How I lost an organ

Sunday afternoon, twelve days ago, I cycled through the estates on the island a bit. Up and down hills and down a small path next to a longer stretch with steps. I slid a little, a little more and onto the steps. In my confusion I must have pulled the front break a little too hard so I did the classic salto mortale over the handlebar. A landed relatively soft next to the steps on some green, jumped up again, picked up the bike and carried it down the rest of the stairs and tried to cycle on. Strange, the only emotion of this moment that I can recall was embarrassment. The chain was off the gears, while fixing this I noticed that I had a bigger scratch on my forehead and I felt a little weird around my stomach, as if someone gave me a bad punch. When falling I must have gotten my own elbow into my stomach. A group of cyclists came by and the young doctor that was amongst them gave me first aid for my forehead using the complete kit that he had with him. I pushed the bike home and laid down for a rest. After a while I started having cramps starting from my upper body and spreading to the stomach area. I got a little scared, so I went and did some Internet research about what could cause these cramps. Some of the first websites I found were describing the pain of activists beaten up by cops — solidarity to you my friends!

After an hour or two the cramps became stronger and more frequent, so I woke up Murat, my house-mate that takes care of the organic garden, and asked him to call the ambulance. I grabbed my jacket and we went down to the front of the house to wait for the ambulance. I would not return back as soon as I thought.. The emergency doctor of the small hospital on the island did a quick check on my heart, which was OK, and then transferred me to a bigger hospital on the mainland. A small cargo or fisher boat brought Murat and me to the mainland. I could hardly enter the taxi, because bending through the door gave me enormous cramps. I got rolled into the modern-looking hospital on a funky sick peoples chair. Good product design, nice that someone invented a new type of wheelchair, I thought. It was around 11pm now.

The emergency room was crowded and a single doctor took care of queue of new arrivals. I noticed a weeping woman somewhere. I was quickly examined and questioned. After telling the doctor that apart from scratches and the strong cramps nothing was wrong with me he looked at me a little patronising, ripped off the plaster from my forehead, dropped it with two fingers, then carelessly stretched the skin around the wound and sent me off to X-ray my head and chest. At this time Lamia arrived to the hospital. She looked very worried, so did Murat and I. As nothing unusual showed up in the X-ray pictures I was sent to the tomography room. In order to be moved into the huge machine I had to lie down on my back. Unfortunately in this position I always got strong cramps. As long as I would sit bent forward with my hands resting on my knees I was fine for at least half an hour. After a while of deep breathing and several tries aborted in strong pain I was finally scanned by whatever waves this monster emits. My head was fine, too.

What followed must have been one of the most painful nights I have ever had. The emergency doctor put us into a waiting room with two rows of sickbeds, where we should wait until the ultra-sonic lab opens the next morning. People moaning in pain all around. I could not sleep or even lie down, so I stayed with my hands on my knees, bent forward, for about 5 or 6 hours. Every 20 to 30 minutes I had cramps that I thought will tear me apart. Imagine something like a cramp in your foot, but all over the upper part of your body, for about 20 seconds. During the cramps I could hardly breathe or move. The infusion of pain killers that I got after about 4 hours did not show any effect. Lamia and Murat were with me all the time (thank you so much) and tried to sleep next to me on the bed. A friendly older male staff person made several tries to convince me to lie down, which was simply impossible. Somehow the drip infusion that I now got weakened the cramps. It slowly got bright outside and I saw sunshine coming in.

Murat pushed me on a wheelchair to the ultrasonic lab. After a few minutes in the queue we entered the lab and I was asked to lie down — on my back. No way, José. I stayed seated. A little annoyed Ultrasonic Woman pushed the cold metal against my stomach. In the grainy black and white pictures on the screen she quickly spotted something that deeply concerned her. She uttered a quick “Allah allah” (Oh my god) and told Murat that I have a lot of blood in my abdomen and that I need surgery right now. Now I got really worried, asking Murat for details and what would happen. We went back up to the waiting room and somehow it became clear that I would not have my surgery in this hospital. A head physician that only looked at me from a distance — I had the impression he was almost hiding — could not understand all the rush and recommended either the German Hospital or the American Hospital (both are private businesses and have little to do with the country whose name they carry).

A private ambulance was called and with siren I was driven across town, crossing the bridge to Europe, to the Amerikan Hastanesi. In an instant I was sitting in a room with a few people taking care of me and I felt in safe hands. Blood tests were taken and I was properly examined. Another time I had to go through a tomography — this time most of my body was scanned. Five people were standing around me and tried everything possible to make me lie down. A few moments later the big Star Gate like machine made by Siemens was moving up and down on me, telling me in German when to stop and start breathing. I realised later that those machines from the future don’t grow on trees when I saw that these few minutes represented one of the bigger chunks of the total costs of my treatment.

Back in the emergency room my surgeon talked to me the first time. He told me that I had a rupture of an organ which caused an inner bleeding. Why did I not like the sound of that? He gave me the name of the organ in English, but I had never heard it before. Preparations for the surgery started and I got infusions, a drip and various other things. Every time someone came into the room they had prepared another scary thing for me. I did not question anything and let them do their thing. A person handed me a small squared paper with “Die Milz” (the spleen) written on it. The person was already gone when I looked up again and I wished I would have been more attentive during human biology classes back in school. They would look inside me to see how bad the rupture is and then decide if they could fix it or if they would remove the spleen. I got a blood infusion. It said “Deniz” and some last name that I can’t recall on the label of the blood bottle. Thank you for the juice, blood brother Deniz, teşekkür ederim.

Now, we were still dealing with a private company here. So without a deposit or a written confirmation of my health insurance there was not going to be a surgery, according to the hospital’s administration lady in charge of my case. My friends Alexandra, Ludwig and Nazim had arrived to support Lamia, Murat and his friend Ayda. They tried everything they could to speed up the procedure. I was told later that at this point I had lost about a third of my blood into my abdomen. Alexandra was constantly on the phone to my health insurance, my mum, the German consulate and others. When finally the German consul recommended to move me to another hospital and the administration lady got to hear of it, she snapped her finger and I was instantly moved to the anaesthesia room to be put to sleep for the surgery. The anaesthesiologist was a jolly person and Lamia and me had a relaxed chat with him. Some injections, some more talking..

I woke up in a room with many sickbeds but no people and no windows. And there he was again. Now he was wearing a funny flat hat and I think even a mask. What, who, where, why, when? In these situations you are supposed to ask the people around you “Are you an angel?” — so I did and started laughing a little. Ouch, cuts in my abdomen, right. So, was it taken out or what? I asked him to excuse my confusion, because I had never taken any drugs before. He was a bit “yeah, yeah, whatever, need to do my job here”, which I think annoyed me a little so I called him to give some attention to the burning questions I had about losing one’s reality and time shifting around us. I’m not sure if he gave me another shot to make me shut up or if I just don’t remember how I got rolled and lifted into my new home for the next days.

My friends were waiting for me in my sickroom and took care of me. Lamia, Murat and Ayda even stayed with me for the first night. I found out that the spleen was badly ruptured and had to be taken out. Also it had a benign tumour (non-spreading) attached to it, which was removed in the process. This makes you think if some things happen for a reason.

Over the next days I recovered quickly, walked around the hallways the day after the surgery already, slowly started eating again, was regularly examined and medicated and could leave the hospital only four days after the surgery. Thank you for visiting me Heike, Lukas, Alexandra, Zahide, Lena, Mesut and thanks for the support over the phone from my mum and dad, Bengü and others.

I could stay at Serhat’s place for a few days with Lamia and Alexandra. Ludwig took care of me during the days at the Tunel Art Café. I arrived back to the Büyükada island two days ago and I am taking things very easy. I still need to recover from the surgery and the loss of blood. The pain is almost entirely gone now and I only need to regain full strength again. Soon I will cycle around the estates again, or better not? 🙂

Update: The removal of the spleen is common and it has no long-term effects that can not be treated with a vaccination. Also see Asplenia.

16 Replies to “How I lost an organ”

  1. Well Meinhard, it sounds like a movie !!

    I don’t know if you remember me, Mi’s belgian friend you met in Brussels and Rome. I happened to drop by your site and I must say yhe catchy name of your last story attracted my attention.

    I hope you’re feeling better yet and I send you my best wishes for a speedy recovery!!


  2. Hi Meinhard,
    that’s a bad story to read. I hope you are recovering ok and are feeling all right. I whish I’d know, what the Milz is for…
    A friend of mine had a bad bike-accident lately. If you could only do more than wear a helmet…

  3. Gute Besserung auch von mir!

    Mir gehen die irreführenden Krankenhausbezeichnungen nicht aus dem Kopf. Ob die Namen historisch bedingt sind? Oder ist das einfach nur eine nette Ideen der Jungs vom Marketing gewesen? Welche Krankenkasse zahlt da eigentlich? Die gesetzliche deutsche ja wohl eher nicht, oder?

  4. Wow ! Meinhard…
    Feels painful to read what you have gone through.
    I am so happy you are alive and alright , and so relieved you had good friends around you!
    I feel like thanking your friends to be there!
    And thank you for going to the hospital to find out… even though I understand your pain could have been relieved much earlier and your life not be put in danger with more competent doctors examining you from the beginning.
    Anyway , you r there! Let me know if I can be of any help ( in Istanbul )

  5. mensch meinhard,
    du machst aber auch sachen…
    am sonntag (beim schwerin-schwerin geburtstag im schuetzen) erst von dem unglueck gehoert. hoffe, dir geht es wieder ein wenig besser.
    halt die ohren steif, wir sind mit dir.


  6. Oooooh Meinhard, all this sounded almost tooo painful to read, as if I was tumbling from the bike myself! I am happy (but still worried) that you have come of relatively well. I wrote Gulen about it too, and also how I – like everyone else – congratulate you on having so many good friends around. Enjoy your rest to the tilt on the beautiful isles!
    Be well soon, and take care!
    Cheers from patrizio and Diiiinooos!

  7. wow, what a story: dramatic, thrilling, painful, well written, some heros and finally an happy ending … everything a blockbuster needs. guess you have never been luckier to have in health insurance and some really good friends around you.

    take care

  8. Oh my, oh my…
    As a mother would say, be careful when cycling… it does as an inspiration for me to keep my eyes open when cycling around the car crowded streets of Dublin.
    Modern technology brings a happy ending.
    Keep on rocking.

  9. Thank you all very much for your wishes and compassion! 🙂 I took things easy during my recovery and did not spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Now I am pretty much back on track I think, having walked kilometres again with my big backpack on my recent trip to Thessaloniki/Greece (report soon at a blog near you) and feeling well with it.

    Jan: The names of the foreign hospitals seem to have some historic connection, but they must have been sold off to private holdings a good while ago. I checked out the “German Hospital” a few weeks ago and it really looks like a corporate head-quarter more than anything else. Shiny, perfectly lit welcome counter, people in suits, the big “Universal Hospitals Group” logo watching over you. And yes, my private health insurance DKV covered every single bit (10K EUR all together), which I am very grateful for. There was some doubt about it for a moment, because I was outside the EU for a quite a while and because I went to a private hospital for the surgery, but I got the confirmation of full coverage last week — phew.

    OK, let’s look forward now.

  10. hole-ee-shit mienhard, i’m glad you survived this. just reading it myself is making me worry about my next bike accident….

    good to hear you’re alive and doing healthy, and i hope you’re not bankrupt from this surgery!

    i am alive and well and for some reason, in texas….


  11. Hey Meinhard, just looked for your jabber account and stumbled over this. Damn, I didn’t know that you went through this last month. So it’s even better to have you in the bewelcome team now. It means you regained your strenght and are up to all the good things, right?

    Hope to talk to you soon
    best wishes

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