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  • mbwatts

Euro campervan trip 2023 - stage 9 : Linz (Austria) and my eye emergency

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

We are 1500 miles from home and just over 3 weeks in. We have had remarkable experiences and great fun. We have had ups and downs in equal measure and agree that it's time to start heading home.

Mrs NHSOTR has firmly decided that European campsites are not for her. It's not a one person adventure. It's definitely a couple thing or not at all. I do not disagree with her by the way.

So 1500 miles away, in Hungary, we have decided to gracefully head for home. We will not skip our final planned destinations, just spend less time than planned, reduce the stop overs and increase the daily mileage. With this approach we could be home in a week. Missing out really only the last few days of our plan.


But first my eye needs attention. The insurer has frustratingly found that all Ophthalmologists in Austria go on holiday simultaneously in August. Which seems a little short sighted to me.


I have managed to speak to the duty hospital for eye emergencies in Linz. It's your retina not your Linz I hear you shout. They are open for all comers tomorrow at 7am. I aim to be there.


Tonight, having slogged up from Lake Balaton to Linz, leaving at 11am and arriving at 4pm, we are hungry and want to see the city. Third largest in Austria, we take the public bus into the Bahnhof. Then head by tram for Haupt Plaz. Pretty city on the Danube. Worth a visit if you are passing.


We head for an Italian restaurant in the square, which as with most Italian food, turns out to be very good. The return to the campsite is less easy, but we talk a taxi driver into taking Reg with us and all is well.


My trip to hospital is an interesting interlude.

You will now be the judge of that.


I'm sure worry about this eye problem is interfering with my enjoyment. I feel apprehensive. This isn't the best frame of mind for your travelling companion. Louise has been long suffering and really reassuring, I'm a very lucky man.


Woke at 6.20 am and caught local bus at 6.53.

After walking through the outskirts of Linz I'm in the eye clinic at Kepler University hospital by 7.30am. They appear to accept my out of date EHIC card. Registration involved taking a ticket and explaining my symptoms in my best German to a receptionist. Then I followed the yellow line to Augen Klinic. I'm sat outside room 3 waiting to be seen by 7.50am. Everyone smiles. The hospital is clean. It looks like a newer UK private hospital. I assume I'm waiting for triage.

By 9.30am I'm scanned, assessed by concerned juniors, and am now meeting Herr Professor Doktor Bolz. He has a matter of fact air which engenders confidence. He is my eye specialist now. Rapidly it hits me that I must take his advice. The news isn't great. A large retinal detatchment, but thankfully the central area that does the real focussed seeing remains in tact.


He offers me no choices. Surgery and today. Significant risk in delay. This is something he specialises in and, to be sure, I feel in good hands. Doesn't stop me spiralling into imagining a monocular future with all its challenges. I do my CBT and realise things could be very much worse.

Briefly to sum up my Austrian experience of health care, it's fabulous. This is,of course, a very significant emergency, hence I am prioritised. I would be in the UK too. But, there is something absolutely glaringly obvious in the hospital. There are free beds everywhere. The ward is well staffed. The patients look happy and there isn't a trolley in a corridor to be seen. Even though this is admitting day for the hospital.


The other stark fact, this is admitting day for Kepler Uni Hospital. Tomorrow and yesterday we're not. If you have enough beds, you can alternate the admitting days, giving everyone time to admit, treat and clear ready for the next on call.

Harsh reality strikes when I check stats on line. In Austria they have the second highest number of beds per capita in Europe at 7 per 1000. In UK we have 2.5 beds per 1000 people. One third , yes one measly third of the number. That's the size of the NHS issue, in a nut shell and no amount of KPMG style revisioning of the structure will ever change the fact there have been decades of very bad decision making around investment in health and social care in the UK. But back to me! More importantly.


By 1 pm, I am in the operating theatre, having my eye operation under general anaesthetic. The first GA I've ever had. I ask the busty nurse for a bed bath and she winks and says with a Scandinavian accent that she will pop back later. I come round from the anaesthetic.

I am returned to my huge single room with views of the city. They bring me tea, still and sparkling water, pyjamas, slippers, (no pipe), shower gel, toothbrush and tooth paste. No bed bath but I'm shown how to shower with an eye patch. Less erotic.

I will not bore you with medical detail, but it seems to have gone well. I am discharged personally by Prof Bolz to lie flat for 2 days. Exactly 24 hours after first walking into the hospital. Follow up in 3 days arranged, medication delivered to my room for my smooth discharge.

Even the tricky issue of who pays takes exactly 32 minutes in the finance office. The hospital accepted my emergency Global Health Insurance card, issued yesterday by the NHS on line and efficiently emailed to the hospital and copied to me. The daily cost to be paid by me is €14.40. They apologise profusely that although it's only 25 hours, they must charge for 2 days. €28.80. Total. Unbelievable. (I heard 1440 and assumed, without batting a blind eyelid, that it was €1440 per day.). For the third time on this trip, I seek permission, and hug someone.


I get a taxi from hospital back to the campsite, and back in Nessa by 10.30am.


Nurse Watts has no plans for bed bathing me either, and is visibly repulsed by what now passes for my manky L eye ball. She agrees to put my eye drops in and negotiates an hourly rate.


We decamp to the neighbouring town of Wels. An Airbnb she has found is very adequate. I complain that the altitude on the third floor will both give me a nose bleed and simultaneously rip my other retina off. Mrs W is quite used to my grumpy patient behaviour and sensibly goes out shopping for the rest of the day.


We chat about what to do now, and agree that we should head home as soon as The Prof says I can. We start to plan for setting off after my appointment with him on Friday. For once being in a campervan is a blessing. After the eye operation I can't fly for at least a month. Louise is a far better driver than me at the best of times and Monocular Mick is not a contender for the steering wheel. So we work out we can't really do it in less than 3 days.


Reggie needs checking before he can return to uk and worming. This has to be done more than a day and less than five days before return. I find a vet for him, 15 minutes walk from our apartment, English speaking and book an appointment for Friday. Louise sorts a ferry for Monday. She continues to be a wonderful support.



I go back to lying on my right side, moaning intermittently about how boring it is. Then I realise that the apartment is empty and Mrs W has again gone shopping to escape.


If you want to read how I think my eye problem started, in the spirit of openness and over sharing, it's all in the last blog:


If you want to read how I'm getting on 3 weeks after surgery, including my image of the view through my bling eye click here


And if you are considering #vanlife, please click here to read our summary blog before you make your decision! Post trip summary

2 Comments


rfiander1
Aug 06, 2023

You poor chap , hope you recover soon and wishing you both a smooth trip back .

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David Price
David Price
Aug 03, 2023

Well that’s all taken a turn. I shall be prescribing a 30 year course of laxatives. When you said you were looking for a new eye pad….

Safe home both. Xx

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