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Travel Log: What Happens If You Get Sick or Hurt When Vacationing in Italy?
Part 1 of 3: Dark Days on the Green Island
Few things in life are as humiliating as peeing in a bedpan…except maybe doing it in front of your cousin, four other hospital patients and a male nurse named Ciccio…in a foreign country. But that's just what I did on my "vacation" to Ischia, a small island in the Bay of Naples that is the first home to both sides of my family. On the bright side, I got a firsthand view of Italian healthcare and memories I won't soon forget. From my bed, I also had plenty of time to contemplate the future of Ischia, Italy's "green island," and its people.
From the moment I arrived on April 5, I was coughing like Buddy Hackett after a cigarette and beer binge. I had bronchitis for two weeks and it rained (when I say rain I mean torrential downpours) everyday. The second the sun started shining, I was interviewing a young man for another article I am writing when I heard a pop in my knee and fell to the ground in pain. I still don't know how it happened, but it marked the beginning of the end of a "vacation" that never really started.
After I collapsed on Via Roma in Ischia Porto, the interviewee and his colleague at Umberto and Franco hair salon helped me to the curb and gave me an ice pack and a pat on the head. The refreshing TLC of a tight community was comforting to a little ol' Manhattanite like myself. Despite my objections, when I hobbled down the street to meet my grandparents, I knew our next stop would be the emergency room. I could not walk.
The cool doctor, who was wearing a simple silver band on his thumb, squeezed my knee a few times, wrapped it up and told me to apply ice and take some pills to prevent accumulation of water. When he was done, I asked how much my visit cost. "This isn't the United States," he said. "This is free." The doctors and nurses had better bedside manner than their counterparts in the United States, and no insurance forms were necessary. Wow!
By the evening, my knee was the size of a second head, and I ripped off the tape and bandages with the urgency of a four year old unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning. Then, the fun began. The house was full of people - cousins, grandparents, friends - who served as my audience. Dotoressa Lina Di Scala, yet another cousin, brought a colleague of hers to see me. A believer in homeopathic medicine, this doctor attempted to do exercises with my knee to relieve the pain and perhaps pop it back into place in case I had dislocated it.
I wiggled and wriggled and screamed. Then, he made me turn on my stomach with my butt facing the crowd. Our finale included three injections of God-knows-what directly into my knee. He offered to give me another injection into my rear end of anti-inflammatory medication, but there was no way I was pulling down my pants in front of such an attentive audience. And I certainly couldn't make it the two feet to the bedroom for privacy because, at that moment, such a voyage seemed like walking to the United States and back.
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