I even took a photo of my meal.

Easter Sunday meal

The next day, I thought my physical therapy would begin. Instead, the doctor who operated on me came in my room and said I could go home! Lord have mercy, was I excited! This was the best blessing of all!

Unfortunately, it cost me $600 to take a four-hour cab ride home because my medical insurance company wouldn’t pay for my transport. Nonetheless, I got to sleep in my own bed that night with our ginger cat purring by my side. That experience was priceless!

Life Lesson: When things go horribly wrong, try to focus on what you can be grateful for, rather than wallowing in your misery.

20 thoughts on “Life Lesson 20: Be Grateful for Little Things, Especially When Life Isn’t Going Well

    1. Yes, I am almost back to normal. I can walk but not as fast or as far as before. Hopefully that will change with time. Thanks for asking and for reading my blog and taking them time to comment. It’s much appreciated!

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  1. Hola Nancy, greetings from Dublin. Really sorry to read of your traumatic and painful ordeal so far from home, recounted with philosophical good humour! Very best wishes from Sean and myself for a full and speedy recovery. Hopefully we’ll meet on a glorious Costa Blanca mountain walk once again in the autumn (with a bit of luck and a lot of vaccination)! Take care and get well soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Elaine, for your concern for my well-being. 🤗 Seeing you and Sean again on a Costa Blanca walk in autumn would be lovely! I look forward to it! You take care too. 😘

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  2. Nancy, What an unfortunate event! Glad there were good people around to help. I hope you are not in too much pain and discomfort. Healing takes time but the miraculous thing is the body knows how to do it! Hope you feel better soon. Light and love coming your way, Denise

    On Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 8:12 AM American Writer in Spain wrote:

    > Nancy Klein posted: ” Have you ever had a day where everything is going > along great and then, all of sudden, you wind up in an ambulance on your > way to the hospital? Well, that happened to me Tuesday, March 30th. I was > attending an English immersion program, working as a volu” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denise. It’s so very good to hear from you! Yes, the body does know to heal and each day brings progress. If we are vaccinated this spring as expected, we plan to visit Chicagoland the third week of July. Might you and Ken be around then? We would love to get together with you both.
      Love,
      Nancy

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  3. Hello Nancy, I’m sorry you went through this. Love your message, though: “Focus on what you can be grateful for” – that’s the spirit! Wishing you a speedy recovery! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That made a nice change from the usual posts on WP although it wasn’t something you would wish for. Sorry you had such a rotten experience but it gave you something different to write about and for us to enjoy and be grateful for the fact that it wasn’t one of us! Sorry, again, I shouldn’t joke about it. You handled it very well, I think, and your increase in vocab. will stand you in good stead should you ever need to go into hospital again in Spain. We had a car crash in Spain back in the sixties, outside Tortosa, and we had a similar experience, except that my husband got to share the room with me but he was wheeled out when I had to have an injection in my bottom! We were looked after by nuns. I was on my second term of evening classes learning Spanish but boy did I have to learn fast as the area had NO English speaking people.

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    1. I don’t mind you joking about what happened to me. What you said actually made me laugh out loud so that’s a good thing. Wow, your experience in the hospital after the car crash would make a good article too, I think. Yes, when motivated, we can really pick up a language fast!

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      1. We also made some great friends from the villages around who came to visit these strange foreigners, all carrying bottles of wine and sherry which I was allowed to drink whenever I wanted. Spain was just opening up to tourists then but a very poor country indeed. The court case was held in our hospital room and the poor young lad who’d caused the accident who had been driving an over heavy burdened lorry with swaying crates of chickens on lousy roads with no camber at the sides was fined some ridiculous sum he could never pay, jailed for 5 years and lost his licence for life. Times were hard then. It was the government who should have been jailed, and Franco.

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