I awoke at noon, sweating and stunned. Michael made coffee; I drank it, tasting nothing. My relief at knowing Jay was in the hands of medical professionals had vanished. Now he just seemed far away. Who knew how he was being treated, whether there had been developments. I had no way to reach the hospital by phone and couldn’t have made myself understood if I did. We had to get back there right away.
Before we could organize ourselves to get into the car, our school friend Bruce and his wife MaryAnne arrived from the south of Italy where they lived. Scarlett had called them earlier; they knew about Jay and were concerned and supportive. I was so anxious to get back to the hospital, I could barely speak.
The previous night we’d followed the ambulance in the dark. As we approached the five dozen exits off the highway to Perugia, we got lost. Scarlett thought she knew the exit, but she didn’t. We meandered through the outskirts of the city for an hour, feeling increasingly frustrated, and then got back on the highway. All I could think about was Jay lying alone in an Italian hospital, maybe critically injured. That eerily silent moment after he fell kept replaying itself in my head. I couldn’t understand how he had survived.
Scarlett slowed to let another car merge. There was a sharp jolt and a crunching sound. The car behind had rear-ended us as we approached a tunnel. Scarlett couldn’t really stop until we came out the other side. Her left tail-light was smashed. We stood shaking our heads, feeling jinxed.
The sun beat down. We drove on and exited when we saw a sign reading “Ospedale” (hospital). Our hopes rose, but only sporadic signs followed, despite multiple twists and turns in the road. Then signs for “Ospedale Silvestrini” started to appear. We cursed. Jay was at Ospedale Santa Maria della Misericordia. We were en route to the wrong hospital. We pulled over and Scarlett tried to ask for directions, but of course we couldn’t understand the answer. We set off in the direction the man indicated, saw more Silvestrini signs, stopped again. The woman we addressed seemed quite sure Santa Maria della Misericordia was the same as Silvestrini – if we understood her. We felt no confidence that we had. How could a hospital have two names? We drove on. Finally the massive form of the hospital appeared, the blessed words Santa Maria emblazoned in meter-high letters at the top.
We found Jay in a small stifling room on the orthopedic trauma ward. A thin curtain separated him from his roommate, an elderly woman whose daughter, about my age, sat at her side. Jay was awake and in pain, despite the intravenous painkillers – and very glad to see us. We spoke for a moment, then two men in uniform and an American woman, a translator, crowded into the room. I had no time to rejoice over having an English speaker present; the police barraged me with questions. Had he been drinking? What were we doing there? Might I have pushed him out the window? They smiled at this. I am a small person, Jay is large. Even they could see this was an unlikely scenario. I told them he’d been sleepwalking.
They looked dubious. “Somnabulare?”
I nodded. Jay still couldn’t remember a thing.
They prepared to depart. On my request, the officer in charge handed me a card with his scrawled name and the address of his Carabinieri headquarters. Not local police, Scarlett observed, army police. Whatever that signified.
I begged the American woman to help me talk to the nurses. She kindly complied.
The nurses confirmed, via translation, that Jay had a fractured pelvis. I wracked my brains for information about pelvises, pelvic breaks. The pelvis is connected to the hip bone, to the spine bone, pretty significant bone, right? But what kind of fracture? A chip, a hairline, a full break? I didn’t think of these useful questions until we’d left the hospital. Instead I asked how it would be treated.
They said, “No treatment. It will heal by itself. He can go home tomorrow but he must not move for forty days.”
“What?” I asked, searching the American woman’s face for clues. Surely we’d heard wrong. Jay couldn’t move, was not able to even lift his head, and yet they would release him?
The American queried the nurses again. They stuck to their story.
Scarlett and I gawked at each other. There was no home, nowhere to take him if he couldn’t move. Scarlett’s house was impossible, all stairs, up a steep hill.
The nurses were busy, irritated with us. There were no doctors on the ward. I would have to come back tomorrow, in the morning, to see one.
They shrugged. I wanted to punch them.
The American woman said they didn’t know. It was a surgical ward, where doctors did their rounds at some point in the morning when they were not in surgery.
Frustrated, I thanked her and watched her disappear down the hall.
Finally it dawned on me … there would be no dream vacation, no Venice, no Tuscany, no vacation at all. I needed to cancel bookings, try to get refunds, deal with the rental car which I couldn’t drive. And then…figure out how to care for Jay if he was released…for forty days? I stood in the hall like an idiot, staring into space. Around me the hubbub of hospital life raged in full Italian style.