DIVING with Dignity

Day 3 After The Fall

On Sunday morning Neil and Bruce drove me to the hospital because they wanted to meet Jay – and we all thought Scarlett could do with a break. I worried about how Jay would feel meeting strangers in his diminished state, but he managed a brief conversation. He looked dreadful, unshaven, sweaty, terribly dry of mouth all the time, no matter how much water he awkwardly drank through a straw. But he smiled and joked a little. Bruce told him he should found a new charity called “Diving with Dignity” (a play on the charity of which I was board chair, Dying with Dignity – not a concept I wanted to think about just then.)

Jay, perpetually prone

Jay, perpetually prone

After they departed (Scarlett would come get me later), Jay told me he’d had some kind of scan and more blood tests. I recalled the insurance company insisting they authorize all tests. A urologist came and talked to Jay; he spoke some English and I gathered that they were concerned because of blood in his urine. There could be a “urological problem”, he said. By now I understood that the pelvis shelters all the major organs and since it was broken, organs could have been damaged. The urologist indicated they had to wait for test results, that it was possible Jay could just be treated with pills or it might be more serious. I also learned that he had some broken ribs and a fractured vertebra or vertebrae. Not good news at all. Meanwhile Jay continued on IV pain medication and daily stomach injections to prevent blood clotting, a danger with potential internal bleeding. He was developing sores in his mouth and could not seem to stay hydrated. We were far from out of the woods.

Aaron called to speak to Jay and told us he’d informed Carla of the situation and while upset, she had been too distracted to really take it in. She was, finally, in labour!

Jay wanted me to shave him. I feared I would cut him and besides could not see the point. If we started shaving, I’d have to do it daily and for what? He wasn’t exactly receiving refined company. Having brought a tea towel from Scarlett’s house, I did manage to give him a gentle sponge bath.

His female roommate had been moved to another room. In the afternoon a young man, his hand massively bandaged, took her bed. We gathered he’d lost several fingers in some sort of (machine?) accident. He had a stream of visitors, his mother, grandmother, girlfriend, later some business-like men. We nodded, mumbled to them and wondered about the details of his accident.

I wanted to explore relocating to Perugia to be closer to the hospital and save Scarlett the driving. She had a friend from England coming to stay in a few days and would need to entertain her. While I fervently hoped the insurance company would kick into gear and get us emergency transport back to Canada soon, I felt no confidence this would happen. So I needed a plan. Jay had befriended an orderly who’d taken him for the scan, a fellow who’d studied English at university and spoke fluently. When he happened onto the ward, I asked him if there were any hotels near the hospital. I certainly had not seen any. The hospital perched next to a highway. As far as I knew there was no way to walk to San Sisto, the suburb across the concrete jungle of roundabouts and exit ramps.

Our friend the orderly

Our friend the orderly

“No, no hotels,” he said, “but there is a residence, for the parents of children with cancer, very near. Perhaps you could stay there.”

I did not find this very appealing. I wanted some creature comforts – air conditioning, internet, a restaurant. My notion of a residence was pretty Spartan. I also thought I might feel like an intruder among grieving parents.

He assured me the rooms were hotel-like, with TVs and internet and AC. Then he called the residence…only to learn they had no rooms. Then he asked the nurses if they knew of any hotels. They all shook their heads. I felt deflated.

Scarlett arrived mid-afternoon. Bruce had contacted the car rental company and was actually driving to Perugia airport to drop off the car shortly; we were to pick him up in an hour. I left Scarlett with Jay and tried once again to see a doctor. I spoke to some residents but it certainly felt as though no actual doctors were around on the weekend. Besides, only Panti could answer my questions. He would likely be on the ward the next day. They checked his schedule; I peered over their shoulders. He was in surgery the next morning but would be free after 2:30. I determined to be at the hospital well before then.

We rendezvoused with Bruce at the airport. The car rental company had promised to reimburse us for the days we had not used the car, a relief. We raced back to Casa Lauro but just missed Pablo and his girlfriend, who’d left to fly back to Barcelona. Everyone else except Michael would leave the next day.

I checked my email on Scarlett’s computer. Aaron had connected with the insurance company; a case manager had yet to be assigned, but they needed a report from the hospital and another from the police before the claim could be approved. Great. They also needed to speak to Jay on the phone and get his permission to share details of the case with Aaron. I sighed. That would obviously have to wait. But at least they acknowledged that I could not ask for approval before every test. I was not at the hospital often enough to know when those were happening.

I received confirmation of our cancelled dinner reservation and a kind note from Chef Riccardo, horrified to hear of our bad luck. Even the Airbnb in Venice showed compassion: despite the contract, they refunded me two thirds of the rental. More relief. At least we wouldn’t be broke as well as broken.

Messages of concern and support flowed in from Canada. My friend Eleanor, with whom we were to have shared a villa in Tuscany for two weeks, wrote that another friend who spoke fluent Italian, David Lester, had offered to help if he could. She sent his phone number. I dashed off notes of thanks and then emailed a couple of Jay’s work colleagues. Jay had been fretting about the fact that he probably (?) wouldn’t be able to return to work in September; he wanted me to let his boss Greg know so he could arrange a replacement. This was not at the top of my list of priorities, as I knew they had plenty of time to replace Jay, but I did want to let Greg know what had happened. I also wanted to give Neil, the union benefits officer, a heads up about the insurance claim. We had not purchased medical insurance for this trip as both of us were covered by Jay’s insurance through the stagehands’ union. If there was any question about alcohol having contributed to the accident, I wanted the union onside to help fight with the insurance company. The brotherhood, as Jay called it, was strong and Jay was popular. Surely they would go to bat for him.

That night we all went out for a farewell pizza dinner. I felt sad that I had hardly connected with these old friends at all. On the other hand their company had been a welcome diversion. I think I might have gone mad if I had nothing to think about except the crisis.



Neil & Scarlett

Neil and Scarlett




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