An interesting thing happened to me a bit more than 2 weeks ago. I would even call it a quest, not a story… In short – due to my own stupidity I got closely acquainted with Italian medical system, and a bit with Latvian, and with assistance system in airports.
It happened when I went to Torino for a couple of days to participate in a workshop by Sheila Jordan (who’s an amazing singer, awesome personality, great teacher). Since I had only 2 days in Torino, I thought it would be wise to see as much as I can in one day, and it all started from an unexpectedly long walk with a heavy back pack from the station to the hotel, apparently my navigator went crazy and showed me the distance in minutes (15 to be precise), but in km didn’t, and I trusted it/him. And I walked for an hour and a half. I survived, because let’s face it – it’s not a very long walk, but I was heavily overdressed and carrying a lot of stuff, and I’m an anti-sport person… Anyways, I left all my stuff at the hotel and after that took a veeery long tour around the city, saw some cool stuff and properly enjoyed being a tourist in Italy. In one day I walked over 20km (OMG!!!), and I was happy. Next day on my way to the workshop I started noticing, that my leg hurts a bit. Well, sometimes they do hurt, so I thought – what the hell, I’m still walking, must be fine. And I were fine until I took another walk. By the moment I reached a beautiful park, I was actually limping, but it didn’t stop me from committing a very stupid thing. I saw a fountain, and in the middle of the fountain there was a piece of land and people hopping on it, the distance between the piece of ground and another piece of ground was less than a meter, so I jumped. To take a picture of a dog. And I did take that picture, but starting from that moment I could forget about walking. As soon as I jumped I heard a weird sound, a cracking one, as if one was stretching the fingers, but a longer one, like 3 seconds long, and then my leg got numb. People helped me to cross the fountain back to the ground and walked me to the jazz club where I started finding out lots of interesting stuff.
Darn Dog and Darn Fountain…
1. Calling an ambulance if you are not dying in Italy costs over 200-300 euro.
2. If you are not dying and if your state isn’t critical – they will probably not come.
3. When a country is celebrating something, only one hospital is open, everybody’s welcome.
So I waited for someone with a car (Giulia and Sonia, thank you so much for taking care of me, you are my angels), and we went to the hospital. In the ER they have a system called “Triage” – you get accepted by someone who is not a doctor, but who inserts your problems in some chart in a computer and the computer then gives you a color, that should describe your state: white – you can wait, green – you can wait but not too long, yellow – better check it out asap, red – omg, you’re screwed. I got green. And then I was waiting for 4 hours and a half. During this time I managed to master my wheelchair driving skills, play race with hobos, do turns around myself in a chair and fall asleep for a couple of times. Finally when the doctor called my name, I was depressed, stressed and happy at the same time. As a precaution I asked my Italian friend to translate everything that happened to me to Italian, because they just don’t speak English. Ever. And I was right. A nice doctor read my note, poked my leg with fingers for a couple of seconds and said: “Trombozis!”
That was a shock. I knew nothing about trombosis, but I was absolutely sure, that it wasn’t it, but the doctor stood by her opinion till the end, even gave me shots into my stomach and only after that took some blood for tests. Not to be a surprise, but the tests came back clean. But, she said “Trombozis!” and had no intention to change her mind. In the end, after spending over 7 hours in the hospital, it was time for me to go. That was when I have learned the most important word of the night – Stampelle (crutches). According to the doctor, the ER is not a store, they do not provide traumatized people with crutches, you need to go to the train station? Go. But without a pair of life saving sticks. Not even a cane. I thought the most awful part was the hospital, no. The most humiliating part was getting out of the cab and realizing that I have to jump to the platform on one foot. (Forgot to mention, that there were no Pharmacy stores open, because it’s a national holiday, who would need to buy drugs?) On my veeeeery long way to the platform I met 5 guys over 60 that were willing to help me. 3 of them helped me with cheering ups. Verbally. That is when I literally wanted to harm them. I mean – you see a girl almost in tears, all sweaty (I know it’s gross, but it’s the horrible truth), jumping through the station, desperately willing to reach the platform, GIVE A HAND! To be completely fair – two of them did. And another guy that carried me into the train as a Prince Charming, but with tons of muscle power instead of a horse.
After a 5 hour ride to Rome, my friend Yoav (and thank you for saving my life) met me with a pair of crutches and we went home veeery slowly. The same day I had a flight to Riga, so I repacked my bag, received a pair of better crutches from my landlady, who said: OMG! These are no good, take mine! And I went to the airport. On the train to the airport I was haunted by one thought – me+crutches+a big bag+ a backpack. Lucky me – I met a lovely French guy (don’t know his name unfortunately) who not only helped me out of the train, but also tried to carry my bag, but then decided that it would be more efficient to take a cart, to put my bag on it and me on my bag. So I drove to the check in spot as a queen! At the check in desk the woman cried hysterically – Mamma Mia! You need assistenza!!!! I said – yes I do! And they brought me a man with a wheel chair, who drove me through everything, through every stage of the airport control (They have scanned my crutches, that was funny). In a special van they drove me to the airplane, there I saw a weird car with some sort of a room which was already lifted to a level of a plane. In order to get into this room you have to use a special elevator. Here’s the funny part – the elevator is like a cradle, and it had a door with a lock that just didn’t want to close, so my assistenza took off his shoe and started hitting the lock, saying: “Now you see how modern we are?” That was hilarious! Then there was the flight. Then Riga airport where they weren’t warned about having a non-walking passenger on board, so I had to wait with the stewardesses for my next assistenza. Then it was quite cool, they drove me to the car and we went to another hospital, since by the time I reached Riga my leg got two times bigger.
Hospital in Riga is a totally different story. Even though I had to pay some funny-money (the sum was so tiny, that I almost laughed), I was fully satisfied. Yes, it is a bit trashy – dark humor and stuff, but the spirit of competition was the thing that made my night. As soon as the doctor heard about my Italian verdict he just had to prove them wrong! In the middle of the night he arranged me some tests to prove that I don’t have “Trombozis!”, in the end it turned out to be a partial tore of the ligament that connects the muscle with the tendon.
So here’s a piece of advice to anyone who might need it – in case of pain apply something cold and an elastic bandage. If you don’t – the healing process will take longer than it should and the pain will be stronger. The most common mistake is applying heating stuff – don’t do that. In the place of the tore usually a hematoma is formed and a small inflammation, in order to reduce the temperature you need to cool down that part of the body. An interesting fact is that if the tore is big enough, the muscles will not grow together as a muscle, but a scar tissue is formed to connect two separated parts and it stays forever. So, another thing is that in order to give the tissue a place to grow at, you have to fixate the muscle, that is why the bandage is needed. And the last thing, never-ever hesitate to go to the doctor!
Being on crutches has been an interesting experience, I have sang 4 concerts on them, even managed to dance (in a funny way and standing on one spot), it was totally bearable and even fun. Also I have realized how kind people can be if they are able to feel compassion – I went back to Rome on crutches and every time I used public transport, I would get a seat, once 3 old ladies even yelled at me because I didn’t want to sit down, so sweet of them. But anyway, I’m glad that this time is finally over.
Few pics just for fun :)