That one time I spent the night in a Spanish hospital

Surviving a medical emergency in a foreign country

There are so many other things I want to write about that come chronologically before this, but it was so crazy that I want to write about it before the memories become jumbled fragments of the past tense.

We were a couple plates of tapas and a few too-loudly-told stories in to the night when my group of girls collectively spun around in horror.

I can’t quite figure out why we all turned around, but we did so in time to see one of our friends faint and hit the floor with an uncomfortably loud thud of head against tile.

We rushed to help her as we saw her body seizing and her eyes roll back into her head. The girls started yelling,

“Help! Help! Call 911!” but these screeches were meaningless to the crowd since we were in a Spanish bar.

I don’t know how or why I was able to think clearly with all the confusion, but the Spanish side of my brain emerged and I yelled,

“Ayuda! Ayuda! Ayuda! Llame uno uno dos!”

I think I also threw in a “necesitamos una ambulencia!” but it’s hard to distinguish what was said and what was thought.

My friend quickly regained consciousness and we took her outside to give her air and get her away from the gawkers. I asked her questions about her symptoms and medical history with a calmness that surprised me more than the fainting/seizure itself.

We didn’t know if anyone had called for an ambulance, but there were two police officers down the street that a couple of the girls ran to get.

They came over and we explained what happened in a mix of Spanish and English. Once our friend was in the ambulance being examined, the police officers were chatting with us about what we were doing in Madrid and where we are from (the San Diego Zoo really is world famous apparently!).

I kid you not, my friend was being evaluated in the ambulance and I was trying to think about our next move and one of the police officers asks me if we want to go out with them this upcoming weekend. I don’t know whether to be flattered (because Spanish cops are, admittedly, unusually handsome) or to be disgusted that he thought this was an appropriate moment to ask me out. I think I’m just going to add it to the list of awkward situations that have happened to me here and laugh at them all.

Only one person could go in the ambulance and it ended up being me – despite the fact that my Spanish wasn’t the best in the group.

 I have now gone down Grand Via by foot, bus,  taxi, car and ambulance. Anyone have a tandem bicycle or a hot air balloon to chauffer me in and really complete the experience?

We arrived at the hospital and went through the series of nurses and doctors. I ran through my pantomime accompanied by my limited medical Spanish over and over for the different crowds that came to attend to my friend.

After about 12 hours of translating, gorging on vending machine food and trying to simulate a bed by using a wall, a plastic chair and a high desk, the representative from our university arrived (still not completely sure how she knew we were in the hospital) and lovingly took over.

I know everyone says you grow while you are abroad, but I am always a little stunned when I see it in action. I survived a situation that would have been difficult under normal circumstances in America let alone in another country with a young friend who didn’t have her license, student ID, passport, insurance card or a phone.

My friend is going to be fine and as soon as I finish writing this I can try to get some rest.

All is well.

One comment

  1. Glenda used to say the same thing about cops and firefighters in Spain… especially firefighters.

    Good job by the way on surviving this. It couldn’t have been fun.

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