My kind of wonderful trip to the Hungar-E-R

Hi! I'm shooting something in Budapest, Hungary right now. So...That's why this post is about me being in Hungary...Okay, here we go.


It was a dark and sexy night...I hadn't eaten enough on set that day because I'm an actor and, you guys, it was time for my closeup! Jk Jk Jk, I ate a buttload of food like every other day but just didn't get quite enough on this day because there was promise of the cast having dinner with each other after wrap, but then three of us wrapped early and, while waiting for the other two, started drinking wine and the Hungarian equivalent to Tequila (in that the smell of it will make you dry-heave): Pálinka in place of consuming food. Needless to say, by the time everyone was back and ready to go I was tipsy and starving and ready to eat---but instead we all went to a bar to meet up with some other friends from the crew and drank even more! Hooray*!                                    (*mistake)

Me and my co-star Cone-man (probably not his real name) tried ordering some food from the bar but for some reason they didn't like the fact that our group was spending so much money in their other-wise empty establishment so they treated us like the English-speaking garbage that we were, forcing us to endure their eye-rolls and deep sighing until finally taking our order. "At least I'll get to feed myself quickly" I thought, obviously suffering from the effects of caloric-definciency. 

One hour later our food arrived! I had ordered something called "The Serbian Burger" which I realized, upon taking the first bite, was made from a human Serbian. Hungry as I was, I didn't finish it, and felt good about this choice as, human-meat or not, anything that needs to be cooked for an hour is probably not good for consumption.


Boy was I right! For the next few days I was feeling stomach pains and was really blocked up, poop-wise, but then noticed the pains getting sharper and were located really close to, if not on top of, my appendix. Luckily, when I finally mentioned it to my Lady-friend over wifi-messaging, she lovingly text-yelled at me to talk to the producers about it and alert them to the potential appendicitis, and they immediately got on the case, shooting me out of my scenes that day and sent me to an upper-class health clinic for blood work and an ultrasound within a few hours. It’s a strange thing being ill in a place where you cannot communicate with clarity or certainty to those who are trying to help you, but I felt taken care of by our producers and, in a serendipitous turn, my ultrasound technician spoke English! After rubbing around my belly with her jelly, she saw swelly around my lymph nodes surrounding my appendix, not an obvious sign of appendicitis, but enough to check out further. She referred me to a surgeon, which obviously freaked me right the fuck out, but the clinic I was in was pretty nice, so I wasn’t too, too worried.


After speaking on the phone to the production doctor, a guy named... let's say Garfunkel, he suggested that before a surgeon look at me, and perhaps overzealously recommend cutting me open, that I go get a CT scan and more blood work done at a hospital in the city, very close to my hotel. He warned me, though, not to be alarmed by the appearance of the hospital, as it is the only one open at that hour (around 11pm) and was an “inner city type place” but the CT technician/reader was very good so I would be in good hands. Plus, to my naive, northern Canadian ears, "Inner City" just means a place where people of a lower-income bracket are misunderstood until Michelle Pfeiffer comes along and shows them what they're really capable of and the young janitor is actually a really good hip-hop dancer, waiting for his shot to make something of himself, so I felt like I could handle it, you know?


So we get to the hospital, a dark, shady, back-alley entrance—though, the centuries-old buildings that make up this city kind of make every entrance look a little back-alley-y—and by “we” I mean me and my driver, Peter, an impressively-mustached man who speaks very little english, but who’s kindness and concern was clear the entire time.

Artists' depiction of Peter's mustache

Artists' depiction of Peter's mustache

We get eye-balled by some people in dirty gowns (either patients or orderlies, not sure) who, I realize once we exit the vehicle, are in fact not grouped together to freestyle battle because it's the only way to express themselves when "the man" refuses to give them a chance, but are just smoking...outside a hospital....Anyway, we walk inside and reach a small hallway before entering the main waiting room, where Peter greets a snaggletoothed receptionist and starts counting out bills for what I quickly realized was a bribe to get me in ahead of everyone else. A conflicting moment for me, feeling both dirty and "inner-city-important" at the same time.

Once all palms had been greased, I was taken by her and her young co-receptionist into the waiting room, past more dirty orderlies and multiple people literally bleeding on the floor, and into another room where they sat me down to take blood.


At this point I’m recalling every single thing my mother ever warned me about regarding germs, and then everything my Lady-friend warns me about with germs on top of that (the sum of which is high) and quietly freaking out as I focus in on the receptionist—yes, same woman who just took the cash—-gathering the materials to jab into my arm and take my precious life fluid, sans washing her hands.

After pulling the curtain across the room to separate me from the family waiting with their bleeding father, I give up on worrying about the germs and just close my eyes. At this point, there’s no way to stop them, and if it did turn out to be appendicitis that was causing my gut to hurt, I would likely care less about the hygiene and more about not exploding on the inside.

She took the blood and all was well, then sent me down another hallway, driver Peter by my side again, right past a woman and her husband/boyfriend who’s foot was wrapped up in about 30 layers of gauze yet still leaking red onto the floor. I assumed a taxi rolled over it (many of them are jerks here) but didn’t have enough time to investigate any further as another dirty orderly met us at a pair of locked doors and sent me through, alone, Peter wasn’t allowed in for some reason, to greet the CT scan guy and the nurse assisting him and the cold-sore on her lip that stretched a half-inch wide and up to her nose. Or on her nose that stretched to her lip—either way I was, once again, back to recalling all of my mother's and Lady-friend's germ warnings as the CT guy (picture George Clooney from ER if he was a bloated, cocky Hungarian with cheap jewelry and a flip flops) spoke in Hungarian to me, then went and got Peter to translate that I would have to drink this gross warm water, 1 cup every 10 minutes for an hour, before I could actually do the scan. Garfunkel, the production doctor, had also warned me about this over the phone so I was ready for it. Ready for anything, really, that would get me out of this eerie, dirty, ceiling-light-flickering hospital ASAP.

So they sit me down here:

Waiting in total and absolute comfort

Waiting in total and absolute comfort

...and I wait for Nurse Cold-Sore to bring me my water, hearing the CT scan guy recline back on his creaky chair in his office and resume watching what I quickly recognized as the 'Skyfall' theme music. It was oddly comforting, actually, something familiar in such a strange place, but short-lived, as my nurse then walks out with a unlikely-to-be-clean jug of water and a plastic cup and places it in front of me. Noticeably absent: gloves on her hands. Hands which I imagined had been touching the cole-sore all month. A month which I imagined was unordinary in a lifetime of being way too chill about Herpes Simplex living on your face.

After carefully rotating the cup as to align my lips with the small space where I saw her fingers did not make contact with the rim, I started drinking. Cup after cup. Each sip burning the idea into my head that my lips were burning too. The once-comforting soundtrack to the James Bond movie now becoming increasingly twisted, as it was just the same song, repeating over and over and over again, like he put the dvd into the player and left it on the menu page, volume on full blast.


Before I knew it, Nurse Upper-Lip came to bring me into the CT scan. I told her I wasn’t done drinking all the water and she said it didn’t matter. Okeedoke.

Climbing into the CT machine, which I can only compare to what I imagine entering the butt of Optimus Prime is like, she then poked another hole in my arm and gave me my very first IV! Didn’t really feel like much, though, which was mildy disappointing. She told me to hold my arms above my head and left the room and the machine started whirring-up, a soothingly british voice telling me to “Breathe….Hold your breath” *scan* “breathe….hold your breath” *scan*---again, what I assume Optimus Prime's butt-voice would tell you upon entering.

It was this point of the night that things suddenly became, as mentioned above, kind of wonderful. I had spent the whole day in pain, worry, thinking my insides could burst all over my other insides, and then about my family and everyone I love and how I was so far away from them all, in this strange hospital in a strange land with strange people. And, in a strange way, I felt closer to them. And I started smiling, then laughing. Which is bad because you’re supposed to hold still during the scanning process, so I did my best to keep the giggles in-between the “Hold your breaths”…But I guess, at risk of sounding even more dramatic than I already do, it was the closest thing I’ve experienced to the whole “your life flashes before your eyes” thing that happens when people are in stressful/dangerous situations. It wasn’t my life flashing before me, though, and I knew I wasn’t in danger—it was just my love. I felt alone and totally loved. And, subsequently, totally lucky.


Then I hear some heated bickering between the nurse and Dr CT Smooth Cloons, and the nurse comes in and tilts over the IV thing, which I guess she was supposed to have done in the first place, and WHOOOOSH warmth pulses through my body, from my fingers to the back of my skull to my tailbone to my toes. It was at this point I switched from feeling loved to feeling throw up in my mouth and then closed my eyes and focused on keeping it all down.

Couple more breathe/hold your breaths and I was done. I walked outside and asked the CT guy if I could watch him analyze my gut. He said something to the effect of “it’s your scan” which I took as a yes and sat down as he went over them, rolling through the images, stopping to look at some black spots that I immediately concluded were stomach cancers, then moved on. Ultimately he confirmed what the ultrasound tech had suspected: It’s a gastrointestinal infection, causing swelling around my appendix and lymph nodes, with a dash of fluid build up. Basically he gave me a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”. I was a little embarrassed, but more relieved that it was nothing but my stomach being unable to handle the "other white meat" and not, in fact, appendicitis. Better safe than sorry.

Blow your nose - Throw away trash - Bleed into hands

Blow your nose - Throw away trash - Bleed into hands

Now, despite my personal perspective on the overall hygiene of the hospital I was in, they took care of me and ultimately sent me away with a clean bill of health and a clear lip of Herp, so please do not take this as any negative review of the quality of care in Hungary. I am not only grateful to everyone who helped me during this ordeal, but for the experience itself, and wouldn't have had it any other way. If you get sick or are in a medical emergency in Hungary---do not hesitate to go to any hospital!

Ok, byeeeee!

- Dustin