An amusing tale of pain, angst, laughter and the emergency medical system in a tourist town –
Pintadera is the fabulous Italian Language school in Alghero, Sardegna. Pintadera and I have a love-hate relationship. I love Alghero. I love Nicola – my first Italian friend and the ace administrator. I love the teachers. I love organizing groups of American students for the school. I hate studying. Maybe that is why after studying Italian for a pazillion years, I still sound – well – not very Italian.
Sometimes our subconscious gives us what we want – just not the way we would want it. Just as I was thinking, do I have to go back to class, pop went my ankle and I fell on my ass. Actually, I was dashing around the historic center of Alghero solving some of my groups housing issues when I fell off of a step. DUUCK! I screamed! A waiter came running. A darling gas delivery man came running. Nicola came running. I looked at all of them and simply said, my ankle is broken. One, two three – heft – the beached whale was now balancing on one fin.
Everyone sprang into action. Cars are’t allowed into Alghero’s old town. Nicola raced to bring hers a bit closer. The darling delivery man tossed me like a canister of gas into his L’api three wheeled mini delivery truck and whisked me along with the other canisters to where Nicola was parked. With lots of help, I hopped into the car and off we went to an orthopedic emergency room. I had never heard of an emergency room just for broken body parts – though Jack who skied said there were lots of those near the mountains.
Nicola procured a wheel chair, I crawled into it and she wheeled me into the waiting room. There was a sign on the door to the medical team that said “ring when you arrive.” Nicola pressed the buzzer. A nurse came out and Nicola pointed to me, told her I was part of the Italian Healthcare System and that I had probably broken an ankle. The nurse nodded and closed the door. Nicola went back to work. I plopped the wheelchair near the door and turned to the people waiting. Like I would in the doctor’s waiting room in Pontelandolfo, I asked Chi è l’ultimo? The person who came in before me raised a broken arm. I settled in the wheelchair and waited. And waited. And waited. The nurse would come out and yell a name. That person would drag a broken body part to the door. Ambulances with tourists speaking a variety of languages and writhing on stretchers went straight into magic door. After two hours of folks seeming to get called randomly, I asked the nurse if there was a list. She said, si. Anybody guess where this story is going? What did I not ask the nurse?
Three plus hours later Nicola comes back with my husband, Jack. You haven’t been seen yet! She rang the bell and berated the nurse who then asked for my tessera sanitaria – health insurance card and went back in. OK – I should know better. What did I not ask the nurse an hour or so earlier? Am I on the list????? Duh!
They whisked me in to see a doctor who looked at my ankle and ordered an X-Ray. Jack wheeled me to X-Ray. There was a paper over on the pillow but not the whole table and as I climbed up to be scanned I wondered how many pairs of dirty shoes had preceded me. Next stop a second doctor and a nurse. They looked at the scan and said the ankle was broken. Did I want a plaster cast or a boot? The boot of course. They explained that the system paid for plaster but not a boot. I said I’d pay for it and could they put it on. Nope they couldn’t put it on because they only do plaster casts. I asked if I could get copy of the X-Ray. Jack whisked me back to X-Ray and I was told I had to pay €7 for a CD. Not a problem. Off we went to the counter to pay – which was closed until the following morning. Again, I didn’t ask the right questions.
God Bless Nicola who was my Florence Nightingale and drove us to a medical supply house. The owner was putting up an “out for coffee” sign when she saw Nicola and asked if she wanted to join her. Nicola pointed at me and explained we needed a boot. The store was up a giant curb and then 5 steps. Italy isn’t the most handicap accessible place to visit. The owner brought out a wheelchair. I squeezed into it and Jack pushed me around the block to a second door that was quasi ramped. Boot on and bought. Now I needed a wheelchair. There was no way in hell that I could manage crutches on uneven cobblestoned streets. The store would take a week to get one in, but the Sisters of Misericordia loaned hospital equipment to people. Next stop Misericordia! Problem – American sized butt and Italian sized wheel chairs. Again, I squeezed into one and Jack and Nicola were able to wheel me back to our rented house in the historic part of town. The cobble stones are rocks of a variety of shapes – not smooth pavers. That meant Jack was probably herniating himself pushing me up to our house. DUUUCK – the very step I fell off of guarded the entrance to the house’s courtyard. Somehow without me tipping over onto my head they managed to hoist me and the chair up to the terrace.
I now became a prisoner in the house. Not able to get out of the place without lots of help and certainly not able to wheel myself on the streets.
Guess I won’t be dashing over to Central Mediterraneo Pintadera for those Italian Language classes. Be careful what you wish for or even think!