Day 4 After the Fall
Monday was crowded with incident; the weekend had passed and things were happening! We took final photos of our little troop under the offending window, then bade farewell, with much talk of repeating this get-together in calmer circumstances.
At the hospital, Jay beckoned me close. “You know that guy in the other bed?”
I nodded, the young man with the missing fingers.
“Well, there’s something funny going on.”
“What do you mean?”
His voice dropped to a whisper. “I think he’s some involved with the Mafia or something. Last night some men came in and checked the room for bugs and microphones, like behind the TV. Then they closed the door and had a big argument. It seems he mislaid, or absconded with, a huge sum of money, €35,000 I think. I don’t know if he’s a drug dealer or what, but it all sounded pretty serious.”
I suddenly felt nervous. I didn’t like the idea of Jay in a room with gangsters. Furthermore I didn’t want the young man to realize Jay had overheard anything.
“And then he was having it off with the nurse all night long.”
“What – here?”
“Well I think so, I couldn’t see of course, but it sure sounded like it.
Later, Scarlett murmured to me, “Do you think he was hallucinating?”
I considered the idea, but wasn’t convinced. Jay seemed entirely lucid, and there was something a bit too cocky about the boy with the damaged hand. Of course everyone in Italy looked like characters from the Godfather.
I did my usual meander of the hallway and then, to my delight, saw a team of doctors doing rounds! I spoke to a nurse. After smiling and nodding without comprehension, she final indicated that the doctors would indeed be coming to see Jay. I practically danced back to the room and perched cheerfully on the chair waiting. But when they finally got to Jay’s room they hustled Scarlett and I out into the hall. The one doctor who spoke a few words of English assured me he would speak with me after they’d examined Jay.
He took me down to the doctor’s office and showed me the scan, but couldn’t communicate much at all. I felt panicky. I could now see, very clearly, that Jay’s pelvis was completely severed at the thickest part of the bone. No hairline fracture, this. But what did it mean? I speed-dialed Becky, but got no answer. I could not let this doctor escape without getting more information. I remembered David Lester and called Canada. My expensive SIM card minutes were rapidly being consumed, but I didn’t care. I’d get a more reasonable and functional SIM card as soon as this one ran out of credit.
I obviously woke David and only then computed that it was 7:00am in Canada. I apologized and explained that I had a live doctor at hand and could he possibly speak to him in Italian for me? David kindly agreed. I handed the phone to the doctor.
I learned that Jay would likely need surgery, this would be Dr. Panti’s call but this doctor thought they might operate on Wednesday.
I asked David to explain that the insurance company needed a medical report. The doctor said the insurance company should fax a set of questions and the hospital would respond.
I asked about the vertebra. The doctor said he didn’t think that was a problem. They were still waiting for results from the urological tests. He indicated I should speak to Dr. Panti. That message was coming through loud and clear.
I thanked David and hung up. My anxiety mounted. Should Jay have surgery in Italy? Was it safe? Couldn’t we go back to Canada for the surgery, where doctors spoke English and we had health care? I felt very confused. One day they talked about discharging Jay and having him rest, then they wanted to do surgery and seemed concerned about bladder problems and fractured vertebra. Then the vertebra was no problem? Were they completely incompetent? Or was I just not understanding? It had been a relief to have a telephone translator and to get some information from a doctor, but I did not feel the answers were very clear or satisfactory.
Back in Jay’s room, he, Scarlett and I contemplated the situation. Jay felt leery about surgery but when I suggested maybe we should fly back to Canada for the operation, he paled. Any movement caused him excruciating pain. Using the bedpan was a daily nightmare. The nurses would take forever to get him the bedpan, causing considerable distress, then would leave him on it for an unappealing length of time. The worst part of the procedure was when they cleaned him up and insisted on rolling him over. Having seen the scan I could only imagine how it would feel to be moved with his pelvis unanchored and loose.
Still I felt immense trepidation at the thought of foreign doctors performing the surgery. I wanted a second opinion and felt the insurance company should be providing this. In fact they would obviously need to approve the surgery, which would surely be expensive (and dangerous, I kept thinking!) They had not even approved the claim yet.
I asked about getting a medical report and was directed to the head nurse, who had a separate office. This fierce, officious woman first lectured me about being on the ward during the mornings, and about leaving too many things in Jay’s room (toiletries, innumerable bottles of water, a couple of tiny battery-operated fans we’d brought knowing AC would be scarce in Italy, never dreaming they would be the only way to move the suffocating air in the hospital. I’d already had to buy more batteries, but the fans were a lifesaver.) Then she gabbled on about administrative offices and how I would have to apply for a report there.
In the days to come I would find the combination of insurance company stall and Italian bureaucracy utterly defeating. One insisted on paperwork, the other refused to produce any – and meanwhile I was stranded with no clear idea of when or even whether we would ever get back to Canada. Later that day, a resident who spoke reasonable English but had no insights whatsoever into Jay’s situation came and asked a bunch of questions, apparently posed by the insurance company, and recorded answers. However when Aaron spoke to the insurers, they claimed not to have received anything from the hospital. And so it continued…