In Search of a Dottore

Day 2 After The Fall

Saturday I felt almost human. I’d finally had a reasonable night’s sleep. Leaving our friends to their own devices, Scarlett and I departed early and reached the hospital mid-morning.


S. Maria della Misericordia outside Perugia

Santa Maria della Misericordia is a huge modern hospital, about six storeys high with several wings and specializations; it serves all of Umbria. Access to the 3rd floor Orthopaedic Trauma Ward was via an elevator in the main lobby. Posted signs indicated visiting hours from noon to 9:00am, and clearly some visitors stayed overnight, sleeping in the hard chairs, I assume. The rooms, though medically well-equipped, were cramped and held only two hospital beds, each with a chair and rolling bedtable. A curtain separated the patients. As Jay’s roommate for the first two days was a woman, clearly they did not fuss about separating genders. In fact beds on the ward turned over rapidly. People were admitted with serious injuries and discharged or moved as soon as possible to make way for the next wave. All this became clear to me later.

view from above

view from above

Arriving at 10:30am, we found the door to the ward closed and locked. I felt like screaming. We’d been told we could see a doctor in the morning, but now we apparently wouldn’t be allowed onto the ward until afternoon. My rage had just begun to mount when someone in hospital garb opened the door to leave and held it for us to enter. Apparently, the rules were not too strict.

Jay seemed deeply relieved to see us. He’d had an uncomfortable night, but had spoken to a doctor earlier. Leaving Scarlett with him, I approached the nurses’ station (a large office off the main corridor) and began what would be a daily ritual of speaking slowly and emphatically in English with the odd Italian word thrown in, and hoping someone would get my drift.

“Dottore?” I asked.

They shrugged, spoke to each other and then answered in a great tirade of Italian.

“Sorry, I don’t understand. Can I see the dottore?”

One of them took me back out into the corridor and pointed down the hall. I hurried along it in the direction indicated, but saw no doctors. I grabbed a passing nurse.


She looked at me as though I were insane and pointed to a door with frosted glass. Figures moved around beyond the glass. I tapped on the door, a man opened it. A doctor?

“Excuse me,” I said, “My husband…” I pointed vaguely down the hall. “Can you tell me how he is doing?”

There were three people in the office. They gabbled to each other and eventually one of them spoke to me in broken English.

“He has pelvic break.”

I nodded, “Yes I know. How will this be treated?”

He frowned. I cursed my lack of Italian. I had studied the language online for a couple of months before we left Canada, and felt I was really getting it. Now I could not remember a single bloody word.

The doctor (or resident) then said, “We will do test. Pelvic break. Ribs. Maybe vertebra.”

I felt a bit ill. So it wasn’t just the pelvis, but possibly a vertebra – what, fractured? That did not sound good at all. If only someone could explain what was happening.

“We know more after topographica (or something like that).”

“When will that happen?” I asked.

He spoke to the other doctors. “Tomorrow, next day.”

No straight answers. I drew a breath. “The nurses said he might be released today.”

He clearly did not understand.

I tried a sort of pathetic mime of rolling someone out on a stretcher.

He shook his head. “Dr. Panti will decide.”


They all nodded solemnly. I guessed Panti was some sort of expert. “When can I see him?”

They shook their heads. Did this mean Panti was off-limits?

“When he comes. He is in surgery.”


Again they consulted. “Maybe. Or tomorrow. Next day.”

They all nodded as though this really should satisfy me. Frustrated, I left the office and hurried back to Jay’s room. I had brought soap and he wanted a sponge bath. I asked the nurses for a bowl and cloth. Eventually they presented me with a kidney bowl and peculiar wad of cotton batting. I fetched water from the adjoining bathroom and swabbed him down. The bruise on his side was truly terrifying now, at least ten inches long and six wide, a dark angry purple-black, hard and swollen, with greenish-yellow edges, very sensitive to the touch.

“Everything hurts,” he said. “When they move me, it’s agonizing.”

I shared what little I’d gleaned from the doctors. At least it did not sound like they planned to discharge him right away.

He asked for water and we went down to the cafeteria to get some. The cafeteria was amazing: large and well equipped, it featured a wood oven in which they baked fresh pizza, a bar that sold beer and espresso, a sandwich counter and a hot food line with roasted vegetables, pasta, meat – all of which smelled and looked delicious, in stark contrast to the disgusting food served to patients. We bought a large bottle of cold water for Jay (acqua naturale grande) and a coffee for me and returned to Jay’s stifling room. I told him about the cafeteria and asked if he wanted anything to eat. He shook his head and closed his eyes.


3 thoughts on “In Search of a Dottore

  1. You have me on the edge of my seat, as I read your account of this awful experience….I keep waiting for the next post-I’m so glad I know the ending! xo

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