I have been an accident prone person aka a klutz my entire life. There have been many hours where I ended up in the emergency room with: a broken foot, sprained ankles, broken arms, head lacerations... well you get the point. You would think as someone gets older their balance and depth perception would get better. This is certainly not the case for me. Let me tell you a tale of about breaking a bone in Rome and how it was handled.
While traveling the world in 2017 I found myself in Rome, Italy. A place I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit, let alone live for an entire four weeks. The apartment was a loft outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, but a quick 20 minute bus ride would drop me off in the city center, with and outstanding price of 2 euros. This apartment was precious, it had all the amenities I would need to live a comfortable life for a few weeks; there was even a washing machine, a luxury I haven't seen the likes of in 5 months. After living in Thailand and traveling in Cambodia for months, a washing machine was an invention I couldn't wait to use it. Too bad it would be my downfall, literally.
If you have not seen a washing machine in Europe they are something to behold. Naturally the instructions are in the language of what ever country you are in; one machine doubles as a washer and a dryer, sort of. When I say sort of I mean the dryer isn't really a dryer. After a 3 hour wash cycle the machine starts to spin, and it continues spinning for what seems like days. It only spins, there is no heat that comes out of this machine. So 6-10 hours later you may have dry clothing, but most likely you will pull out damp, lumpy, wrinkled masses that only resemble your clothing.
Even though this was suppose to be my grand solo adventure, my sister and mother decided to visit for a few weeks. Being a minimalist and light packer I instruct my sister on what to pack per the ways of, well, me. This was a big no no. We are nothing a like when it comes to travel; I should have just let the internet tell her what to do, because I was clearly wrong in my instructions. It was time for her to do laundry.
My sister and I did not know the ways of the European washing machine, after a bottle or two, maybe three, we attempt to wash her clothes. I sit on the floor staring at the instructions manual; willing myself to understand Italian. Google translate was laughing at me, and at that moment I regretted taking German in high school. Finally saying "F it", I let the machine do its thing. An hour or more later it is still not finished spinning; very little patiences runs through the family veins. My sister and I decide to stop the process and just hang the clothing up in the bathroom window. This just seemed logical because you know, I had been doing this for months in Southeast Asia.
Sigh...the bathroom is not big: shower, toilet, bidet, and sink made of concrete and glass. It's time to hang the clothing. There is not a stool to be found and the chairs were to big to fit through the door way. The bidet was the closet thing to stand on, near the window. I hope you see where this is going. With a fuzzy mind from all the yummy wine, standing on the bidet was an excellent idea, at the time. It took .5 seconds to realize none of it was a good idea because at .4 seconds I was only the floor of the bathroom, right leg under me and my left leg laying across the porcelain; I was in pain.
Seconds prior I stepped up on the edge of the bidet with my right foot; barely off the ground, the bidet moves, said bidet isn't attached to the wall, and I tumble to the floor. Inches form hitting my head on the concrete/glass counter top, I land on my right side. During mid fall I hear a snap and feel a snap in my right foot. At that moment I know my foot is broken. Laying there, my mother tries to console me by telling me about the time she broke something. My sister starts in, telling her to stop talking. I maneuver myself to the kitchen table, sit down, get an ice pack, and continue drinking.
One of my biggest fears when traveling is landing in a foreign hospitial. I don't have regular US health insurance because you know, who can afford it and I didn't even have traveler's insurance. The thought of how much this was going to cost me was nauseating. While sitting there drinking my wine, looking at my foot slowly turn every color of the rainbow and grow to the size of a loaf of bread, an internal panic begins to grow. I was going to have to get myself to the hospital, and how much was this going to cost me?
The next morning, I got up taught my English classes, and contemplated my situation. Mom and sis left the apartment to tour Rome, upon their return, I helped them book a train ticket to Naples. A train they would board the very next morning. Still anxious about what to do, I slept on it. Honestly, it was more like procrastination. The next day the family left for Naples. After a quick dinner with a new friend, who's husband doesn't speak a bit of English, but turned out to be a doctor; I am talked into going to the emergency room. Not really talked into it, more like he says, your foot is broken and you have to get a cast.
Again, sigh...my internal monologue went something like this, "Suck it up buttercup. You have to go. First step, call a taxi." I called a taxi and hobbled my way to the sidewalk. Once at the hospital I am swiftly loaded into a wheel chair and given a number. If you don't know, the English language is very limited in Rome. If you don't speak Italian, speak slowly and clearly so they can try to understand you. With my number I sit and wait in the crowded waiting room; I settle in because from experience (US ER waiting rooms) I expect to be there for an exceptional long time, pretty much all night.
A entire fifteen minutes passes, who I can only assume is an orderly wheels me through the stainless steal doors. This is too good to be true, I think; that was way to quick. The nice hot orderly parks me in front of a desk where a nurse sits. Her English is better than most, and I hand over my passport. She doesn't say much to me, she begins to fill out paper work. My heart starts to race and so does the panic.
I try looking over the top of the computer to see what she is writing; the form is in Italian since my Italian is a bit rusty I am in the dark on what the hell is about to happen. She hands me the forms. There is a row with prices, all in Euros: 41.32, 154.94, 309.81, 1032.91. Looking over this piece of paper joy, delight, a warmth runs over my entire body. The price of 154.94 euros is circled. At this point I am assuming this is the amount I will have to pay. I am grateful and thrilled. The situation still sucks but it's not going to break me financially. The nurse then moves me to another waiting area.
I am the only person waiting, a person with a white coat will emerge from closed off rooms every few minutes. After about a 10 minute wait, it's time to see the doctor. We go through the motions. Like any doctor's visit he asked me what happened. With a bit of broken Italian, hand signals, and English I get my story across. The doc with pity in his eyes says, "ahh yes, this happen all time to tourist" Me, "awesome". It's time to get an x-ray.
This was the longest part of the entire process. I am placed in a room where I was the youngest person. Amongst the elderly with broken bones; I didn't mind waiting, they needed care more than me. Thirty minutes pass by and I am once again wheeled down another hall. The experience is surreal; an empty hallway, dated walls, something out of a Stephen King movie. But still not complaining because I am making record time on this adventure.
The x-ray machine looked as if it is on it's last leg. The tech parks me as far as he can away from the machine and in Italian, tells me to get on the table. With more broken Italian and hand signals, the message gets across that my foot is broken. He helps me over to the x-ray table, goes back into his little rooms, and a minute later I am done with the x-ray. Woot woot...it's time to see the doctor to confirm the broken foot.
Alas, with proof in hand, I see the break on the doctor's computer. It's a right foot break at the 5th metatarsal; the same break my 12th grade prom date had, the same break I have had on the left foot; the same break almost every dancer or athlete will have in their lifetime. I explain to the doc that I am suppose to be on a plane to Croatia in a week. He says, "no worries, I will give you stuff." Me, "stuff? cool...as long as I can go to Croatia." Wheeled across the hall to get a cast.
15 minutes later I have a cast, up to my knee. The nurse comes and wheels me out. I ask her where to pay she doesn't answer me. Holding up my sheet of paper, I ask again. She says, "no pay here" with lots of confusion, I just let it go. I am confident the internet will have all the answers when I get home. She parks me outside the ER and walks away. My mind is spinning, "uhm what, where did everyone go, how am I getting home." What the actual F am I going to do. PANIC strikes me and the tears come. Granted it had been an overwhelming few days, I deserved to have a freak out moment.
Guessing someone notices my distress, a nurse appears. She realizes I am alone, and calls me a cab. I ask for crutches but it is not customary for hospitals to provide crutches. Once I am in the taxi, the sweet taxi driver finds an open pharmacy, I forgot to mention, it was a religious holiday. Everything was closed. The driver finds the only open pharmacy by calling his girlfriend because she happens to be a pharmacist! The sweet sweet man parks illegally, tells me to stay in the car and comes back with crutches info. It's either 20 Euros to rent or 30 Euros to buy...I bought. While there I get my medication. A box of heparin shots for the plane ride to Croatia, so I don't get a blood clot, and aspirin for pain, total cost with crutches, 40 Euro.
The rest of the story is uneventful. Mom and sis came back to Rome a few days later, I managed along quit well until then. I made it on the plane with first class service from the cabin crew to Croatia 7 days later. I ended up cutting off the cast a week and a half later because I was alone and couldn't manage the cobble stone streets with it on and crutches. A year later the foot has healed with no issues. You may be thinking, what was the point of all of this.
The point of me telling you this tale is that going to a hospital in Italy isn't so bad or costly. In US dollars I spent around $300 for an ER visit, x-rays, doctor's consultation, a cast, crutches, medication, and 2 hours of my life. My lessons learned: don't drink wine and stand on bathroom fixtures. The experience was nothing like I had imagined. If you find yourself in a similar situation, stop, take a deep breathe and call a taxi to the nearest hospital.