January 31st, 2017
It has now been three weeks since I left the USA to live in Italy. Wow, what a wonderful and yet, challenging, rollercoaster ride.
Arpino is at the top of a small mountain. Everywhere you go, you are going UP and DOWN. The town with its tiny streets, lovely piazzas and stunning views is very pleasant. Every morning as I pull open my shutters, I watch the light begin to color the landscape. Usually, there is a fog below us in the valley.
Since Arpino is a small town, we often venture down to the two closest neighbors, Isola Del Liri, and Sora. I particularly like Isola Del Liri.
And the waterfall in the center of town.
It was wonderful to be able to function in this time zone and to spend the days outside. However, after two days of fun, I began to feel I had the stomach flu. After three days and nights of feeling awful, I had moments where I thought I might die. On the fourth morning I awakened Sonseere and said I was totally dehydrated and needed to go to the hospital. And off racing up and down the hills we went.
To protect the wonderful and helpful people I met, I will not name this hospital. As an Italian national, I have free health care. I did not expect it to be the same as in the states. My expectations were quite low I thought. For this particular hospital, they were not low enough!
We drove up to the Ospedale on a dreary day and, from the outside, it looked a bit like a jail.
There were no clear markings for entry. We parked by the furthest entrance from where we needed to go. Thankfully, the Italian people were very helpful in assisting us to find the Emergency area. Perhaps it was the bag I was carrying that spurred on their generosity. I am not sure.
Once we arrived at the correct office, we waited in line about 10 minutes before we sat with the intake person who spoke a bit of English. I told her I thought I had influenza, the flu, and that I was disidratati, dehydrated, and had a febbre, a fever. She gave me a sheet with color coding on it and she wrote the number 25 on it. Green was for the worst off. I was Red, the 3rd one down. They went in order of need, which intellectually I understood, but physically I wanted to be GREEN. The time was about 1040am.
After about 20 minutes, number 25 was called. Sonseere helped me walk to the door where I was to enter. By this time my mouth was so dry my tongue was nearly stuck to the top of my mouth. As she tried to walk me through the doorway, she was verbally assaulted by Nurse Ratched (my name for this person) and pushed back. Then Nurse Ratched slammed the door in Sonseere’s face and walked rapidly away. She turned around when I was about 100 feet back and waved me toward her. Her dialect was so deep that I could not understand a word she said.
I told her, non parlo bene in Italiano, mi dispiace. (I don’t speak Italian well, I’m sorry.). She shook her head, pointed at a gurney in the room and shoved me down on it. Next, she drained me of blood. I swear it was a gallon. Of course, I was feverish and nervous and had no idea what was happening. After she got the blood she needed she gestured for me to leave this room.
I walked into a sitting area with hard chairs attached to metal bars on the floor. Perhaps they were concerned about someone stealing these uncomfortable things. I sat between a young woman coughing her lungs out and a lovely, older Italian woman who was very kind. I will call her Mrs. B.
Mrs. B had entered the waiting area a few minutes before I did. I asked if she had spoken with the dottore, doctor. She had not and didn’t know where the doctor was. I sat with my purse on my lap, leaning on it with my elbows, holding my head as people came and called out names of others on these chairs or across the room on gurneys (Those people must have been the GREEN people unlike Mrs. B and me.).
Finally, a man dressed in green down to his shoes called “Ricci”. I said Ecco mi qua, Here I am. He said something but all I understood was caminare, to walk. I said, Si, yes, and off we went out of this room. Again, I had not talked to a doctor and had no idea where we were going. But it was a long walk and I could not keep up with him. When we arrived half way across the hospital, he gestured for me to sit.
About 5 minutes later, a very nice woman called my name and gestured for me to follow her. I walked around the corner and entered an X-ray room. I was there for a chest X-ray.
I stood and held my breath while she took the X-ray. As I took another breath, I got dizzy and started to faint. She caught me and called for the man in green (the orderly, I think) and they assisted me to a gurney. The green man grabbed my legs and pushed them up in the air. I had no idea why he was doing that, but was embarrassed as my behind was practically in his face. The X-ray tech said this would help me to breathe and get blood to my brain.
Finally, they helped me into a wheelchair and off we went toward the waiting room again. Thankfully, I was able to stay in the wheelchair. I was still dizzy and dehydrated.
Across the room was Mrs. B, still patiently waiting for assistance. Next to her was a pole holding a bag of saline solution that was not being used. If I could have salivated for it, I would have. But I couldn’t get a more than a drop of saliva in my mouth. As a woman walked passed me, I stopped her and asked how to say what that was. When she told me, I told her I was disitratati and I wanted one of those. She asked my name and went into a room. She came out with a bag of saline solution and hooked me up. It was now almost 1pm.
A few minutes later an aide came to tell me I had to vacate the comfy wheelchair. I asked perche? Why? She said they needed it. So, I stood up, nearly fell, grabbed my hanging pole with the saline solution and tried to walk. The thing stuck on the floor and began to fall as orderlies, aides, and others walked by. I said, Aiutami, per favore! Help me, please! People stared. Finally, another patient helped me walk with it across the room. I was sitting with Mrs. B again.
THE ABOVE PHOTO IS NOT THE ACTUAL WAITING ROOM—THIS IS MUCH NICER.
I stopped someone and asked if I could please have a bed? I was told that I could not have a bed as they are for the really, sick people. So, I sat there with Mrs. B, who still hadn’t been approached by any medical staff, and waited.
Before my IV drip was done, another aide came out of that little room carrying a smaller IV bag. She asked if I was allergic. I told her yes and she rolled her eyes. She told me I had pulme and tapped her chest. I needed an antibiotic. Luckily, I could take what she carried. And she said I could have a bed now. I actually teared up.
I walked to a gurney at the back of this area, by the back door. I was told to get up on it and rest while I got the IV antibiotic. I lay there fully dressed with my coat for a blanket while the back door was open. Someone was on the phone and smoking outside. I did fall asleep but kept hearing people screaming and crying. O Dio! O Dio! Or Mamma! Mamma! That was an old man. Then I heard a loud, wordless scream! What was going on?
Hospital beds had been wheeled into and out of the room next to me. I had no idea why. But, after that awful scream, a young man walked out of there, adjusting his pants and there was something inside his tight jeans that was uncomfortable for him. I finally realized that that room was where they were putting in catheters.
It took the IV drip at least an hour or so to drip out completely. Or, as I was counting time, at least 5 more catheter tortures. About that time, they brought Mrs. B to the Torture Chamber, as I called it. She never made a sound.
Now, the drip was empty. It was after 3pm. I had no idea what was next. I stopped one of the nice, young girls exiting the Torture Chamber. She took out the tubing but left the port in my arm. I asked her what would happen next. She did not know and she walked away.
After her next victim, I asked who would know what was next and she said, Medico. I assumed that meant the Doctor. I asked if after her next patient, she could go ask for a Medico and she agreed to do that. It was nearly 4pm when I decided it was time to be the IMPATIENT, ENTITLED AMERICAN. I was getting angry. I had yet to speak to a doctor. I had been there 5 hours. The drugs were gone. What next? I got off the gurney, stumbled down the long hallway and asked for help from someone in Green. They told me I needed to talk to Medico. That was what I was trying to do! The nice girl from the Torture Chamber walked me back to my gurney and said she would try to find out.
When she returned we talked through Google Translate. She told me that I had bacterial pneumonia and that I had to stay overnight in the hospital for treatment. I asked when would I be moved to a room. She told me, “No room.” There was no room. I would have to sleep on the gurney outside the Torture Chamber. Everywhere else was full.
I said I still wanted to leave. What was the alternative? While she went back to speak with someone I had visions of nightmares all night as beds came and left the Torture Chamber, dripping, screaming, crying for their mothers.
She returned and said I would have to sign a waiver because I was very sick. And I would have to give myself intermuscular shots in my behind. I called my cousin to pick me up and said, “Where do I sign?”
This sweet angel of Catheters walked me to the room where I had gone with Nurse Ratched. In there was the Medico, La Doctoressa, The female doctor. She tried to discourage me from leaving. I kept thinking of my comfortable hotel room with a bathroom 5 feet from my big bed. I declined. She asked if I had a doctor and I said no. I asked if I get the shots from here and she said I had to go to the Farmacia, Pharmacy with her prescription and that was fine. I signed something without reading it. She wrote and typed something she printed off and gave to me—2 pages of something I did not read. And then she said Goodbye.
I walked out and waited for Sonseere. We raced up and down hills to the pharmacy in town as I relaxed and thought the problems were over. NOPE!
I should have read the 2 pages she gave me. There was no prescription! After talking with the staff at the pharmacy and convincing them that we knew it was not their fault, we asked if they would please call the hospital and they did. They said she would write a prescription. It was now close to 7pm and the pharmacy closed at 815pm.
Sonseere drove like a race car driver up those hills. We parked and went into the waiting room. I asked someone if I could talk to Medico. He pointed at the room and he said Vai! Vai! Go! Go! So, I walked in. Doctoressa was angry and told me to leave. I asked if she had received the phone call. She said yes but told me to get out and wait my turn. I told her I needed to get the prescription soon as the farmacia was closing. Ok, she yelled. GET OUT.
I waited another 5 to 10 minutes and then she invited me in, asked why I did not have my own doctor. I told her I had only arrived in Italy 2 weeks past. She told me I should have stayed in hospital. Then she wrote the prescription and tossed it at me. Then said Goodbye.
As we exited in shock at her behavior, I noticed about 15 men in one room in beds, all talking to one another, and, perhaps 5 women in another room. It was like a social gathering. The women’s beds were so close two women were holding hands. I am so glad I was able to leave.
I have since been told that we chose the worst hospital around. They are not all like this one. I feel confident that my experience could have been better in another hospital with better staff and less crowding. I am sure they are all overworked too.
Right now, I am still on the road to recovery. And I have paid nothing for all the time in the hospital or for the purchase of the shots of antibiotics. I did hire a local nurse to come in and poke my back side. It was worth it.
What a rollercoaster ride. I hope you chuckle when you read this. And I am sure you appreciate your doctor and your local hospital more. But do NOT let that stop you from exploring the world. I survived it. It was free. I met a few wonderful people and I am healing.
Next week more time in Apino and the surrounding area, and more food. Here’s a taste.
Ciao for now!