Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Italian Ambulances and ERs

Sorry I haven’t posted in while! It has been a busy few weeks with school and travel. Unfortunately, I am learning that the “study” part of study abroad is quite prominent here.

I experienced a lot of firsts this week: first time to ride in an ambulance, first trip to the ER without my parents, first stitches, first exploding wine bottle… You know. Normal first experiences.

Here is the story:
Tuesday was Vogue Fashion’s Night Out in Firenze. It is a really posh event and my roommates and I got all dolled up and frequented the most famous and luxurious stores in the world. Anyways, we thought a nice glass of sparkling wine before we went out would be a splendid idea. Our apartment came with two poorly functioning bottle openers, and the metal corkscrew got STUCK in the CORK while I was trying to open the bottle. I kid you not, the entire plastic part of the opener came off. We ditched the wine idea and went out to enjoy the fabulous celebration of fashion happening literally on our doorstep. (Did I mention that we live on the same street as Gucci?!)

Fast forward to the next day. I am standing in the kitchen at 3 in the afternoon and notice the corkscrew inconveniently still chilling the wine cork. I decided to try to get the corkscrew out and one thing led to another… I somehow made a small crack in the glass and the carbonation caused the bottle to explode. Literally explode. Glass and wine went flying EVERYWHERE. It is amazing that no glass got into my eyes, I could barely see from all of the wine!

So there I am screaming in the kitchen because my eyes hurt and I can’t see and I am spurting blood from my finger. My roommates Ashtyn and Hannah were already in the room, and Christy ran in shortly after. I am so grateful for these wonderful people, because I COULD NOT have made it through this ordeal without them. Someone got me shoes, someone made we wash the blood off of my hand and cut (which hurt reallllly badly) and someone decided to call the doctor. The doctor told us to call an ambulance, and Ashtyn spoke to them on the phone in all Italian! So proud of her! I was of little use as I had promptly forgotten every word of Italian from shock when I cut myself. Convenient. Meanwhile I am crying and trying to stop the blood flow from my finger without pushing the glass in the cut deeper. I also asked to call my mom, but Ashtyn literally said no. In hindsight this was smart because my mom would have freaked out if I called at this point!

The ambulance arrives and I head to the hospital wearing slippers, a large tank, a Baylor sweatshirt and yoga pants. I clearly fit in with all the posh Italians… A note on Italian ambulances: because of their healthcare, ambulances are free and people call them ALL THE TIME for EVERYTHING. So bizarre. Anyways, I am strapped into the ambulance where they clean my cut a bit (OW) and wrap it in gauze. The people on the ambulance were hilarious! Ashtyn came with me, and we all spoke in mixed Italian and English about really random things. Topics of discussion included the lack of lights in the apartment hallway and how one of the guys was going to prepare Roman pizza for dinner (step by step). I later learned that all of the ambulance workers in Italy are volunteers. I loved them already for helping me not freak out as much, but this made me love them EVEN MORE.

Once at the hospital, I am wheeled into the area with all of the doctors. All I could see was the lights on the ceiling going by. It was just like a movie! I got my bandages changed and I had to answer lots of questions in Italian/English mix. It was pretty overwhelming and I am SO grateful for Ashtyn being with me. Then came the best part… Waiting. And waiting and waiting.

We called my program, Study Abroad Italy, and they sent someone to meet us. Then it got complicated because we told them the wrong hospital and they only had my name and number. In the panic of leaving I forgot to grab my phone so they had no way to contact me! Poor Danielle from SAI went to 3 hospitals before we realized our mistake! We called again and told her the correct location. All of this took place over about an hour and half. My hand was hurting and we were so bored! Finally they called us back and we waited in ANOTHER waiting room. Oh joy! We played hangman, which was hilarious since I was writing with my left hand and it was illegible. Meanwhile, Danielle went to the wrong location of the hospital we were at (what are the odds that there are TWO with the exact same name in Florence!?)

After about 30 minutes, a nurse took me into a room. I laid down on a hospital bed and she set my hand on a metal table with a bunch of scary looking metal equipment. She poured several different liquids on my hand that stung SO badly, but they washed the glass out. Yay! We talked a bit in Italian, which apparently gave her the impression that I spoke the language decently well (important later). My cut looked really freaking gross at this point. It was deep and gaping open and my finger was very swollen. I could see a lot of little white dots in the red blood inside the cut (don’t know what that was, don’t care to know ever). The doctor came in a while after and also spoke to me in mostly Italian. He got right down to business and started sewing me up without ANY medication, numbing or painkiller. Uhm OUCHHHHHHHHHHHHH. That was the sharpest pain I have ever experienced, including when I broke my arm. OW. I remember thinking, ‘if childbirth is only this painful, it might be manageable.’ True story. After what felt like forever, the doctor said “solo una oltra” and I was like, oh good, only one more! LIES. He said that TWO more times before he was actually done. He finished and the nurse told me something in very fast Italian and left before I could say anything. I still have no clue what she said.

I went to find Ashytn and hopefully Danielle to figure out what to do next. I looked in the second, smaller waiting room and then the first waiting room. Not there. I wandered between the two feeling lost and confused for a few minutes. This involved sneaking into a door to the back every time a doctor or patient opened it from the other side--no one bothered to stop me...sketch security measures. I eventually thought to look outside and, allora, Danielle and Ashtyn were both there! YAY! We waited some more and chit chatted, and the doctor gave me the bill and further instructions. The total for an ambulance ride and getting stitches: 40€! So cheap! Then we took a taxi, got food and went home.

It is doing so much better now! It has been about a week and I am surprised at how quickly it is healing.

HUGE SHOUT OUT to Ashtyn Mathews for being the best friend ever!!! She was by my side the ENTIRE time, hung out with me for 5 hours in a gross hospital and basically loved me a whole lot! I can't thank her enough. YOU DA BEST GIRL!!!!

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