Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In An Emergency.......Pray You're Not in Greece

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.


Logophile said...

Oh man,
you've reminded me of so many of the things about Greek health care that made me happy to be home.
Best wishes to the mum in law in her upscale digs of the moment and a quick recovery.
Cathy, you are a funny gal.

Michael said...

Great story. I'd believe half of it if I didn't know you better :)

I can't believe you repeated the IV in the tree story. Have you no shame?

Oh yes. Wow...grammatical errors a-go-go inc. at least one missing prepostion.

I notice you left out the part where you wheelied her chair down an invitingly empty passage in the hospital and pirouetted to a halt just before you hit the wall at the other end but I won't tell anyone.

Seriously, tell Elevtheria I'm praying for her and I'll see her in Sept....assuming she survives any of your future wheelchair driving exploits.

Dan said...

Goodness what a saga. I'm glad your mum-in-law is finally getting the care she needs.

You, my friend, are amazing! Mopping the toilet? Wow! And I would have just LOVED to see your head caught in those doors!

Hugs and kisses for being such a wonderful daughter-in-law Cath.

Serena Joy said...

Oh, my word, what a time you had! I hope she's feeling better now. Do you speak any Greek at all? I'm guessing you must, to get around there as well as you do.

puerileuwaite said...

Also when I'm bending over in the shower ...

Travis said...

You make a disturbing and serious situation a little less bleak with the way you tell this story.

Good luck to mother-in-law.

Miss Understood said...

That's the last time I complain about the NHS!

I'm glad she's in good hands now, and hope she's feeling better.

cathy said...

logo,"laugh and the world laughs with you" (cry and you shrink your face)

michael, if you and T hadn't kept interrupting it would have been perfect. as for the accuracy you know what Greece is like - every word is true!

dan, I missed out a lot of the details or I'd still be writing it.
I have cleaned so many public toilets in Greece that I've lost count. Really!

Sorry that I didn't think to get photos of my head stuck in the door, I didn't know you were THAT kinky.

serena, I read, write and speak Greek "flawfully"

cathy said...

puerileuwaite, What?

travis, you can't be miserable all your life it's too exhausting for everybody concerned.

miss understood, The NHS rocks. Really!

Tina said...

M - she speaks the truth...the story is in no way exaggerated...believe me on this one...you would rather die than be taken to hospital in Greece!!!
Cathy you are a BRAVE woman...Elevtheria is lucky to have such a SWEET daughter-in-law... I hope she gets well soon...she is in my prayers...Tina xoxo

Queenie said...

Cathy, I think its brillent how you tell your post, and true who wants more wrinkles. I will never ever call the N.H.S, they do so much good stuff but folks only want to spread the bad news. (((hugs))) to your mother in law.

Michael said...

C - Tina and I were trying very hard not to interrupt...we just thought you had fallen asleep is all :)

T - I've been in a Greek hospital and I know that it is no place to get well.

Ali said...

Oh no, another blog I can't read whilst at work!!!

I was here about 2 hours ago, but approx. 10 seconds after reading...

"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"

... and with the salty tears still erupting, my boss walked in and caught me.

What could I say.. I got smoke in my eyes of course!!!!

I hope you both recover soon from your little outing!!

val said...

It's the way you tell 'em, Cathy! You are one of the few people whose writing makes me laugh so heartily.

In your defence to Michael - I know your criticism is a joke, but what's a prepostion? Physician heal thyself!

As an incurable pedant, I always look forward to someone finding my "deliberate" mistakes, but they are too polite to mention them. No fear of that from me!

cathy said...

tina,thanks for the back up.

queenie, she is feeling better already and will be home tomorrow.

michael, 1291 words - it was a bit of a monster and I remember taking you to the hospital with baloo. what a night that was!

ali,glad you liked it but be warned this is a bi polar blog though I thank goodness am not.

val, well spotted! I'm not supposed to make mistakes being a teacher. (according to michael)

Michael said...

Thanks for pointing that out Val. Really. If you'd read her comment in a post of mine you'd understand.

Excuse time: I was just throwing Cathy a bone so she could get back at me. Yes I'm that nice!

Note to self: Yeah, they'll go for that...Good work.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Wow! And I thought ERs here is the U.S. were problematic! I pray Elevtheria is doing OK now that she’s in hospital.

MONA said...

what can be worse than an emergency in greece?
An emergency in India!

Hope your mum in law is feeling better.

Blancodeviosa said...

remind me to never get sick in greece! oh lord

and michael- i can just imagine what you say about my grammar and missing prepositionitos..
you hard azz :0

Blancodeviosa said...

And the best of wishes to your mother in law.
She sounds like a very nice lady :)

Matt-Man said...

Sorry Cathy, good luck with everything...

captain corky said...

Hey, I was the alcoholic in the corner suffering for the DT's. How, the hell are you guys?

Top cat said...

cathy..I'm so sorry to hear about this last episode with your MIL, sweet soul, it's the last thing she needs right now.
People complain about the health care in this country but when you hear stories like this it doesn't sound so bad.
Take care of yourself hon.

val said...

Your poor elderly brother is a hoot, Cathy. It's just in my nature to challenge him to an ongoing verbal duel to out-grammar and out-punctuate him. Hope he's up for it. I'll try to make allowances for his extreme old age and dedication to telling the truth.

Shrink wrapped scream said...


I wanted to laugh and cry in equal measure.. how horrible, and yet so hysterically funny.. you sure can tell a tale, girl! Loved the rain-dance sequence bit.. "silly not to".

I lift my glass to you, in a salute - "clink", cheers, bonny lass!

ps. Hope mum-in-law is over the worst.

Mr. φ said...

Sometimes, not too often though - I'm happy I live in Sweden. It's such a contrast to my life, where bribes and "talking about the price" don't exist. Wewt, funny story anyway. If it was true I hope she'll be getting better care now. Thanks for the kind words by the way, and yeah I made an A 9.25/10 in advanced English. Yay!

lime said...

you really had me laughing through this but at the same time horrified at what you have to go thru for her to be well cared for. regardless, i am glad she has you looking out for her best interests.

cathy said...

michael, you will have all the teachers ganging up on you. LOL

ss nick, She came home today. Yeh!

mona,thanks and you're right that would be worse.

blanco, I'll remind you and yes she is a nice lady.

matt man, that wasn't very pithy:)

captain corky, sorry for running over your toes there.

TC, It's pretty bad here that's why I have to joke about it.

val, you'll have to excuse him. It can't be helped at his age.

Sugar Smacks said...

It's always the same - the most tragic situations seem to have the most potential for high comedy. I'm sorry for your loved one, but that story really is hilarious.

Michael said...

Next she'll be telling you the one about the two workmen and the hole in the road....

cathy said...

sugar smacks, Laugh through your pain. It's the only way to go!

michael, shhhh later.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I went through some of this when I lived in Spain. I relate.

G-Man said...

Cathy, you are a great daughter in law.
We should all be so lucky as to have you in the family..
Lets pray Elevtheria has some calm and peace..xo