Health Care in Italy... Part 1

I have a hobbling walk. I teeter in four directions. Quite a feat. Sounds and looks like… Ta-da-ta-dump. Ta-da-ta-dump. Ta-da-ta-dump. Ta-da-ta-dump. The upside of this is I may have a career in Hollywood, if the magi there find it in themselves to produce another Harry Potter movie, one calling for a character requiring a wide berth. Or, perhaps a new rendition on Sherlock Holmes. A clever though physically-impaired one. Could be new. And come on, time to unseat those versions of Roberto Downey Jr. and that Benedict Cumberbatch. Too much social media hoopla. The downside is everyone notices and makes comments. Of concern, they say. I wish they would leave me and my funny walk alone.

Well, I had thought that until I found myself in serious difficulty. My limp had remarkably deteriorated. A bent-over limp, if ever there was one. Teetering to topple over. I resoundingly blame it on the ramps & stairs of il Poggiolo, extensive yard work, and the Summer’s EXTREME heat. I began to live with constant pain, solid discomfort. And, the drugs didn’t work anymore! A dire situation, if I may so.

Five years ago, and against my natural & lazy wishes, I had a hip operation. The right hip. From barely walking back to plain ol’ walking. Then, as Fate chose to dictate, we got a Weimaraner puppy, Croesus. A companion for Nina-beena when Moses, THE MOST FANTASTIC DOG EVER, passed away. The New Entry was an atomic bomb of a puppy. Cute, affectionate, perhaps overly attached to me, Croesus pulled every bad-dog trick out of his pouch. I won’t list them. Too long. But, as he grew, one defect of character came to the tragic fore… pulls like Hell on his leash. Wrecked my back. Wrecked my left hip too. Plain ol’ walking turned into today’s bent-over feeble, teetering-to-tumble limp in no time at all. By the way, Croesus pulls less these days. He even stays put for me to lasso him with his leash. God Bless, for certain favors.

I insisted upon a practiced and callow disregard for my physical incapacities, despite the increasing quantity of comments of concern from family & friends and the every-now-and-then admonitions from You, il Dottore You. Beware of doctors though. They require that their messages be heard AND followed. Otherwise, they get cranky. You, of late. I continued to choose to resist. My feelings were these… It’s 2019. I think surgery is barbaric. I expect a miracle cure will be developed soon so I may avoid an operation all together. I can wait. Oh, no, no… no! When I crashed and burned after falling off a Milanese sidewalk, it became unavoidably evident that the proverbial writing had been scribbled across the wall… of My Life. I surrendered. Good that I did. The waters promptly parted in my favor.

A simple procedure.

First, I went to my general dottore. Told him of my decision to have the left hip operated on and my need for his help to do so. Wrote out a prescription for an appointment with an orthopedic dottore in a jiffy. Got in my car the following day and drove to the little hospital up in Fivizzano. Cover photo. There I sauntered up to the window at the ASL, L’Azienda Sanitaria Locale or, The Health Office!!!… for the nice lady with the jet-black hair, tons of bracelets and phosphorescent finger-nail polish on the other side to Search & Find me ASAP an opening in any local orthopedic dottore’s schedule. Choices were Fivizzano, Pontremoli or Massa, the Mother Lode of hospitals in the Lunigiana. The first appointment available was a surgeon in Pontremoli 7 days hence.

The hospital in Pontemoli is an example of Italian Communist filo-Stalin hospital architecture: cement, metal, ugly pale paint colors of Pee-pee-Green, Baby-Blue and Pepto-bismol-Pink but, mostly the Grey of reinforced cement. Strangely enough, the staff are rather congenial, if not outright friendly. Oh, and the in-house bar produces one of the best coffees in all of the Lunigiana. Who knew? The waiting room on the 3rd Floor was packed. 25 to 30 sick & infirm with orthopedic issues. I feared a long wait. God Bless, the Good Lord Above and his Host of Angels floating around Him for His invention of the iPhone. A life savor for long waits. Had to keep up with Brexit, you know? How was it? I was the first to be called!!! Imagine that? I sat down in front of a very grumpy dottore, belly-aching to his squadron of nurses about the waiting crowd outside. He had already been furnished with my details and had already punched them into the PC. There, on the screen were my series of X-rays and MRI’s of my left hip. Without a howdy-do or, a Buon Giorno Lei, he looked up and squared me directly with his eyes and shot out… No c’e’ nessun motivo per Lei di pensare di non fare un intervento sulla Sua anca!… There is no motive for you to think of not having a hip operation. Got it. Additional shots aimed in my direction were about who and where I would care to have this necessary operation, was given dry assurances the paperwork would be initiated to embark upon the road to surgery post-haste, and then, finally, a Buon Giorno as il dottore indicated with the inclination of his bald head that I should follow the attending nurse into a nearby consultation room. Finding the attending dottore e chirurgo un po’ antipatico, I decided there and then to seek a surgeon to do the deed. It’s the Italian way. The great thing about the national health scheme is you may go anywhere on the peninsula you’d care to… and, AT PRACTICALLY NOT COST AT ALL!!! I chose Fivizzano. Small, intimate, everyone knows me. I knew what to do to find My Surgeon. I was really, really nice to You. Marvelous dinners, listened to his convoluted stories and, scratched his bare back and wispy hair head as per goolie-goolie.

Sometimes something awful must happen for something wonderful to occur. Shortly after my encounter in Pontremoli, You’s Cousin from Torino arrived to pass the August Summer vacation, Ferragosto, with us at il Poggiolo. We had planned a large dinner party the night of. Our house is no place for this woman. Wears sandals, hates stairs & ramps, not keen at all about the local flora & fauna, especially, spiders and stinging bees. But, I was not consulted. Only commanded to be ready and able for her arrival. I rallied. You & I went to fetch her at the train station in La Spezia. Crazed Americans mixed in with Chinese hordes heading to the worst tourist site in all of Italy, le Cinque Terre. We brought her to il Poggiolo, giving her an apartment all to herself. Stairs included. I served an amazing meal of a delicate tomato & sausage risotto, a tossed salad full of fresh vegetables and a lemon pie for dessert. One tiny flaw to our intimate reunion meal was a small infestation of calabroni bees. The B-52’s of stinging flying insects. They were very concentrated at the lamp-light in the corner of the Loggia. Lethal if you dare to swat. Relatively benign if you don’t. She did. They threatened. She got up and promptly fell wrenching her wrist. She screamed. She screamed more. She screamed a whole lot. Then, she threw up. Neither You nor I together could get her up off the floor. She maintained screaming. We redoubled our efforts to position the screaming Cousin into a vertical position to then escort her post-haste to the Pronto Soccorso in Fivizzano. You drove and I followed after calming the dogs and cleaning the place up a bit. The Cousin was dealt with by the Pronto Soccorso staff with the utmost courtesy & attention. She had stopped screaming. But, since her tragedy had occurred at Ferragosto, the on-duty orthopedic dottore was in Pontremoli. The Cousin spent the night in the hospital… Thank The Good Lord. Her stay was assisted by a heavy dose of pain medication and a sleeping pill to boot. The next day, she was transported to the hospital in Pontremoli to be attended to by the on-duty orthopedic surgeon. He is now My Hip Op Orthopedic Surgeon.

You was instrumental in this. He can be a Chatty-Cathy at times. Usually when he knows who he is dealing with. When he doesn’t, he’s mute. Maybe more than mute. Who he was dealing with at the Ospedale di Pontremoli was a friendly, competent, and efficient surgeon, who braved The Cousin’s screaming… drugs had worn off and the new ones hadn’t had enough time to take effect… to tell her surgery was not necessary. The appropriate job was to re-position the wrist into its natural position. She wanted surgery. A drama queen. You tried to calm her drama by inquiring if the Good Dottore Chirurgo would be available to do my hip op. Ma certo!!! Dargli questo numero per fissare un appuntamento e ne parliamo… Why sure. Give him my number to make an appointment and we can talk a bit. He did. I did. We met. Spent an hour with the good dottore chirurgo. Thanks to him, I am now one with this impending op.

More to come…