I'll be checking into the hospital here in Venice on Monday morning, and having my knee replacement surgery Tuesday morning. It's not exactly the kind of Venetian experience I'd always planned to be writing about, but, heck, it's happening in Venice, and it surely is going to be an experience.
About a year ago, I made my first visit to the Orthopedic Surgeon here. In the years before I moved here, I'd had injections of synthetic joint fluid in my knees, which worked nicely. It was time for that to be done again, so I asked my primary care doctor here for a referral. All that went down like clockwork. After looking at my x-rays, the surgeon told me it was definitely time for knee surgery, he didn't think delaying it any longer was a good idea. So, he made me an appointment with the hospital.
The way things work here is that you are referred for surgery, then you wait for the hospital to call you. They set up appointments and schedule surgery dates. When I got my phone call, the woman on the other end of the phone was highly disappointed that I wasn't fluent in Italian. In fact, she told me to get someone who can speak the language to call her back.
To make a long story short, I finally was scheduled for a surgery date in March. For a number of reasons, that was not going to work for me. The girl in the scheduling office, Daniela, told me to call her back in September. Since my surgery was not a matter of life and death, this worked for me too.
In the beginning of September, I dialed Daniela's phone number. She remembered me and was very pleasant. What surprised me is that she didn't tell me to go find an Italian speaking friend. My Italian had improved enough during the interim that I could understand her, and could manage to make myself understood. She gave me some additional information, and told me to call her back on October 25.
On October 25, I made another call to Daniela. She's starting to feel like a good friend by now! This time, she has a surgery date for me. Two days later, I get another phone call, from another woman at the hospital, who has dates for me to go give blood. Again, I am able to handle the phone conversation without getting help from a native Italian speaker. Yahoo! There was only one part of the conversation I had to keep asking for help on. I thought she told me I was not to have breakfast or eat anything that morning, so I wanted to be sure. I asked her to repeat it, she did, and finally what she was saying sunk in. I CAN eat and drink. I repeat back to her exactly what she said to me, and she says " Yes, you can eat and drink." In English! And she laughs. Still, I end the phone call thinking I've done very well.
Everything is scheduled, I'm getting excited. I am to go to Ospedale on November 5 and again on November 12 to give blood. Got it.
I arrive at Ospedale on the morning of November 5 about 20 minutes before my appointment. I knew I was going to need that time to find the office I was supposed to go to. This place is huge, and very maze-like. I get lost every time I am there, and I know I must not be the only one who does. This morning there is another girl lost right along with me, and she is a native Italian speaker. We were both looking for where to give blood, and we kept seeing each other as we crossed hallways and stairwells searching. Turns out she only needed to have blood tests, while I needed to donate lots more, so we needed to go to two different places.
After finally tracking down the office for Central Transfusions, I got checked in with the secretary in charge, and waited my turn. I was called into an office by a different woman. I start off by apologizing to her, that I cannot speak Italian fluently. She says back in Italian: " It's ok, I speak some English." Between the two of us, we managed to get whatever information she needed from me for the forms she was filling out. She takes me across the hall to a room where several people are laid out, already with tubes in their arms, blood running from them into pouches. Oh boy, I'm next. I never do well with blood tests ever, I pass out.
Before the technician sticks me with the needle, I inform her that I get faint usually, and may pass out. I'd practiced that sentence in Italian before I left home. She said "No problem". She stuck my arm, I made sure to scrunch my eyeballs shut so I couldnt see anything, and it began. I was doing pretty well, I thought. All of a sudden, from across the room comes a yell "Signora, Occhi aperto!! Occhi aperto!". Crap, she's yelling at me. She wants me to keep my eyes open. Ok, I open my eyes, but look to my left, so I can avoid seeing whats going on over in my right arm.
About 10 minutes later, another technican comes over, I ask How much longer. She says, "Almost done", and I realize I am getting faint. I tell her I'm not feeling well and will probably pass out any minute. I know when it's going to happen, this is not new to me. She says, "No, you won't." I say, "Yes, I will". The one who yelled at me to open my eyes comes over and lifts my legs up so they are completely vertical, and lowers the head part of the bed. I'm thinking, I hope this works. The next thing I know, that friendly little technican is slapping my face, hard. "Signora, stay awake. Signora stay awake", she's saying to me loudly. What ever happened to smelling salts?? Don't they have that in this country???
Things got much worse before they got better. I threw up several times, which prompted visits by two doctors. They put in an IV. An hour and a half later, my blood pressure had come back up to normal levels, they had stopped slapping me, and I felt better. One of the doctors returned when the IV was empty, and said to me, "Don't come back on the 12th. You get too sick." Hey, that works for me.
I spoke with Daniela again the other day, just to check on what I need to bring with me when I check in at the hospital. In this country, you must bring your own pajamas, robe, slippers, toiletries, all that stuff with you. I love this system. I also had to go buy crutches and some special sock like things called monocollante. I'm all set.
I'm even prepared for more face slapping. But who knows what adventures await me in a few days! Light candles for me!!!