Foreign Emergency Room – Spain Edition

img_1727No hablo español, and it turns out my son’s two years of middle school Spanish was not very helpful in a Catalan influenced ER. We soon realized we were on equal footing with the hospital staff since none of them spoke English. What amazes me though is how we all got by with only two real issues to speak of.

The receptionist in the ER wanted the typical information. I’ve had enough experience in emergency rooms to be able to guess the drill. I passed over ID, insurance card, passport, and pretty much anything else I could think of she might want to check.

She asked a long question out of which my son was able to translate one word, “pain.” “Left foot” meant nothing to her, so from my wheel-chair seat I brought my foot up over my head where she could see it through the glass partition. She nodded and wrote notes on the computer.

We frowned over her next question and she started google translate when memory clicked-in. How was I injured? I stood two fingers on the opposite palm and showed my little-hand person falling down, which, by the way, is actually the American Sign Language for “fall.” ASL can be quite helpful, as can vast practice with hand motions in general.

The Spanish hospital in east Cartegena was quite modern. We took a number and the six of us waited for the intake exam while watching a split screen of number calls and what might have been football (i.e. soccer) stats. Our crew tends to spread and took up about half the small waiting area. I think that’s why my number came up before other prior arrivals.

The intake nurse repeated the words that meant nothing to my brain. Pointing at my foot and signing “fall” let him fill in his computer page. His exam consisted of poking the bruise on my foot so I shrieked in pain.”Radiología,” he said. Common Latin roots are helpful in medical situations. Armed with a wristband for my name and number, our family of six was directed to a large waiting area at the front of the hospital where huge glass windows framed the pink, sand, and dusty green of morning sunshine on the mountainous terrain outside. Even at the hospital, Spain’s Alicante region took my break away.

img_1661Other folks who’d waited longer were helpful when my number came up early with a room designation we could not locate. My eldest son pushed me where directed till an orderly took over and pointed him back. I think he was relieved to be relieved of his translation duties.

Neither this male orderly, who parked me blocking the hall for a while, nor the female orderly, who wove me through narrow passages to radiology and back, spoke any English. They were both chipper about it all, spoke to everyone in passing, and were even calling me by name.

The wider hall outside x-ray was half the size of my living room with eight of us waiting, two in their rolling hospital beds. Tight quarters by any measure, I was again left blocking what might have served as a thoroughfare. One person went in the far x-ray, and remarkably my foot took second place.

The attendant didn’t bother to talk after learning my lack of language skills. Unlike the US custom, she did not offer me a lead bib for protection, although there was one (was that dust?) hanging in the corner. She lowered the x-ray table and pulled out a pocket extension from the side of it whereby the x-ray could be taken with me still seated in the wheelchair. Terrific. I’d never seen the like, although I’ve been privy to three hospitals in two other countries for five x-rays in as many years. (I mentioned I have four sons, right?)

“Kristine-a” the orderly greeted as she wheeled me back to my family in the large picturesque room. Seats were fast filling. In my Dutch E.R. post I mentioned how entire families with grandma and grandpa, both parents and all the siblings were not uncommon in The Netherlands emergency areas. Spain was more like America in that only the one necessary driver appeared to accompany the injured. Our English-speaking, mixed-race family had become an island of word-game playing folk in a for-business space. This was the longest wait of day, and I loved how my husband turned this down-time into fun time for the children who were missing out on pool, beach, and ball play because their mom is a clutz.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

The language barrier only became an issue in two areas. First, the casting room staff would not tell me what to do very well and were reluctant to cause me pain by situating my foot properly. This first cast shocked me. The expected cool, wet strips of casting net were placed from top of calf to tippy-toe on layers that quickly turned warm. Soon my lower leg relaxed in its heating-pad encasement. Ahh.

The second language issue was that I was given no after-care instructions, no way to get crutches, nada. We only had a photocopy of the break with the hospital info and “ibenprofeno” near the bottom. My husband wheeled me to the car wondering how we’d get around for the rest of week. Climbing into the car, I struggled to twist and lift the 20 pounds of lead on my calf.

“Maybe we can just get a cane,” I said.

“Maybe,” my husband frowned.

He got one alright. That’s when we discovered the awkward angle of my foot made it impossible to walk on that leg. Soon the plastic deck chair was back under my knee helping me hobble around for the rest of the week. My kids missed some playtime time with Mommy and sand castle building, but mostly I did what was normal. I lounged in the sun listening to the surf, watching my children play, and reading great ebooks.

Padded chair

Padded chair

There was an unexpected blessing as well. Unable to get a chair in the rental car, we still went out for the long-awaited paella I’d promised the boys ever since first raving about it on my writing trips to Majorca. We chose a restaurant next to a large beach/souvenir shop, and what do you think we found? A nicely padded wooden chair sat by the dumpster waiting to provide the assistance I needed. “Thank you, Jesus,” I said. My five guys saw the Punic Wall, Roman Theater, and other incredible sites of the port of Cartegena without me, but I truly believe our sons had great guy-time with dad they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

“Better me than one of the children,” I’ve said repeatedly since breaking my foot. It is so true.

Next up…Doctor Aghast in the Dutch E.R.

Related Posts:

E.R. Weight Limits (Life in Holland)

Holland Expat – Emergency Room Gate Keepers

Spain for Six – History in a Day


Kristin King is an author and US expat living in The Netherlands. She got her first cast in Spain, her second in the Dutch ER four days later, and her third four days after that. Kristin sincerely hopes she is done with casts and broken bones for good.

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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Travel, Unexpected Blessings


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Spain Vacation Goes Sideways

After a fabulous two days (History in a Day), our Spain family vacation went sideways. We’d driven through the Alicante region following mountains along a scenic road reminiscent of those in the high desert in Arizona and California  to La Manga. We carried all our bags and goodies into the condo, sorted out room preferences for the week, and began to unpack.

In the kitchen I’d finished emptying one of those big reusable grocery bags and wandered up the one stair to check out the view from the breakfast table. Ah, the yacht club and a restaurant I thought might make a convenient spot for a romantic getaway when neither of us is willing to leave our four kids on their own in a foreign country for long.
Smiling I turned from the view and was wrestling to fold the bag and walking at the same time. Apparently I can’t do these two things at once. I didn’t even see that one pesky step as my foot rolled sideways taking my entire body on a plunge from top of foot to ankle, ankle to knee, knee to hip, hip to arm and shoulder. There was this terrific sound effect as well. I lay on the cold tile trying to convince myself and my love, who had come running (Did I scream?), that perhaps I’d only twisted my ankle…again. Maybe the rapid bubble wrap crackling I’d heard was only toe knuckles bending further than usual. My eldest pops his knuckles all the time. Could be? Right? Wishful thinking.

My second son walked in, stood towering over me and said, “I heard it crack from the living room, Mom. It’s definitely broken.” He should know. He’s had more broken bones than anyone else in our household.

IMG_0179I refused to go to the emergency room on our first day poolside. The boys had already been cooped up in the car for the three hours, and the huge pool, soccer pitch, and basketball goals awaited, enticing them to rush their unpacking jobs. Soon the boys were playing, Dad was headed off to do all the shopping, and Mom was practicing R.I.C.E. which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. It’s standard operating procedure for twisted ankles and worked well for a couple of days of a broken foot. Except I skipped the compression part since the lightest touch sent a paroxysm of pain up my foot and out my mouth.

Improvising, I used a hunter green plastic deck chair as my assistance device, walking with my knee in the chair dragging the thing everywhere for the next two days. I dragged it to the deck for our family meals. I dragged it to the elevator and then plopped down to sit in it for the ride down nine floors. I dragged it to the pool. When my knee got sore, I added a pillow and towel to the seat. I probably sound stubborn, but the bruising wasn’t that bad. I thought with a few days rest I would be hobbling around fine.

Silly me.

All it took was a trial effort to walk three steps. The pain smacked me upside the head and said, “It’s time to go to the E.R. Woman.” The boys were having a blast and playing with each other like they never did at home. Reluctantly we announced to the children that our next day’s adventure would be to a foreign hospital. They took the news with good grace.

That particular family outing requires a post all its own.

NEXT UP – Foreign Emergency Room – The Spain Edition


Kristin King is an author, publisher and US expat living in The Netherlands. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven.” To peruse her novels and author information visit this link.


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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Travel


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Turkish Sword Sausage – #Foodie #Friday

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Driving last week in Belgium, I drove past an old Turkish restaurant I always enjoyed. Since it was early in the day, I could not tell if the place was deserted or awaiting staff to begin meal preparations. I was reminded of the gregarious host who always welcomed each guest with a stage ready voice and wide arm gestures. Located near a NATO base, the front wall was decorated with money bills from all around the world, many I’d never seen before. He made one feel truly his guest. My favorite dish to order with visiting friends was the hand-patted lamb kofta (i.e. kebab) drenched with peppery tomato sauce over a bed of garlic yogurt to sooth the tongue. Our most excellent host would remove the sword like kebab with a waving flourish not soon forgotten. Accompanying each savory dish was a fluffy rice pilav, sweet carrot salad, and lightly drizzled veggies with plump olives.

The delights of foods from around the world were not common to my rural American childhood, but I’ve tried to make up for any lack during these years abroad. Food can be such an adventure if we’re willing to set our feet in new directions.



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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Food, Travel


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Spain for Six – History in a Day

Author & Historian Ryan King on the wall of Saguntum

Planning your summer vacation when living in Europe for a limited time can be challenging. We try to visit places most the children have never seen, work in some history, activity, food and relaxing. Hence our first day in Spain took us to the Saguntum fortress ruins.

It was the siege heard round the world–or at least the Mediterranean world. The year was 219 B.C. and Hannibal (of crossing the Alps with elephants fame) was about to set off the 2nd Punic War by taking Roman cities across Spain. In spite of the blazing heat that had them ducking into every bit of shade, our four sons had a great time hiking, climbing, and clambering through prickly pear cacti over the ruins billed in Spain as Castell de Sagunt, north of Valencia (pronounced Balenthia). We walked through time and history in one place that was first Roman, then Carthaginian, Roman again, Moorish, European medieval, and I even stood in modern cannon openings on one section of wall.

You can see from the photo I made at one end of the complex how distant the furthest parts of the fortification were (back left of image). Feral cats kept their distance as my eldest made an approach. Our youngest discovered pocked marble poking out from beneath a more recent addition. Our 2nd son tried to pick and eat a prickly pear which we learned was a recent addition supposedly brought back from the New World by Christopher Columbus to Spain. Experiential learning from 219 B. C. to 1492 left us hungry and longing for the AC in the car not to mentiona dip in the fabulous pool at our hotel (La Pinada -family apartment for 90 euro). You may prefer to stay near the Spanish castle or bridge used in Game of Thrones, but for our crew of active kids with education focused parents, Sagunto was well worth the visit.


Waiting for our youngest at the hotel's water slides.

Waiting for our youngest at the hotel’s water slides.



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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Travel


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Soulful Sunday #Bible


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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Living in Holland


Congo VBS – Training our Workers

The big day is Monday. Thanks to everyone who shared, prayed and sent donation–Congo VBS 2016 is fully funded. Praise God!

Future Hope Africa Blog

Congo VBS Workers trainingThis week we gathered all the workers and helpers who will be assisting us next week for VBS and gave a two day training to make sure they’re all prepared for the big event.

We went over all the lessons and verses and activities and explained the schedule to them. We are please to have young people who are so enthusiastic about our VBS program.

– Please pray for all our workers and helpers as they prepare their minds and hearts for next week.

– Pray for the workers to have an abundance of energy since, as you know, teaching a class for VBS takes a lot of stamina.

– Pray for the children and their families that the daily lessons will touch their hearts and lives and create the kind of change only He can bring about.

Congo VBS training 2

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Living in Holland


Your #VBS vs. #Congo VBS Pt 2 – Facilities

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(Written by me and originally posted on our nonprofit’s blog)

Your Vacation Bible School:

– is probably run by your church or chapel and held at those facilities.

– the classrooms used are the same ones used for Sunday School and Life Groups.

– the tables & chairs are rearranged and everything decorated.

– the church kitchen is snack central.

– the sanctuary is the site for opening and closing ceremonies using the sound system.

– you pray for good weather so game time can be held outside in the grassy areas around your building.

This is how I remember VBS in the US, but it’s not like that in the Congo.

Vacation Bible School is actually a bit of a foreign concept in many parts of the world including east DR Congo. The churches do not put VBS together.

Bintu, our Operations Director, volunteered and worked many Vacation Bible Schools while attending international churches in Europe. She saw what a fantastic program this is for children, and returned to Congo determined to provide children there with this special summer time learning about God.

So it is not a church that does VBS, it is our very own Future Hope Africa folks who put this all together. Although we rent a small building from the church next door to use for our Tutoring Center, we do not have access to numerous classrooms. Our facility has only one room which can only be divided into two sections.

Facilities we often take for granted in the US and joyfully fill to capacity each summer aren’t available in Congo without going out into the community to find, negotiate the use of, and rent a place.

Previously we had to turn children away from VBS, because we just could not fit anymore in our building. This year our FHA team found a school willing to rent to us for a very small feel, because they’re willing to help support our summer program.

There are so few productive activities for the children of Congo when school is not in session. During my visit I saw no parks, no YMCA or recreation areas. In fact, the church and school next door to our Tutoring Center had no grass. Classrooms opened on barren ground and some of them had no doors. The long row benches could not easily be rearranged.

Was there a kitchen? Not at our building. Only one lone sink in the single restroom for almost 60 children.

Our team has organized this summer’s VBS to take place at the local school, rotating through classrooms and operating a little more like you and I see in our communities. It is a fabulous blessing! This blessing of space so that we can have three times as many children this year. With helpers and children, we are touching 200 lives. Your prayers and gifts make this expansion possible.

We only have 7 days left for our crowdfunding campaign and every gift is currently being matched.

Click here and check out our crowdfunding page:

Please think of us as you reflect on your VBS this summer and please share about Congo VBS with your church family and friends on Facebook, in email and other social media.

Thank you so very much for your support.


Only 5 days left for crowdfunding and a couple pledges have come in getting us closer to our goal. Thank you! –Kristin


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