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

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fate Bene Fratelli- Part V Gruppo di Ginocchi and going home

              Boat parked INSIDE Fate Bene Fratelli's water door  - photo by Mike Henderson

I got assigned to attend a special physical therapy session called the Knee Group (Gruppo di Ginocchio) at the beginning of my second week at Fate Bene Fratelli.  Oh boy, yet another session, I was thinking.  I remember the first day I went to Knee Group.  By now I was mobile enough that I could get myself around fairly easily with my crutches. One of the things I loved about Fate Bene Fratelli was as a patient,you have free reign to come and go around the place as you please.  I could get up, walk out of my room, and go all the way to the front entrance, I could stop in the coffee shop for as long as I wanted- it was great.

  So, that day, I got myself to the Physical Therapy area, and had to ask where the Knee Group was meeting. There were two girls at the reception area, one whose name I knew- Barbara. The other I didn't recognize.  I asked where the Knee Group was, they pointed me to the place, but before I could leave the girl I did not know said to me (all in Italian) "You are from Germany?".  Barbara then chimes in "No, No, she is Napolitana, I know it."  I'm laughing, "No girls, I'm from America!  I'm an Italian citizen also now. And, I have relatives near Naples".  Barbara smiled " See- Napolitana!!!"  Get off to your group now ". 
I was as much a novelty to everyone at Fate Bene Fratelli as they were to me, it seemed.

My Knee Group was a tiny bunch , just 4 of us, two men and two women. Turns out 3 of us had knee replacements, I never did figure out what the other woman's problem was, as she had no scar, but wore some sort of brace that she took off for our exercise session. Our therapist was a young adorable woman named Alberta.  At Fate Bene Fratelli, the nursing staff all wear white scrubs and blue sweaters, while the therapists all wear something differernt- white scrub pants with a pale grey t-shirt. The shirt has FATE BENE FRATELLI printed on it in small letters on upper right side of the shirt.  Many of the therapists personalize their outfit by wearing a particular color of crocs.   Alberta always wore a lilac color sweater/jacket and matching lilac colored crocs. That was her signature color. 

Each day at Knee Group, Alberta (Albi) tailored the exercises to each of our injuries and capabilties. She made it fun, despite the pain involved.  Often she would play music from her iPhone for us to exercise to. One day she was very excited, she had the video Walt Disney's Snow White, which she loved, on her phone so we exercised to the music of Snow White, sung in Italian, of course.  I laughed, and said we should really be exercising to music from Fantasia, cause I felt more like the hippos wearing Tu-tu's.  She loved that idea, and promised to find it so we could use that music. Sure enough, 3 days later we were straining our old knees to Fantasia.  Funny, everyone in the room knew the movie well.  On my last day of the group, Albi planned for us to exercise to music from Peter Pan-"You can fly, you can fly".. Perfect.  I loved her enthusiasm. 

Albi called me "Margaret".  The first few times she did, I didn't even respond, didn't recognize she was talking to me. Then it dawned on me, my middle name Margaret shows up on all my medical forms, and she didn't know how to say Karen.  No one at the hospital or here ever called me Karen. I was "Signora", or now "Margaret", or even I was called by my Italian last name, which is different from my American last name. I know, very weird!  But I soon got used to answering to "Mar-gar-et" for Albi. 

Albi was also the therapist in charge of my 6pm water therapy session, so I got to see plenty of her and her lilac shoes for the next two weeks.  She was a joy.

It was in my Knee Group that I met Carlo, also.  Each of us in the group had our own massage table we would lay on or sit on during our session. Carlo was on the table to my right every day. I was the newcomer, the other 3 had been in the group already by the time I got there.  On my first day, Carlo introduced himself to me, and said "Are you English", to me, in Italian. I explained back that I was American, but also Italian, and now lived here.  Carlo asked, "Please speak English with me, I like to practice". Sure, that made it easy for me. Carlo and I would see each other several times a day in sessions, and also in the halls while doing our walking practices. It was Carlo who tipped me off about a thinner type of sock (Calze) than the one's I was using. 

On my very last full day at Fate Bene Fratelli, I was not having a good afternoon. Every other day I was happy, smiling, getting through whatever I had to endure.  But this afternoon just defeated me, I didn't have a smile left in me.  I had been informed a few days before that I would be discharged on Wednesday, December 15. Yahoo!  I also knew from watching my roommate that there was a discharge procedure- you met with the doctor, there were forms to fill out, and the hospital arranged water transportation to take you home.  Here it was the afternoon before I was scheduled to leave, and no one had said one thing to me.  So, I stopped at the nurses station. Yes, I was leaving the next morning.  Was I going to meet with the doctor, what time would my boat be taking me home?  No one knew anything. Turns out, no arrangements had been made. I slipped through the cracks. This was bad.  The answer I got was you can leave when you want, and just go catch a vaporetto home.  Oh good lord, that made it worse. I definitely wanted to speak with a doctor, get prescriptions for pain medication, find out what kind of things I could or could not do at home,a nd when was a follow up appointment?  Seemed logical to me.  How could this happen? Why me?

That evening when I entered my pool session at 6pm, I was beside myself.  I was in the water, doing my normal routine when Barbara, the young girl who insisted I was Napolitana says to me, "What is wrong, you are not smiling?? "Huh?"  "You are always the sunshine, with a big smile when I see you. Now you are sad. What is wrong?"   "Not sad, very mad"  "Why".  "Oh, it's ok. Nothing you can do"   She brings Albi over, and insists I tell them what is wrong.  So I proceed to tell her about my discharge problem, and tears start flowing.  Albi says," we can figure out something, cause this is not right. Tomorrow morning you have a session with Blagha before you leave.  Have Blagha take you to Il Premio, the head doctor, and get the information you need from him, because this is not right". Then Albi turns to Carlo, and tells him to help me in the morning, in case all the Italian throws me for a loop.  My merry little band of Knee Group cohorts came to my rescue. 

Fortunately, the nurses must have been jumping on my behalf also, because at 8 am the next morning, the doctor who took my staples out ( he was not the orthopedic doctor assigned to me, she was on vacation it turns out), came to my room and gave me all the answers to all the questions I had, gave me the necessary referrals for outpatient therapy sessions, and then handed me my discharge papers.  Thank goodness I didn't need to go barge in on Il Premio!!! 

I did my last session with Blagha at 8:30, Mike arrived about 9:30, a nd by 10 am we exited Fate Bene Fratelli to make our way home.   We walked out of the building, and I got my first look at the neighborhood surrounding Fate Bene Fratelli. We made our way to the vaporetto at Madonna Dell'Orto, and away we went.  Homeward bound. After one whole month away, home was going to look pretty good to me.


Yvonne said...

You had some nice rapport and support going on there with your knee group. The staff sound so nice, they must like what they do!

I guess there is a hip group, like your knee group.

This has been genuinely rivetting, Karen.

karen said...

Yvonne- My time at Fate Bene Fratelli was absolutely amazing. It surprised me every day. I loved the people there, and the treatment was excellent. Food was good too!!! I just got an email from my Knee group girl Albi yesterday, can't wait to see her again on Monday.
This hasn't been too much of a "Venice Experience, probably should have created a new "Arthritis" blog, but to me, it has been part of my experiences here. Every day is something new!

Can't wait to see you soon!

Michelle said...

Cara Karen....or should I say Margaret, it is indeed part of your "Venice Experience" and that is what your blog is about...your experience living in Venice and your fans are loving it.
Take care and happy healing.

Rob C said...


Thank's for showing us a glimpse of the real Venice.

It looks like the Health Service there is truly a 'complementary service', here in the UK you'd be sent home after couple of days and then be expected to go back and forth to physio' for months.

The Venetian (or should that be Italian) system sounds almost 'Dickensian' but I'm sure your recovery is much,much faster than it would be here in the UK.


karen said...

Rob, my stay certainly was a great way to have first hand experience with the Italian system, that's for sure! After the last few weeks I think that no matter where you are, recovery from knee replacement is brutal! It's slow going, but if you do your exercises, slow progress is made day by day. Just gotta stick with it. I am optimistic that by warm weather I'll be without crutches! Not running anywhere, but moving sans arthritis pain.