We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, December 31, 2010

More on six days in Ospedale Civile

When my surgery was scheduled originally, I was told I would be in the hospital 7-10 days, then have 3 weeks of rehabilitation. So I had prepared myself for a long 10 days in here. I asked if I could have my laptop- no. I asked if I could have my cell phone- probably not, no signal in the building. Hmm. This was going to be more of a challenge than I thought. I brought the cell phone, and decided I'd be optimistic about it. And, on rare occassion, I actually got a signal.

Ospedale Civile is an enormous building. I get lost in it every time I go there. It's located inside the Scuola Grande di San Marco, in Campo Giovanni e Paolo. Zillions of tourists stop and stare at the incredible facade on this building every year, and walk past it never even realizing it's our hospital. So.. deep inside this monstrous old building, which became a hospital in the early 1800's, I spent six interesting days.

A few immediate impressions:

- Everyone, without exception, wears white scrubs. In the USA, I am so used to seeing nurses in colorful tops- bunnies, flowers, birds, santas. You name it, it will be on some nurse's garb. Not here. It's all white- V neck tops and white pants. Everyone wears the same blue sweater if they are cold.

- Hospital food is hospital food no matter where you go. It wasn't anything to write home about. For breakfast there was the normal pastry with a cup of tea or coffee. Lunch was usually a pasta or soup for the first course, followed by a meat and vegetable for secondo. Dinner was pretty much the same as lunch. Ususally there was also fresh fruit available.

-Italian nurses seem to know how to stick you for blood with alot more precision than I ever experienced in the US. I was used to nurses taking 2, 3, 4 attempts to get a needle in, and me always having an incredibly bruised arm afterwards. This never happened here.

During the course of my six days, I got to know several different shifts of nurses, and some of them were quite the character. My favorite was the big burly bald headed guy with a goatee, who reminded me more of Hulk Hogan. I wish I could remember his name! Everyone knew I was "The Americana", and that was usually the topic of conversation whenever a nurse was with me, either to stick me for blood or change the sheets, they were all asking me why I was there. Some of the younger nurses knew a tiny bit of English. One particular day one girl asked me if I needed more drugs and my answer was "Oh yeah!!" She repeated "Oh yeah", and from then on everytime she was in to visit me she'd ask me some question or we'd be talking about something or other, and she would always say "Oh yeah".

On one day, this young nurse and the big burly Hulk Hogan guy were at my bed, hooking up the knee machine for me to use. Hulk Hogan heard us talking, and he says " Colorado" out of the blue. Oh, you know Colorado? With a big smile, he says "Si, and Frank Sinatra!" He was singing "Strangers in the Night" as he walked out of my room. Gotta love it.

Talk about Strangers in the Night.... some strange stuff goes on in the hospital at night. I'm not a good sleeper, so I needed them to give me medication. What I was hoping for was to be knocked out so I could get some good sleep. Not going to happen. My roommate snored. Big time. Besides that, there were two women down the hall who screamed "Aiuto mi" (Help me) all night long at the top of their lungs. And I have not yet figured out what the nurses do after they put all the patients down for bed. The nurses station was across the hall from my room, and while I was up all night, I would hear them laughing and eating all night long. I wished my leg was working so I could have gotten up and gone to hang out with them.

They did give me sleeping medication, but what they gave me didn't do a thing One night having nothing to do but stare at the ceiling, I made notes on what I thought would make a great Saturday Night Live skit--- notes for a Do it yourself Knee replacement Kit, for all those poor folks without insurance but need to have the operation. That same night, as one of the nurses made her late rounds she stopped and asked me why I was still awake. And then she says,"We can put you down with the two screamers if you like! " No thanks, I'll stay right here. After night three, they upped my sleeping medication dosage, and I did sleep. Whatever they gave me left me a little less than lucid in the morning also.

On day 3, I spent what seemed to be most of the day getting transfusions, since my blood pressure was so low. I learned to say "Gira in testa" (my head is spinning/ I'm dizzy) real fast.
My orthopedic surgeon visited that day, the ace bandages on my leg were taken off, the dressing changed and the drain removed. He told me everything went well, it looked good, and I had to be getting up. Yes, I wanted to be up also.

The getting up didn't work so well. I managed to get about 10 steps from the bed before I got so dizzy I nearly passed out. The two nurses with me got me back into the bed. I continued to use the knee machine that was brought to my bed to move my knee, but I wasn't up walking.

On day 4, a nurse informed me that I would be moved in two days to Fate Bene Fratelli at 5pm. That's all she told me. What??? I had no clue what Fate Bene Fratelli was. Fortunately, the daughter of the woman in the bed next to mine was there at the time, and she explained to me that Fate Bene Fratelli is a rehabilitation center in Cannaregio. Her mother had been there the year before, and would be going there again when she was released from the hospital in a few days. She told me the staff was wonderful, and it was a very good place. My roommate was an adorable little elderly woman named Loredana who was in for a hip replacement.

The pain medication was wonderful. It was administered by IV, and whenever I said I felt pain, a new bottle was hooked up, and I felt good again. Aside from the low blood pressure problem I really felt pretty good. I was hooked up to the knee machine twice a day to keep my knee moving, and on day six, I actually was able to get up out of the bed and walk down the hall and back to my bed with two crutches and the assistance of the physical therapist.

My husband Mike came to visit me twice a day, making the trip by the number 42 boat from Piazzale Roma to Fondamenta Nove and walking the rest of the way. On days when it wasn't exceptionally foggy and the #52 was running, he could take that all the way to Ospedale.

On day six, I was disconnected from my IV, and around 4:30 pm I got ready to be moved to Fate Bene Fratelli., which was supposed to happen at 5pm. Finally out of a hospital gown and into my own clothes!!! That felt good. We waited, and waited, and finally a nurse came and told us the move would be delayed, there were no boats yet, but one would be coming. The next chapter in my adventure was about to begin.


Yvonne said...

Thank goodness you have good comprehension skills (Italian), and can converse in it!

Do you think you can sneak me into the hospital somehow? It has always intrigued me, I love that entry near SS Giovanni e Paola, and was gobsmacked to find it was part of the hospital.

karen said...

Yvonne- I do understand Italian very well, but after two years of lessons and studying, I am still not conversing!! Well, now after 3 weeks at Fate Bene Fratelli my Italian has improved alot. What a great side benefit!!

I will happily take you into both Ospedale and Fate Bene Fratelli and show you around. You'll get to see alittle bit of how the Italian Health System works, and enjoy the inside of two glorious old buildings. When you get here we'll figure out a day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I just left my husband overnight at the Pronto Soccorso at this hospital. He didn't want to keep his wallet with him, so he has no money and I wasn't sure how they manage food. It is indeed strange to be in hospital in a country where you don't speak the language. I left him with a dictionary and I wrote down how to say a few important things. Hopefully if he is in too much pain to speak, he can point to the saying and the nurse will understand! This seemed like a good hospital so I'm happy to have that idea confirmed by your experience. Thanks for putting my mind at ease.

karen said...

Dear Anonymous- your post in my inbox this morning was quite a surprise~ but I bet not quite the surprise you have had by having to experience our Pronto Soccorso! I hope your husband is feeling better, and I am happy my post gave you some sense of comfort. In a strange country with a strange language, the hospital can be frightening. Is there anything I can do for you while you are here? My email is kmc207@gmail.com- I check it regularly during the day, don't hesitate if there is something you think of. Big hugs, Karen

Anonymous said...

Hi unfortunately when I spent 5 days in this hospital after fracturing my leg, I had the worst experience in my life. The operating theatre & the orthopaedic surgeon were the only positive thing about this backward unfriendly hospital hiding behind such a beautiful facade. I agree about the stark white scrubs worn by all staff along with the wall of the colour and there was NO privacy around each patients, they need curtains !!!! It was embarrassing using bed pans and getting washed in full view of everyone in the room. No interpreter available nor offered to get one from embassy. I have never felt so alone i my whole life. I had no choice t be this terrible place and tried to understand them but they just did not give a damn. They are all very noisy especially at night, but if I every cried out in pain I was told off ans even nearly slapped on the face, just not acceptable.

karen said...

So sorry to learn that your experience at Ospedale wasn't as positive as mine was. The Italians don't have much of a bedside manner, that's for sure! Besides the language barrier, the cultural differences can put you off, I am well aware. Hope you are fully recovered and enjoying life again! And thanks for reading about my journey!

Maggie Bedford said...

Stumbled across this blog while looking for English-speaking hospitals in Venice. The blog is great. My husband and I are coming to Venice in a few weeks and travel is always tricky for me because of chronic health problems. I have always wanted to see Venice--it is on my bucket list :) so I decided to not let the health get in the way (even though I don't speak a word of Italian).

Anyway, great blog--really giving me the flavor of the city!

karen said...

Grazie, Maggie! Good for you, you're going to cross Venice off that bucket list! Did you know my husband and I do private walking tours? See our website www.TheVeniceEXperience.com.
Have a great time in Venice, hope to meet you while you are here!
Ciao, Karen

Anonymous said...

The staff of this hospital saved my life at New Year 2006.
I was admitted as an emergency. It was a perforated duodenal ulcer.
As soon as the diagnosis was made I was in theatre.Complications followed. It was hardm but the staff were skilful and kind. I am so grateful to them

karen said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm very happy to hear your Ospedale experience was also positive. It couldn't have been fun having such an emergency. You're a brave one! Thanks for taking a moment to share your experience with me.

Maggie Bedford said...

Hi Karen, my ill-health forced me to cancel my trip back in 2013 but I am here currently! I actually forgot all about the blog until I started looking up health-related topics for Italy. My health is as shaky as ever, but I did make it here :) Do you still do tours?

Anonymous said...

Hello. My husband and I are in Venice for the month of December. The last 2 days I have felt terrible. I am very dizzy. Should I go to a hospital or can you recommend a clinic or Doctor. Thank you jean

karen said...

Jean- so sorry you are not feeling well. The best thing for a tourist to do is to go to the Emergency Room (pronto soccorso). They are very good there, and can speak enough English so you don't have to worry. Please let me know how you do! If there is anything else I can do to help, contact me. Sorry I just saw this now.


Anonymous said...

We are in Ca d'oro area. Near Rialto bridge. Do you if there's anything around here?
Thank you so much for your quick reply. -Jean

karen said...

It's next to impossible to just walk in to a dr. office. There is a small medical office along side the Church of San Giacomo at Rialto, but they aren't open 24 hrs, and another one in San Marco square. I have a hunch they would send you to the ER anyway.

In all honesty, the best solution for you as a tourist is to go to the Emergency Ward at the hospital. Do you know where it is in Campo S. Giovanni e Paolo?

You can also call an ambulance - dial 118, if it becomes really serious and you can;t get yourself to the hospital. If are really dizzy, I'd get to the hospital. They are very good there, and can speak English. Take your passport along. It's usually free.

Let me know you do.


Anonymous said...

My husband just returned from a walk - long walk. I asked him to see if he could locate the hospital for me before I attempted to walk. He went to St Marco, they sent him to the hospital, they told him to go back to the "clinic". He explained they sent him to them. Some one at the desk called the doctor and he gave my husband an RX for potassium. Said if I am not feeling better, for me to come into the hospital. Funny note: my husband got a haircut in front of the hospital 2 days ago and never realized that there was a hospital next door. I'll take the Ned and see if it helps. My BP med has caused severely low potassium levels in the pass I pray this is want the issue is, nevertheless, I think I'll try and get in tomorrow and see someone. I'd feel better if I was in Rome. The American Hospital is great.

karen said...

Ok, hopefully the potassium will help you feel better. Honestly the hospital here, in my experience, is very good. Thanks for the update, hope today goes better for you!