A Miraculous Escape???

or... what a lot of luck and a fantastic medical care system can do for you!

Late one evening on a recent trip back to Ireland, I was checking my mails and various correspondences on social media when I received a friend request from a complete stranger. I ignored the request thinking it was either a mistake or a serial requester trying to make new friends. A few minutes later I received a message from the unknown subject informing me that my girlfriend Robbie, had fallen from the window of our fourth story apartment and was in critical condition in Intensive Care at a local Prague hospital.

Early the next morning I was making my way to Dublin Airport trying to book the next available flight to Prague on my iPhone in the car as I went. My heart was pumping, unsure and terrified of what lay ahead. I had never had cause to be hospitalized in the Czech Republic, nor had I ever heard anything in regard to the quality of the Czech Medical System. I was entering into completely unknown territory and being that we lived in Prague with the absence of any family close by, I felt totally helpless and alone.

On arrival in Prague, I was met by a close friend and colleague at the airport who drove me to meet the lady who had made contact with me at the building where we both lived. Ana informed me that she had found Robbie lying in the street directly after the accident, she was still conscious but seriously injured and in complete shock. Ana had come to her aid and had called the Emergency Services who then whisked her away to the Emergency Trauma Unit at the Vinohrady University Hospital in Prague.

Ana took me to the hospital so that she could act as a translator and offer any assistance she could. When we got there, we were met by one of the Doctors and a trauma management nurses from the Intensive Care/Trauma department. The Doctor explained in English that Robbie had been placed in an induced coma due to the severity of her injuries. He also informed us that they had conducted emergency surgery the previous night and were in the process of planning the next stage of her treatment.

In all, Robbie had broken her right leg in nine places, her left leg in seven places, her left ankle was completely smashed and her pelvis had been fractured in five places. The one saving grace is that she hadn’t suffered any head or spinal injuries in the process. At the time, the Doctor made sure that we understood that the situation was critical and that usually when they receive patients with the number and extent of Robbie’s injuries, the next department they are usually sent to is the hospital morgue.

Over the next few days, Robbie remained in a coma with a specialist trauma nurse sitting at the end of her bed watching all her vitals and tending to her every need. On the fourth day Robbie was again taken into surgery where they spent 8 hours trying to reconstruct her legs and stabilize her pelvis for later reconstruction surgeries. Personally, it was a very difficult position to be in but the demeanour and assurance with which the medical staff operated gave me confidence and eased my panic, somewhat!

On the seventh day, the doctors decided that Robbie was stable enough and had healed sufficiently that they could wake her from the induced coma. They explained that she would require more surgeries but it wasn’t necessary that she be kept sleeping for these to be conducted. When she awoke there was a lot of confusion, fear and anxiety on her part as is to be expected in cases like this. Thankfully, the language barrier and compassion meant I was excused from adhering to the strict visitation policy usually enforced in Czech hospitals.

Over the following two weeks, Robbie had surgery on three more occasions and spent her time moving between the specialist orthopaedics unit at times of surgery and the recovery ward post operation. The surgeries were to first, reconstruct her left heel that had been the first point of impact. The next was to reconstruct the right side of her pelvis and the final operation was to reconstruct the left side of her pelvis. All five major surgeries were successful and completed within three weeks of Robbie being admitted.

Fast-forward another three weeks and the medical portion of this whole ordeal is coming to an end and we are moving into the recovery and rehabilitation phase. Robbie is reluctantly preparing to be released from hospital because she will miss all the new friends she has made but is looking forward to coming home. She has a long road ahead of her but with the help and support of her family and the excellent medical team that took care of her, she is motivated and ready for the challenges that lay ahead.

Believe me, it is with great relief and joy that I am able to write about a positive outcome to such a horrific incident. Fear won’t even let me consider the alternative. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever found themselves in a similar position either from the perspective of the patient or the often-helpless position of the loved ones left lingering in the wings managing and worrying whilst the professionals do their work. It’s times like these that we gain a better understanding of how mortal we really are.

Six weeks ago, if you had of asked us what the Czech National Health Service was like, the only honest answer we could have given you was “We don’t know”. Six weeks on, the only experiences we’ve had have been positive ones. The doctors and nurses we encountered were truly amazing. The professionalism, quality of care and the efficiency in which they administer that care was certainly the best we have ever experienced. The Czech system is certainly one of the if not the best in Europe and by virtue, the world.

In this respect, we are eternally grateful to Professor Yuppa and his amazing team of surgeons, doctors and nurses who cared for Robbie during her stay in three different departments. The Intensive/Special Care Unit, The Specialist Orthopedics Unit and The Stanice 4 Recovery Ward. All of which are in Building H of the Vinohrady University Hospital in Prague and all of who do amazing jobs twenty-four seven, three sixty-five!

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