Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Surgery in Switzerland

Since this blog is not just about our travels, but also a bit about our lives in general, I wanted to blog about my recent surgery.  It is always a nerve wracking experience to do things in Switzerland due to the language barier.  However - Arlington has been in the hospital 3 times in the last 3 years, and all experiences were really good.  So I wasn't too worried.

It was discovered that I had a benign fibroid tumor on my uterus this past winter, and it was starting to cause problems.  My gynecologist decided it needed to come out, so a surgery date was set for March 12th.  I wanted it to be after our trip to Japan.  Since it wasn't dangerous - it was fine to wait.  I met with the surgeon and really liked him.  We had to drive to the hospital because it was located in Rheinfelden - which is about 45 minutes outside of Basel.  My gynecologist really liked this particular surgeon and so we decided it would be worth the drive.

My surgery was early morning on March 12th.  Mat went with me, but unlike hospitals in the United States - family isn't involved much with the hospital care.  He was able to sit with me in pre-op and then went to the waiting room during the surgery.  He was not permitted in the recovery room after surgery, but could come to my room once I was settled.

The surgery went really well.  It lasted about 2 hours and they discovered that the fibroid was also wrapped around the bladder.  The whole uterus was removed, but everything else left.  This was the plan.  I had a catheter and IV and a few small incisions.  It was my first time going under general anesthesia, and it went great.

I was in the hospital for just 2 days.  The staff was wonderful.  The language barrier is always an issue, but thank goodness for my limited German plus Google translate that helped me.  I had a very sweet roomate - who spoke no English.  My German skills were put to the test, but we did pretty well.  I was proud of myself.  We even went for a walk together.

The pain was more intense than I imagined, but easily managed with Ibuprofen and rest.  I am on rest for 6 full weeks - no lifting, pushing or pulling or major exercise.  I can take short walks.  The kids have been great since I have been home.  Since we are on lockdown due to Coronavirus, everyone is around to help.  So I don't have to do a thing.

It ended up being a good experience.  The hospital systems here in Switzerland are really wonderful and we are always well cared for.

**Upate: May 1, 2020

I am now 6 weeks past surgery and feeling almost back to normal.  I am able to lift now, but no hard exercise for 3 months.  Healing is going well.  Feeling pretty great!  The only thing that didn't disappear is the backside pain I had prior.  The doctor's believe that the tumor probably sat on some nerves and it may take some time for that to disappear.  Or it might even be unrelated, so that will be an issue to look into in a few months if it doesn't change.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus 2020

We returned from Japan on March 4th, and we were told that we had to quarantine at home because of the spreading Coronavirus.  At that time, Japan was on their "watch list" of countries where if you traveled there - quarantine at your house was 14 days - sick or not.

We were not sick.  We were a little annoyed because Japan at the time had very very few cases - much less than even a few of the European countries that surround little old Switzerland.  But since those would affect business too much - those people were not required to quarantine.  It made little sense.

However - we did it.  We stayed home.  I spoke to all 21 of my kid's teachers, Mat got all his work to do from home, and we settled in for the long haul.  We opened up a 4000 piece puzzle.  We started spring cleaning all the rooms in the house.  Time passed.

And then Japan fell low down on the priority list.  France, Germany, and Italy cases skyrocketed.  They took back the Japan quarantine and Mat returned to work on the 12th.  We were told kids could go back to school as of the 16th .  We were going to be free.

And THEN - all crap hit the fan.  Switzerland finally decided that real action needed to be taken.  They shut down all schools until April 20th.  Mat has to work from home until at least April 4th.  The borders have been shut tight.  They are about to shut down everything but grocery stores and pharmacies.  They want to get this under control.  At this writing 2200 people in little Switzerland have Coronavirus.  Time to shut it down.

So - instead of 2 weeks at home, we are now looking at 6 weeks.  Plus we were on break for 2 weeks before this all started, so a total of 8 weeks at home.  Together.  Send help.

I also just had surgery.  I had a large fibroid on my uterus, so a hysterectomy was in store for me.  I consider myself lucky that I got that in before they started to clamp down so tightly on the city and country.  Now I can stay home and rest and not feel stressed about getting everyone where they need to be.

We have what we need.  Switzerland has ensured us that they have plenty of provisions - please don't over buy.  So we are not.  We have enough for several weeks at least.  The hardest thing we are going to have to deal with is boredom.

I should have bought more puzzles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Japan - Day 10

Today was our last full day in Japan.  Tomorrow we get on an airplane and head back to Switzerland.  I think we are all a little sad to see this trip come to an end.  We have had a fantastic time.

Today we wrapped up our trip with a few touristy things.  We started the morning in the Saito Fish Market.  We wanted to walk around and see all the different kinds of unusual foods they sold and we were not disappointed.  We all had a little snack.  Finley got a dessert, while Mat tried a fish roll and Cainan tried a steam bun.  I had a very large piece of Salmon Roe (Egg) and Soy Sauce Sushi Roll.  It was delicious.

We went through streets and streets of market.  So fun

 Huge oysters.
 Finley tried this custard creme with strawberry.  We have seen strawberries everywhere, but they are quite pricey
 Cainan had a pork steam bun
 My huge sushi roll.  It was so good

We also did a fair amount of green tea tasting.  There are so many different kinds!  I love just about all of them.  We ended up purchasing a few to bring home.

After the market we headed to Atago Shrine.  To get to it we climbed the "Success Steps".  In the Edo period, a famous Samurai named Magaki-Heikurou went up and down the stairs riding a horse.  Since then he succeeded in life so these days people share his good luck and go up the stairs to wish for their success.

 We made it!

After the Shrine we strolled over to Tokyo Tower - which is modeled after the Eiffel tower.  We didn't go up - we had been to the Sky Tree and that was plenty of city viewing from there.  We just wanted to see it up close.

This is the second largest tower in Tokyo - right after Sky Tree

Our last stop was the Zojo-ji Temple for Jodo-Buddhist.  It was the biggest Temple we have been to so far.  It was really beautiful and the grounds were expansive.  We enjoyed walking around.

These are the "care guardian deities of children".  They are dedicated to the safety of children and grandchildren, as well as a memorial for still births and miscarried children.  To protect their heads and keep them warm, red hats, red aprons and a windmill are placed on each one.

 Someone really took some time with this one

 The temple was huge and really beautiful

 Inside the temple.  This one still has regular daily services

We have been impressed with how easy it is to get around.  I took some pictures of various signage that we saw everyday.  Plus almost every restaurant had English menus.

An example of our daily subway ticket.  There are 4 subway companies and about a gazillion lines.  It was always an adventure to figure it all out.  And a comment about the subway stations for those of you who are like me - every single one has a clean, free to use bathroom.  I never had to search for a bathroom our entire trip!

We were also impressed with how well the city is set up for the vision impaired.  Every street crossing has guidance for them to know they are at a corner.  Every stop light has warning.  Even in the subways, there is a tweet sound that goes off constantly around the stairs, escalators, and ticket machines.  Plus braille is on everything.  It is very impressive.

 These are what most of the subway ticket machines looked like.  We could change them to English easily, and they also had braille displays

Our time in Tokyo is complete.  It has really been a wonderful vacation and I highly recommend making a visit.  There is English everywhere.  Almost everyone speaks English, or there are pictures to point to in order to get what you want.  The subways are easy to use - and again, English is everywhere.  The people are amazing and kind.  They are patient - no pushing or shoving.  They don't smoke on the street and the streets and subways are Disney clean.  We never felt afraid or overwhelmed.  The food is delicious.  So put it on your bucket list to come and visit.  We plan on returning and exploring other areas of Japan our next go around.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Japan - Day 9

Today we started our day at a mini pig cafe.  I had told the girls (because Cainan could care less) that they could choose two animals cafes for our trip.  We did the owl the first day, and we are rounding out our trip with a mini pig cafe today.

We had a great time in this cafe.  We had a whole hour with these tiny cuties who climbed all over us just like a dog would.  They are well trained and sweet and even Mat had a good time.  Poor Cainan didn't feel well this morning, so he stayed behind while we tried this cafe.  I am glad we found this one.  If you are visiting Japan, I highly recommend MiPig.  You can make a reservation ahead of time - which was needed  - to make things easier for you.

After the pig cafe, we went into Harajuku for some shopping and strolling.  Finley came with a whole list of stores and clothes she was looking for, and I think we hit all of them.  This is the first trip where we have incorporated this level of shopping and just strolling - not much tourist stuff.  And it has been a completely new experience for us and we have loved it.  We let Finley guide this trip from beginning to end, and it is fun to try what she wanted to do.

I did find this today, and had to get it.  This is a Monchhichi.  When I was growing up I had a few of these and they were some of my favorite toys.  They are a Japanese creation, so I picked one up for nostalgic reasons today.

One fun stop today during our strolling was a Japanese grocery store.  We loved going in there and just looking at all the different foods in the isles.  We went in to buy some teas, and ended up getting to taste test a ton of food that was at different counters.  It was great.  I should have taken a picture.

We also stopped at the Oriental Market (that is its official name).because we were looking for some specific treasures to bring home.  What beautiful things we found in this area.  So fun.

Tonight we rounded our day with a delicious dinner out.  We have loved strolling from restaurant to restaurant trying to decide which one to try.  I could stay here forever and never eat at all the ones I want to try.  We have had nothing but fantastic meals.

This was my meal tonight.  Steak and miso soup with rice and green tea. 

We found Finley's sweet treat tonight that she has been looking and looking for.  We don't know the exact name, so we have called them Japanese Donuts.  They are a specific donut that seems to be sold here and they were really good.  They were a slightly different consitency than the cake donuts we are used to in America, but oh so delicious.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Japan.  We are all a little sad about it.  We have started to pack all of our goodies and clothes knowing that the end is near.