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.