This Monday, quite inadvertently I found myself testing the Italian accident, emergency and health services, after my stint at the paint factory I went to my orto (allotment) before returning home. I needed some refreshment and knew there was a beer awaiting me in the shed. There was also something else, far less welcome, in the shed as well. I opened the door to be assailed by an angry brigade of huge hornets which immediately went for my head and face. I had to give up any idea of sipping a can of Carlsberg and decide to head for home immediately to put some cream on the stings which were beginning to bite. A very itchy rash began to develop over all my body driving me quite insane. Worst was to follow when I managed to get home. My head now felt as if it was crowned with thorns, my breathing became irregular and my heart began beating violently. I think I must have entered that state called Anaphylaxis which is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. It typically causes a number of symptoms including an itchy rash, and throat swelling. Common causes include insect bite and stings.
Anyway, it was becoming a most violent reaction and so I decided to phone my doctor who said I must call the emergency services on 118 immediately, which I did. Within a quarter of an hour I heard the not-so-merry sound of the ambulance approaching Longoio on the winding mountain road. Attendance by a bevy of five including doctor and driver was prompt and excellent; a drip was fixed into my arm and an oxygen mask on my face. This greatly assisted in restoring me to the state of the living. A stretcher had been provided to take me onto the ambulance which was parked below in the village square but by this stage I had become a ”walking wounded” and was able with a little help to walk to the ambulance where I was laid out on the stretcher. I had been in this situation before (when transported to Barga hospital as I had been separated from my scooter by “sostanze oleose” on the road) and dreaded the experience of lying flat on a bed while being whisked violently left and right on hairpin bends at high speed. “Let’s go more slowly” said the doctor as a falling emergency aid rucksack narrowly missed my stomach. The team was young and conscientious. The vehicle slowed down, I did not become “ambulance-sick’ and we got to Lucca hospital on time.
Here out of five categories red/yellow/green/blue/white – where red stands for highest and white for lowest emergency – I was classified as yellow. Various tests followed, ECG, blood pressure and so forth and it was decided to keep me in the hospital overnight in a ward with three beds and where fortunately no-one snored.
The following morning I woke and was eventually given a nice caffé-latte breakfast with biscuits and some jam. A doctor presented me with a very comprehensive dossier of the tests carried out on me, pronounced my condition much improved and allowed me to leave the premises which I did and where I headed straight to tackle an early morning constitutional on the nearby walls of Lucca which was most refreshing.
Throughout this whole experience I have only praise for the economically and socially hard-pressed Italian emergency services and, in particular, that of Lucca for their professionalism, patience and “premurosità” in seeing that I was properly attended to.
There’s a silver lining to every cloud and there is definitely one to that of being attacked by a swarm of angry insects. It is only a pity that the close-knit atmosphere of this wonderful and historic hospital will soon be dispelled as it eventually moves to the “Nuovo polo ospedaliero” on the via Romana – a building site which has been beset by problems from the start including recent flooding. The same move from a hospital full of history and character has been effected by the Santa Chiara in Pisa which has moved from its site near the piazza dei Miracoli and where patients could see the Duomo and the leaning tower from their wards (what a wonderful morale booster that must have been – so much better than those tacky holiday posters fixed on UK hospital walls when the real thing is just outside, as a dear since departed friend remarked to me when she was there).
If it works why fix it? So many of Lucca’s citizens have told me they don’t like the idea of the new hospital but progress (!) must have its way I suppose.