Thursday, August 28, 2014


Here is a little quiz to test what you know about Ferragosto.
 Ferragosto is: (Check all that apply)

1. a major holiday in Italy when most everything closes down and anyone who can, especially professionals, gets out of town

2. a very bad time to have a machine or car that needs reapir

3. a REALLY bad time to have a medical emergency

4. NO time to have a husband who had the right idea to flee the country for Ferragosto, but then managed to get into medical doodoo on Day One of our 5-day stay in the non-Ferragosto-celebrating country

If you checked all of the above, you are right! And on the subject of things in need of repair, it's not unusual in Italy to encounter the word "GUASTO!" (aka "BUSTED AND NOT LIKELY TO BE FIXED IN YOUR LIFETIME"), especially on elevators, escalators, toilets, and more.


Last year, for us, just in time for Ferragosto, it was J's "guasto" leg (See HOW JUST ONE LITTLE FRATTURA TERZO DISTALE PERONE DX CAN RUIN YOUR ENTIRE DAY, AND MORE  HOW JUST ONE LITTLE FRATTURA TERZO DISTALE PERONE ...). This year, it's a "guasto nervo" in the leg: one minute you're on your feet playing with your adorable toddling granddaughter; the next minute, to be upright causes excruciating pain, requires daily shots in the bum, and lots of driving from a wife who isn't meant for the open road. We're still investigating, Italian style, the cause of this pinched nerve contretemps, hoping that it's something benign and garden variety, like old age.

Although to be sick here in Italy will not bankrupt you, as it could in America, you might have a long wait to be diagnosed unless you've got the resources (what Arlo Guthrie calls, "the do-re-mi") to be seen privately.


STEP ONE: Try to see the really lovely family doctor to whom residents like us have been assigned. Do this by appearing during her office hours, taking a numbered ticket like at the deli, and waiting your turn. (See below for the usual way this works when the office is not closed for Ferragosto.)

 Oops! Since they're currently serving number 45, if you have 87, you better bring out all the toys and snacks you should have brought along.

STEP TWO: If your doctor, and all the rest of them are away for Ferragosto, drive to the Pronto Soccorso (ER) in a city known for good specialists in pinched nerves. Wait for three hours along with the other poor souls who got sick on Ferragosto, after which you get to see an excellent doctor who will try to treat the problem with heavy-duty drugs, and who will give you a referral to return to see a specialist any Tuesday between 10:30 and 1PM. But there's a catch: prior to being seen, you will need to find a place to get an MRI, for which there is often a long wait, unless you pay out of pocket.

We didn't mind the additional two-hour wait in the hall while the initial dose of the medicine was pumped into J's arm because he was seated in a well-worn but comfortable antique (?) wheelchair that had clearly served many decades of pinched nerve victims.

This well-loved foot rest has clearly seen a lot of action.

STEP THREE: To get the medicine the ER doctor has prescribed, try to find the pharmacy he insists will be easy to locate in this strange city. Never mind that it's a Saturday night at 7:30 PM and you are worried about driving home on the curvy highway before dark.

STEP FOUR: Abandon the pharmacy search and try to get the proper forms from your doctor's office that will allow you to get the medicines locally. Then either learn to give shots into your husband's south end, or try to find someone at local Guardia Medica who can do it. If it's a Sunday, you go there and a cheerful, spunky nurse will give your husband his injection, while pantomiming how she is able to give her flexible self her own injections in her own bum. We are relieved to know that we may be able to return here for the next five days' worth of shots.

Two days later, however, to our shock and disappointment, when we arrive at the Guardia Medica for J to get his shot prior to our long drive to the MRI site, the nice double-jointed, good-humored nurse is nowhere to be found. She's been replaced by a short, grumpy male nurse happy to LOUDLY inform us that NO shots can be given at the Guardia by anyone but a doctor, who is only there on weekdays after 8 "POST MERIDIAN!!!!"It was of no use to explain that this had not been our experience on Sunday, when Nice Nurse gave the shot without hesitation, once she realized that the very young Dottoressa on duty was covering five different towns and running late from one to the next. Mr. Officious, standing around with nothing to do, yelled that J's getting his shot there could NEVER have happened because it is ILLEGALE!!! He kept pointing to the locked door to the doctor's office, declaiming, NIENTE DOTTORE NOW!! SOLAMENTE POST MERIDIAN!!" It was hard to decide where to laugh or tear our hair out. Instead of either, I just asked which way to the toilet.

When we got to the exemplary MRI facility an hour away in Terontola, Instituto Andrea Cesalpino, I asked if there were anyone who could give J his shot, and they accommodated us senza problema, even though it was still ANTE MERIDIAN. 

Although this place also uses a number system, it runs efficiently and on time. And if you like looking at artistic male buttocks NOT in need of an anti-pain injection, there's quite a bit of cement statuary next door. 

THE BOTTOM LINE (pun intended)
The irony of that buttock-rich statue store being adjacent to the MRI place is priceless. Especially to those of us surfing the Internet for pearls like "How to Give a Shot in the Buttocks":"Start by dividing the target buttock into imaginary quadrants." 

These supposedly reassuring articles are definitely enough to make you want to put your husband's buttocks in the hands of even the most surly nurse.


The view from the parking lot of the Instituto Andrea Cesalpino:
healthy buttocks NOT in need of an MRI or an injection

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