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

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fate Bene Fratelli - Part II

Fate Bene Fratelli.  Where in the world do I begin? I've got so much to say about this whole experience.  First of all, I think small miracles happen here.  Really.  Or at least very good things.

My home away from home for 3 weeks, room 123, was great.  All rooms here are set up for two beds, a table with two chairs, ample separate closet space for two people, and a separate bathroom, including a shower that was big enough to accomodate a wheelchair. From my window I could look down on to a canal, across the canal was a large soccer field  and  beyond the soccer field was the lagoon and I could see Murano.  Not bad.

My roommate for the next 3 weeks was an 86 yr old native Venetian woman who only spoke Venetian dialect.  I can barely speak standard Italian. Venetian dialect was beyond me, but, by the end of our time together, we managed to  communicate pretty well.  She had been in Ospedale for 30 days, then 20 days in Fate Bene Fratelli by the time I arrived.  I never figured out her name, and never figured out exactly what she was in there for.  She scared the heck out of me at first, I have to be honest, because she had a problem with everything. If the staff didn't arrive to get her out of bed and dressed when she wanted them, she let them have it. If they did arrive on time she let them have it.  And, after they left the room, she cursed them out at the top of her lungs for another 30 minutes.  I truly believe they put me in with her because they knew I wouldn't understand a thing she was saying.  After awhile I tuned her out, except when she was muttering " Morte de cani di Venezia", which happened often, mostly at night after lights out. I was convinced she was putting curses on all of us, and prayed I would be exempt.  Still on my "to do list" is to find a Venetian and figure out what that phrase means.

Rehabilitation is the entire focus of life at Fate Bene Fratelli. Your whole day revolves around it, and you quickly fall into the routine.  Breakfast is served at 7am, which is always pane (bread) and marmelatta  delivered to your room on a tray, followed by someone serving your choice of espresso, macchiato, caffee latte, cappucino, orzo or tea.  I am a tea with milk drinker. Every morning when I asked for latte (milk) in my tea, I got strange looks or "No, Limone (lemon)" back.  It took a few mornings, but eventually the tea with latte came daily. And it was good.

Right after breakfast comes the morning distribution of medications.  The nurses here do double and triple duty, as they also must do all the food serving. I've never seen anything like it, it all operates like clockwork. And then rehab starts. Everyone has scheduled rehab.  My first session of the day started at 8:30 am every day, a private session with my physical therapist, Blagha.  Since I arrived at night, my first session was the following morning. Normally you are either taken by wheelchair or you get yourself  to the therapy room, however if you aren't mobile, the therapist comes to you. So I met Blagha on my first full day when she came into my room.  My blood pressure was still so low I wasn't able to get out of bed yet. 

That first day Blagha massaged and manipulated my leg and knee.  The second day, I got delivered to the therapy room for my time with Blagha, and added on a second session - 30 minutes on the knee machine. Each day after Blagha worked my knee, I'd get on the knee machine. Each day she'd kick up the setting another 5 degrees or so. That determines the angle the machine bends your knee to, and it does this non stop for 30 minutes.  Blagha is a tall, very attractive blonde woman from Bulgaria, who lives on the Lido. She was murder on me every single minute, she didn't let up. I was supposed to be bending my knee, and as much as I tried, that knee wasn't bending.

By day 4, I had been sent for x-rays. Blagha and the orthopedic doctor had conferences with the surgeon at Ospedale. They determined the new knee was good, there was nothing wrong with it. The reason my knee wasn't bending was all ME.  I had no idea why. I was trying, it wasn't bending, and the pain was excrutiating. Blagha explained to me that I had to relax the muscles, then the knee would move. And when the muscles were tense, thats what creates the pain. Why wasn't I relaxing them?  Huh? I don't know why.  This was a huge problem. On the evening of night 5, it became an even bigger problem. I got a visit from the orthopedic doctor at my bedside.  Why isn't my knee moving, she wanted to know.  She felt up and down my leg for a few minutes, then before I knew what was going on, she grabbed the shin part of my leg in one hand and the thigh part in the other and bent my leg like it was a wish bone.  I heard several huge popping and snapping sounds, and I was screaming in pain.  A nurse actually RAN into my room to see what was going on.  Oh my god, I was in agony. I was afraid to look, thinking I'd see my leg in two separate pieces on the bed. After she finished with that, the doctor said, "See, you can bend that knee".  Now here's the really odd thing. 30 minutes after she did that, my knee felt much better. Much better. 

The next morning, the doctor was waiting for me at my 8:30 session with Blagha. She wanted to know if I was ok. Yes, thanks, everything is great :).  My knee still wasn't bending the way it was supposed to, but it did feel better.  For most of the next week, I worked hard every day to get my knee to bend the way they wanted me to.  My sessions jumped from 2 times a day to 3, and in between I was walking the corridors on my crutches.  I graduated to one crutch by the middle of that week, and I am sure I was a regular eyesore for all the residents on my floor because I was walking the halls whenever I wasn't in some session.  I was making small progress. That was good for me, but not good enough for Blagha and my doctor.

I arrived on November 21. On November 30, the staples (30 of them) were taken out of my leg, and I got my first look at the incision. Even though the dressing was changed daily, I never looked, I didn't have the guts. I'd ask every day if everything looked ok.  That;s all that mattered, did it look like it was healing up ok.  When I did look, what I found was all 10 inches of it was pretty darned ugly.  But, now with the staples out, I could  start going to water therapy, which I did twice a day, bumping my sessions from 3 a day to 5. Whenever there was some "down time", I was in my bed exhausted with ice packs on my knee.   Very slow progress being made.


Michelle said...

I'm finding this all very interesting. I probably have this to look forward to some day and don't look forward to having it done here. You are familiar with American insurance companies. Your experience sounds like time at a luxury spa compared to how things would be here.
I understand not wanting to look at the incision and the staples. I was that same way with my abdominal hystectomy a year and a half ago.
How are you doing now with stairs and bridges? An unavoidable experience in Venice.
Oh...have you discovered the meaning of the "Morte phrase" if my schoolgirl Latin were to be used looks like "dead dogs of Venice" to me...or maybe "death to the Venetian dogs"....must be some kind of colorful curse. Hmm, next class Venetian dialect?

karen said...


I got "dead dogs of Venice" out of it also, and I swear she was putting curses on me and everyone else every night. Very colorful!!!I still have to track down my Venetian buddies to confirm this, and I'll let you know when I find out.

Yes,I know, I compare Fate Bene Fratelli to some country club white collar prison, like where Martha Stewart went. And compared to Ospedale, it was just that. But, we worked our tails off with rehab sessions, there was no time for fun!

I didn't forget to answer about stairs and bridges, I'm going to describe that in one of the blogs I'm still working on. Keep reading..

Michelle said...

Oh, I will indeed keep reading...as are Yvonne and Sheila (you haven't met her yet).
Take care.

Marie Ohanesian Nardin said...

HI Karen, I can help you out with "Tita morti cani"...one of the most used, heard and misunderstood(by non-Venetian speakers) curses in the Venetian dialect. Also one of the first things I heard along with "schei" when I arrived in Venice...just listen as you walk down the calle or ride on the vaporetto! I'm sure you've heard them both. Roughly translated the curse is "all your dead relatives are dogs", it's so often used it's probably lost its real flavor, though I would warn you from using it, because it is quite offensive when used in the wrong context...and of course "schei" is Venetian for money!

I'm glad you're feeling better, and laughing at your hospital stay, though it sounds like they took really good care of you! Ciao, Marie