The other day during my weekly Italian lesson, we got into another discussion on the topic of differences between the US and here. I had recently had my first mammogram in Italy, and boy was that a different experience! It occurred to me that I had not mentioned it here yet, so here goes.
I've received a notice in the mail with an appointment date and time for my routine mammogram, courtesy of the Italian national health system. I needed my dictionary to plow through the letter, but I was able to make out that I was to go at 5pm on a particular day to an office in the San Basilio neighborhood. It also said if I needed a different appointment I could call and change it. The date and time worked out for me, so I put it on my calendar.
On the appointed date, I set off with the letter in my hand thinking I can easily find the place I was supposed to go to. Ok, chalk up another one for Venice, I cannot find this address. I walk up and down the street where I believe I should be, but cannot find anything that matches the address printed on this letter. I stopped to ask to the woman at the local vegetable stall, thinking, she is local, she must know where the office for mammograms is located. She had no recognition of what I was asking for, even after I pulled out the appointment letter for her to read. Then the vegetable man pipes up (in Italian, mind you). "Oh... you want the mammografia. It's there, over that bridge, then go down the street a little bit, on the left. "
How he knew where it was but she didn't have a clue, I don't know. But, I was grateful someone could help. After thanking them both, I head over the bridge. Isn't this so typical of Venice? "Oh, yes, just over that bridge ...." And what is really funny is that most days I find myself as the direction giver for tourists who have lost their way in this veritable maze of a city. This day it's me who needs assistance!
Over the bridge, down the street a little bit, and to the left. I do that, and find only two fairly large vans in a little parking lot type spot, the kind of vans that reminded me of a mobile library or blood bank. Here's an AHA moment.. it's a mobile mammography laboratory! Isn't this ingenious??? There is a young woman outside one of them, smoking. I show her my appointment letter and she instructs me to go inside. We went in. There is a little desk area set up with a laptop, which she uses to enter my information. When she finished, she instructed me to go into the next van. I can do that.
In the next van, there is a tiny "undressing" room, with a notice on the wall which says to take off all your clothing down to the waist and wait until you are called. This is pretty standard fare for mammograms. I look around, there are NO disposable gowns, no non-disposable gowns, no gowns of any type. It occurs to me that we are going "alfresco" for this one. Oh boy. This is very standard fare for Italy. Recently when I had to go for xrays, I discovered no gowns. Here, we have it again. OK. So I got myself ready and waited.
A few minutes later, I heard a man call my name. I had always had a female technician in the US whenever I had mammograms done. So here I have a strange man, I am naked to the waist, and he is going to have to position my boobs this way and that for these x-rays. I hesitated for a moment, just couldnt make my legs walk to get out of the dressing room and into the exam room. I had to talk myself into it. I just grit my teeth and got through it.
All of us who have experienced a mammogram know it is, what shall I say, a tiny bit painful ? I must admit though, of all the people I have ever gotten this exam from, this male technician was the most gentle of them all. So there was an up-side to the whole event.
I have knee surgery coming up soon, I really have to get used to this "no gown" thing!