Hallucination Hotel

Day 5 After The Fall

With Michael’s departure, the holiday part (?!?) of the trip was over. Scarlett and I dropped him at the train station, then purchased the necessary credit for my new (and very cheap – €15) SIM card. I had abandoned any pretense of understanding how these bloody cards worked. Why, after buying the card, did I have to top up my credit at a different store? I even had trouble figuring out the phone number to tell family & friends. Nonetheless by the time we reached Perugia, the phone was working.

I burst into Jay’s room with the news about Carla. “She’s had the baby. A boy. 9 pounds. They’re calling him Charlie! Everyone is fine.”

Jay’s face lit up, for the first time since the fall. “Oh good. Oh I’m so glad. Charlie.” He grinned.

Charlie with Jay, several months later

Charlie with Jay, several months later

“We can try to call them later,” I said.

He nodded, blissful for a moment. Then he raised his eyebrows and beckoned us both close, his manner conspiratorial. Indicating his en-casted roommate, he said “So they’re gypsies or something. It was unbelievable chaos last night. I can’t stand this place!”

“What happened?” I could appreciate how sick of the hospital he must be.

“There was some sort of huge party on the ward. Tons of people here in the room and down the hall. “

I nodded sympathetically. The ward was almost always busy. It sounded like it got worse at night, when people came to visit after work.

“They were playing instruments and dancing, wild gypsy music. The room was just packed. And they had their animals here.”

“Animals?” Wait a minute.

“Yeah, goats and sheep and chickens, running all over the place. It was nuts. I didn’t sleep a wink.”

I glanced at Scarlett. She gave me an “I told you so” look. I peered over at the room-mate who seemed to be sleeping. I saw no gypsy bangles, no trace of animals. Definitely hallucinating. I considered pointing out the unlikeliness of his story, but decided to humour him. He seemed eager for me to understand and appreciate his situation. Were it not for the animals, I might well have believed him. Things were odd in the Ospedale, but not quite that odd.  As a result of this experience – and more to come – Jay would later refer to the hospital as the Hallucination Hotel.

“Hey, a weird thing happened,” he said.

Weirder than gypsies and their animals dancing in the hospital?

“Someone from the Canadian Embassy called.”

“That’s great!” I said. “I emailed them last night.” I told him of our friend’s suggestion.

Jay looked puzzled. “Well she didn’t say anything about your email. She said she’d just heard about me. That it was in the paper or something … a Canadian had had a terrible accident – and she tracked me down through the hospital. Wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help.”

I was bowled over. Not only could the Canadian Embassy help, they’d actually been proactive about it.

“She wants you to call her.”

“I will, right away.” It had been on my list anyway. I slipped out into the hall and ducked my head when I saw the HN. Then I wandered down to the double doors by the terrace and used my new SIM card to call Rome. In short order I was speaking to Sandy del Castello. She was solicitous, eager to help, happy to be a telephone translator any time. I explained the whole situation, harping somewhat on my frustration with the insurance company and the difficulty of obtaining reports. She seemed surprised that the insurance company had not taken responsibility for getting the reports.

“That is what insurance companies usually do,” she said. “They must have an agent on the ground. Maybe not in Italy, but someone in Europe who can speak Italian. You can’t be expected to obtain these reports. That’s why you have bought insurance, so you don’t have to worry about these details in an emergency.”

My perspective shifted. I had been on the defensive from the start. Anxious that the claim might not be approved, I’d felt the insurers were in charge and that I had to do their bidding. Now I realized that was absurd and they should be doing the work. I wanted to hug this Sandy-I’d-never-met-from-the-Embassy.

She asked me to arrange for Jay to give his permission for the hospital to release his patient info to her. I managed to grab a nurse and hand over the phone so Sandy could translate this challenging request. In short order we were back in the room and Jay was giving his blessing to the sharing of all information.

I told Sandy I was hoping to speak to Dr. Panti today and could she translate if I managed to find him? She agreed, with the proviso that she might not be available all the time. She was dealing with some other crises. A Canadian on holiday had died and she was helping the family. I shivered.


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