I haven’t been around much for the last couple of days. The reason for this is that my mum in law, Elevtheria, who is in poor health contracted a tummy bug to add to her other troubles. She probably caught it from me but whereas I just felt under the weather for a couple of days Elevtheria had a temperature of 102 and barfed enough to fill several blogs for the foreseeable future.
Things got so bad that on Sunday I decided to take her to the emergency room. This is “a big story” in Greece, meaning it is a lot of bother as opposed to an untrue story, as my brother explained in his last post, "Big Stories". I was advised, by a second cousin twice removed, that in order to avoid waiting for six hours or more to get through the door we should call an ambulance. This part was easy I dialed 166 and was suitably impressed that we only had to wait half an hour for it to arrive.
I left my children in the capable and loving hands of my dear friend Tina and set off for my first ride in a Greek ambulance. I was in for another surprise it actually had a gurney in it AND sick bags! I once asked my husband if ambulance attendants here have to be qualified and he told me that if you are lucky the guy behind the steering wheel has a driving license. When we arrived at the hospital I gave the ambulance attendants a 20 dollar hand shake, you never know when you might need another ambulance and they WILL remember. This little trick got us past the other poor souls dying in the corridor and directly into the emergency examination area. Have any of you seen “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”? I think the entire cast was in that room, and that was just the doctors.
So there I was surrounded by about 30 assorted fools, drunks, madmen and almost corpses, accompanied by my rainbow shouting mum in law, in a room that was about 12 square feet in size, and a few of them were clubbed feet at that! I encouraged Elevtheria to shout a bit louder as she barfed for the umpteenth time that day and God bless her she got right into the spirit of the thing. She even managed to make more noise than the alcoholic in the corner who seemed to be suffering from a case of the DTs. I’m not sure if it was her enthusiastic chundering or my hearty congratulations that got their attention but two harassed looking interns were soon writing up a bunch of tests and giving her a shot of something or other.
On to the next hurdle, one of the interns babbled a list of instructions and directions that sounded completely Greek to me, probably because they were. I bribed a passing person in green baggy clothes (who could have been the head surgeon for all I knew) to find me a wheelchair then we set off on the next leg of our hospitalathon (it could well make it into the next Olympics the way things are going, along with snowball fights for the winter
games). Actually getting that wheel chair out into the corridor was a gargantuan task. Elevtheria, exhausted by her award winning aria and the subsequent prodding flopped gratefully into the perambulatory vehicle and left me to it. No help was at hand from the ailing allsorts so I backed towards the double swing doors apologizing to everybody as I ran over their toes and slightly encouraged by the alcoholics excellent impression of a banshee (“Oooooo eeeeee ooooo eeeeeee oooooo eeeee!!”) I lent backwards and head butted my way into the corridor. Well that was the general idea but in fact what happened was that as my head passed through the doors they swung back into place so that my head was in the corridor whilst the rest of my body along with my mother in law and the wheel chair were still inside the examination room.
I could turn my head just enough to see the interested stares of some of the walking wounded lining the corridor. They were perking up a bit, not many things provide entertainment at the ER on a Sunday afternoon and my little dilemma must have looked pretty promising to them. OK, time for my world famous human banana impression! A mini space walk managed to get my feet into a position that made it possible to put pressure on the door with my heels. The pressure on my neck started to ease as I slid my feet backwards and outwards pulling on the wheelchair as I reversed. The onlookers seemed genuinely pleased by my progress but they weren’t going to spoil the fun by offering any kind of assistance, apart from one game soul on a gurney who waved an arm in encouragement almost dislodging his IV in the process. I was about as close to doing the splits as I am ever going to get when the wheel chair decided to join the party and my own version of the evolution of dance moved into spasmodic jive mode as I fought against the momentum to avoid running myself over with my mother in laws transportation, finishing off with a little rain dance(silly not to really) and a nonchalant twirl to reposition the wheelchair I set off down the corridor towards the x-ray department aided by pieces of paper, cellotaped to the pea green walls at irregular intervals, with little arrows drawn on them in felt tip pen.
Once we had finished with x-rays, blood tests and the like we proceeded to the admissions area which had two six bed temporary wards and about 50 patients. As it turned out the bribe for the wheelchair was money well spent as Elevtheria would probably have been sat on the floor otherwise. I tripped up a passing nurse to get her attention and shoved our paperwork into her hand. I felt bad about this later when I realized that there were only 2 nurses on duty and no doctors. The doctors showed up at 9pm, 3 hours later, pronounced my mother in law fit to go and sent us home.
I cannot say that some of that time wasn’t profitably spent, for one thing once news got round that Elevtheria was unwell various cousins, uncles and their dogs joined us, two of them traveling over 100km to do so, and an impromptu family reunion took place. In addition to which I discovered the toilet facilities to be in such an abominably filthy condition that I searched out a mop and bucket and cleaned them myself figuring that 2 nurses to 50+ patients added up to no cleaners within a mile of the building Just before we left I went out to the canteen to get a bottle of drinking water and was horrified to see some poor chap propped up against the trunk of a tree with his IV resting in the branches, I can only hope that he had popped out for a cigarette.
My mum in law then spent her third night in a row “talking on the big white telephone to God” so today I went totally Greek and took her to a doctor who ” knows” us, in other words someone we have bribed on a regular basis ever since Elevtheria started her battle against cancer 12 years ago. A 50 dollar handshake later my mum in law was finally admitted to hospital and is now being cared for by people who know which side their bread is buttered.