It’s 9:45pm and I’ve been standing in a hospital hallway for five hours. There must be about 60+ other people in various states of health also standing in this 1960’s era hallway. The few seats available not nearly enough. Wardens regularly hustle through the crowd with trolley beds containing people. The wardens call out ‘permesso, permesso’ asking the crowd to part. On the wall, is a list of medical priorities. I have been classified ‘Bianco’, non-urgent. The stretchers falling out of ambulances (three so far) contain patients classified as ‘Rosso’ and is probably why so many of us are still standing here. Oh!! The joys of a visit to Accident/Emergency! (or ‘Pronto Soccorso’ here in Italy.) As the night draws on, tempers start to fray amongst the crowd yelling at the poor triage man on several occasions. One woman moans in pain, another man rocks back and forward holding his eye. He, like me, probably needs to see an Ophthalmologist, who most certainly won’t be working until morning. I decide it’s time to call it quits, I call Justin who has now put the kids to bed and arrange another mum to sit on our boat while Justin comes to collect me. After so much abuse from the crowd the triage man didn’t want to talk to me, but I quietly spoke my pre-memorised Italian sentence. “I think I have a retina tear, I need an ophthamologist, I will come back tomorrow” and he told me to return at 7:30am, “sette e mezze!”. “capiche”, I say and leave.
Three days prior, Kynan had jumped into our bed and accidentally punched me in the eye. It was pitch dark and all I saw was the flash of light caused from the impact. So I suspected retinal damage this afternoon when floaters started to appear followed by my vision clouding over This is a medical emergency as I could lose my sight if the retina was detached. So off we went to the nearest Pronto Soccorso, 30 minutes away. Being susceptible to retinal damage, it is one of the things I fear could have major consequences if we were on a passage and away from good medical assistance. Fortunately (?) it’s happened while we can access help.
After a good sleep, I jump on the bus back to the hospital and arrive to find a much wearier looking triage man. I look around the hall, many of the faces are the same, I wonder if they’ve been here all night? The triage man immediately has a doctor write me a referral for an ophthalmologist. I am told wait, then minutes later I am escorted into an ambulance with the sore-eye man from last night. I have no idea where I am being taken, no one speaks english, all that matters is someone will look in my eye at some point today. We are delivered to another hospital 15 minutes away and personally escorted to the door of the ophthalmology service. I look out the hospital window to view the most amazing historic town perched on cliffs and make a note that we must check it out soon. Within 30 minutes I am sitting in a room saying, ‘Scusi, no parlo italiano’. ‘No problem’, the ophthalmologist says, ‘I speake English’. I really could have hugged him. I explain my eye history and my circumstances and he looks in my eye with the proper equipment. He is thorough, and says my retina is not damaged, but the liquid in my eye is clouded. It may or may not clear. I am very relieved to hear that I am not losing my sight, but I really hope this cloudiness goes away too. Then I get another ride in the ambulance back to the Pronto Soccorso and sent home.
Total cost = $0. Big tick for the Italian health service!
Justin bundled up the kids, came and picked me up and we had a nice coffee. By then it was the quiet time (1-4pm) when everyone disappears down rabbit holes or into some other equally mysterious alternative universe, so we drove through that beautiful old city.