Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hospitals in Other Lands

I know, I know - I owe lots of blog posts. So I'll start back in November, when my sister and five year old niece came for a three week visit. Baby Nora was just two months old. My sister left behind her husband and toddler twin boys. A three week trip to Italy is pretty special for anyone, but especially in this case. I had a nice plan drawn up for us to visit all the area ruins (my sister loves ruins), visit a local mall or two, a street market, take the ferry to Capri, and then a week long tour of the rest of Italy, including Umbria or Tuscany, Venice, and Rome. We started off their first week very light, keeping our outings to half days at most. Just a couple of days before our Tour of Italy departure, my independent, imaginative niece decided, while playing outside on our terrace, to go upstairs to the Roof Terrace, climb over the railing, and walk along the one foot wide, outside ledge. She slipped on the "fairy grass" [moss], falling to the terrace below. She had been playing within our view outside our huge, glass doors that open onto the lower terrace, so it's just one of those things that can happen in an instant with children. Very thankfully, she landed on her feet and managed to bend her knees just right, avoiding the most serious of injuries. But she couldn't stand on her feet. Our hospital on base is a 45 minute drive away, and without knowing if there were internal injuries, that was too far for comfort. I called a friend who directed me to a hospital she's used with her own children a few times, and it is only a five minute drive from our house. She gave me the Italian words to use - Lei ha caduto di tetto [She fell off the roof] and told me that while the facility would not be what we were used to, the care for children is excellent.
Waiting on the Doctor
I had to drop my sister and niece off at the ER doors so she could carry my niece through the cloud of cigarette smoke from the 15 or so men standing around the doors smoking, while I parked the car. I was shouting, "Just do your best. I'll be inside in a minute" as she was saying to me, "What do I say, what do I do." By the time I found a parking spot and got inside, a huge crowd had gathered around my sister as nurses, doctors, and other patients tried to figure out why she was there. They took us into the pediatric room, which was basically a bare room with two gurneys covered with not so clean sheets and a metal desk. The hospital somehow scared up an English speaking pediatrician who did a thorough exam in order to rule out internal injuries. Our church pastor and his wife had been called by our friend, and they came to translate for us. Having lived here for the last 17 years as missionaries, they speak fluent Italian and have been to the local hospitals numerous times with their own children and other church members!

For the X-rays, yet more doctors interviewed my niece. They were all amazed that there seemed to be no other injuries other than to her feet. X-rays showed that she'd broken one bone in each foot. In order to leave her with some mobility, they put a cast on the one foot with the bone that absolutely required no movement and left the other foot cast-free, with the admonishment of NO WALKING for three weeks...leaving us with the question of how we should rearrange our planned activities. After trying out all kinds of strollers, we finally found the perfect answer in a jogging stroller with a solid bottom for my niece to prop her legs on. When at home, my niece would sit on our floor and drag her legs behind her to get around, which never failed to make me think of her sitting on a street corner in rags and holding a tin cup. My sister had a rough trip of having to carry my niece everywhere, up and down the stairs to our garage, to the bathroom when we were out and about, on her back when we were visiting places that weren't stroller friendly (tons of those in Italy!), onto and off our high, guest bed, and so on. But we managed to keep to most of our original plan, and in the end, we didn't have to worry about a VERY active five year old running into the traffic/scooter clogged, Italian streets, or falling into a Venetian canal, or touching every breakable ceramic in all the shops in Tuscany, and so on.
My niece and me - overlooking the valley below Assisi
And my niece was absolutely showered with attention. When we used our handy, short explanation of what happened in Italian, we were met with looks of horror and awe, clasped hands shaken heavenward, lots of "Mama Mia[s]" and "Que fortuna[s]," and candy. Loads of candy. My niece was given chocolate everywhere she went, and each night at dinner, when I would ask her what her favorite part of the day was, the answer, without fail, was the chocolate she ate that day.