Gifts from Home

Day 11 After the Fall

I awoke smiling on Monday. Our dear friends the Prunes were coming to the Ospedale to visit! Eleanor Kane and Marion Isherwood owned and managed the Old Prune restaurant in Stratford for over 30 years and became affectionately know as the Prunes. In 2009, Jay and I rented a villa with them in Provence. Our plan this trip had been to meet them in Montisi, Tuscany for a two-week stay.

Although Jay and I obviously would not be able to join them, Eleanor and Marion were on track to enjoy their time in Tuscany. They had flown into Italy on Saturday and were driving to Perugia to see us today. I was positively buoyant, though I did have to laugh at Eleanor’s email, saying she’d email from the hospital lobby and I could come find them. “Sorry, no internet at the ospedale,” I responded and we made a different arrangement.

They arrived late morning and we all got a bit teary in the lobby. It was so reassuring to see friends from home; on some level I’d begun to believe I’d be stranded in my Italian limbo forever. But here they were, beaming and embracing me.

I hustled them up to see Jay. Then they were going to take me out for lunch, off the grounds. As I ushered them into the room, a nurse told me to go to the doctor’s office and speak to Dr. Panti. I shot off down the hall. One did not ignore a summons from the surgical god himself!

I speed-dialed Sandy at the Embassy, knowing the good Panti and I could not exchange a single word without a translator. She was as friendly and helpful as ever. I quickly learned that Panti was very pleased with his surgery, Jay ‘s pelvis was now stable, the incisions healing … and Panti felt Jay would be free to leave within the next few days.

I had trouble computing this. Good news certainly, that Jay was doing well, even if he complained daily about the nurses moving him to different rooms. And of course he’d never been moved at all. But the business about him leaving…

I asked if it would be safe for him to fly.

Panti nodded, but I detected something tentative about that nod.

“Sandy,” I said, “I read a bunch of stuff on the internet about flying and hematomas and blood clots. One of the articles said no one should fly for at least two weeks after major surgery, better to wait even longer. Is he sure about this?”

I handed the phone to Panti who listened thoughtfully and then said thoughtful-sounding things.

When he returned the phone, Sandy said, “Well, the thing is, they need the room. It’s a trauma ward.”

“Don’t they have a rehab ward where he could recover?”

“Apparently not.”

“Well, I don’t want him flying if it’s dangerous and I really don’t have anywhere else to go!”

“Let me speak to him again,” said Sandy.

I handed Dr. Panti the phone and waited. Eventually, after more thoughtful discussion, he returned it to me.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Well, it does sounds as though he thinks in a couple of days Jay may be okay to fly. He seems like a careful man, Meg, and I think if he gives clearance, it should be safe. But I understand your concern. What is going on with your insurance company? Do they have a plan to get you home?”

“No. They have approved the claim – but you said it would be unlikely they’d air ambulance him out and he won’t be able to sit up for a long time. Can you ask Panti how long?”

Quick handover of phone and return.

“He says 40 days until he can sit up.”

“We can’t stay here for 40 days!”

“No, he seems to think you can go home.  Maybe the insurance company will come through with an air ambulance rather than pay for accommodation and private nursing for 40 days.”

“Can you ask him if he can insist that Jay be accompanied by medical personnel? The idea of him being strapped to the bulwark on a commercial flight makes me very nervous. What if something goes wrong?”

I once more handed the phone to Panti. I could see he was about to flit away. Indeed, after a short conversation, during which he nodded repeatedly, he handed me the phone, smiled, patted my arm and disappeared down the corridor.

“Well?” I asked.

“He says yes, he will say Jay must be accompanied. Now Meg, I know you are worried. Here’s what I suggest. Talk to the insurance company, tell them he has to leave soon. Let the hospital know you are taking action, and then stall for time. They won’t put him out on the sidewalk. Thursday is a national holiday, then it’s the weekend – and soon at least 10 days will have passed. Meanwhile, see if you can get a second opinion from the insurance company. They don’t want anything to happen to him in the air. Look on the bright side … you might be home in a week!”

She rang off. Home in a week sounded awfully appealing. And tomorrow Mike would arrive to help me through that week. And meanwhile, oh my god, the Prunes were here! I scurried back down the hall to Jay’s room.

Jay lay wreathed in smiles, little gifts spread out across the bed.

“Look what the Avon crew sent.” He held up … an iPod.

I almost burst out laughing. Jay has clung to his old-style audio equipment for years, wanting nothing to do with iTunes, proud of his vast CD collection, even his vinyl. And yet –  it was an inspired gift: Jay adores music and he had been entirely cut off for  the past ten days. Our good friend Keith had masterminded this gift and loaded it with an eclectic mix of music. He’d also included a set of very comfortable headphones.

There were photos of our brand new grandson Charlie – and chocolates and cards. It was like Christmas.CCA_109

I could see Jay was tiring, despite his delight. So much stimulation! And I knew Eleanor’s two sisters were waiting in the hospital lobby to go to lunch with us.

“Can we get you anything?” we asked Jay.

He shook his head, donning the headphones. We crept from the room.

I had one errand I hoped to accomplish while we were in town (not in Perugia proper, but the suburb of San Sisto, adjacent from the hospital.) Jay continued to suffer from horrible mouth sores, which were apparently beyond the capacity of the hospital to treat. I had repeatedly asked about these, requesting ointments or creams. The nurses shook their heads and told me I would need to go to a pharmacy and buy something called BUCAGEL. I couldn’t believe it. He’s in a hospital and they can’t treat a condition that developed while he was here? I shook my head but there was nothing for it but to find a pharmacy – and this was my chance.

The nurse gave us vague directions. We promptly got lost and narrowly avoided collisions with wild Italian drivers as Eleanor negotiated the ups and downs and one-way streets of San Sisto. Of course we also had our eyes out for a ristorante. But it was August in Italy and practically nothing was open. After touring the town we ended up back at the very first plaza we’d seen, where I obtained the requisite Bucagel and we had a very pleasant lunch on an outdoor terrace.

It was a delight to relax and catch up with friends, also to spend time with Eleanor’s two sisters. I tried very hard not to be envious of the fact that they were all on holiday, staying in Montisi as we has so looked forward to doing. It sounded as lovely as we’d been led to believe. I must admit I felt a little low when they dropped me back at the hospital and headed back to Tuscany, though it had been wonderful to see them.

I paused at the door to Jay’s room. He lay there beaming, headphones on, eyes closed.

His creepy roommate grinned at me. I hastened to Jay’s bedside, out of said roommate’s sight.

I took Jay’s hand; his eyes opened and he removed the headphones. “This is the best day I’ve had in August,” he said. “I’ve read and re-read the cards, gazed at the pictures of baby Charlie, and floated away on the music!”

I finally got a chance to read the cards myself. So many people had sent greetings and wishes for his recovery. Some of the cards were very funny, playing on the theme of falling from great heights. And the photographs of Charlie and his mothers … were spectacular. After gazing at them for a few minutes, a suspicion, nay a certainty, dawned in my mind.

Anna, Carla & Charlie, also Hannah and Mike (in lower right)

Anna, Carla & Charlie, also Hannah and Mike (in lower right)

“Did Terry take these pictures?” Terry Manzo, our professional photographer friend – and sister of Janet – lives in Stratford. Carla, Anna and Charlie live in Hamilton, so it seemed a stretch that she’d have taken the photos, but… they were too good to be amateur, and her style is distinctive.

“Yes, didn’t you hear?” said Jay.

Of course I had not heard much about the presents, as I’d been talking to Panti.

“Terry drove down to Hamilton to take these so the Prunes could bring them.”

I felt a lump in my throat, overwhelmed by the love and support of friends and family.





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