Hurry Up and Wait

More Days After the Fall

In the end, Mike did get a partial refund on the flight, about two-thirds of the cost. For a little while, Jay and I revelled in the notion that we’d be out of there in no time. I continued my mad dashes back and forth from La Collina to the hospital.

My schedule was pretty consistent. Up early to grab cappuccino and whatever bits of breakfast I could stomach downstairs at La Collina, arrive at the hospital in time to buy Jay a coffee and get onto the ward before 9:00 shutdown. Help Jay wash, brush his teeth, shampoo (this latter a tricky business. With Jay immobilized, I’d slide a plastic bag under his head then try to pour water onto his hair without drenching the whole bed, lather, rinse and dry…fortunately he didn’t have a lot of hair.) Now I could also apply the Bucagel to his mouth. Not sure it ever did much, but gradually the sores healed.

Then I would read to him or we’d attempt a crossword. After fetching lunch, which we’d often eat together, I would take a break back to my room, returning for an hour or so midafternoon, then go for a walk in the park and catch up on emails. Around 6:00 I’d get him supper from the cafeteria and hang out a while longer before the best part of my day: dinner at La Collina, where I was steadily working my way through the excellent menu.

No sooner had panic abated than the situation became profoundly boring. Jay and I were utterly fed up with life at the ospedale and getting on each other’s nerves.

I hovered, waiting for Dr. Panti. On Tuesday he told me he thought he’d sign the fit to fly order the next day. I emailed our family doctor (and likely everyone else we knew in the world) to tell him we could be home by Thursday. He emailed back to say he had a bed on hold for Jay at the Stratford General Hospital, starting Thursday.

Wednesday I hardly dared leave the hospital for my breaks. As evening rolled around, I began to despair that we’d ever get the damned document to Canada. I wanted the hospital to send it that day, so it would arrive in Canada during their business hours, but I kept getting the run around about Panti. Finally I cornered Lorraine and poured out all my concerns in bad French. She became very business-like and rushed off. I waited. By now it was almost 8:00pm – it seemed impossible that we’d get the document out of Panti at that late hour…but it was only 2:00pm in Canada, and if we could fax it to the insurance company before end of day, maybe that air ambulance would whisk us away the next day!

Lorraine returned with a non-Panti doctor and a piece of paper. It was not the official-looking sort of document I had expected, but there was Panti’s signature and even I could see that it seemed to indicate Jay was now fit to fly.

“Lorraine,” I said in French, “Does it say that he must have nurses with him?”

“It says he must lie flat.”

“But Dr. Panti promised he would order medical accompaniment!” I felt panicky, imagining travelling alone with Jay strapped to a bulkhead.

Lorraine consulted vigorously with the doctor. He shrugged and added a line to the document. Clearly he had written it in the first place, as the writing was the same. Panti had just affixed his signature.

I wanted to hug Lorraine. Instead I asked, “Can you fax it tonight, right now?” I explained about the time changes and the delays. She nodded and reached for the document.

“Wait!” I grabbed my iPad and took a photograph. I did not entirely trust the hospital to fax anything to anyone, but I could email a photo of the document.


“Thank you so much, Madame,” I said.

Je vous en prie,” she said with a smile, and bustled off with the paper.

I thought she was just about the finest human being I’d ever met.

Jay and I rejoiced, then I hurried off to dinner.

I called Mike and told him the ‘fit to fly’ was on its way. I even emailed my copy to the insurance company – and heard back that they had, after all, received it from the hospital. A miracle!

I went to bed brimming with hope that in the morning I would hear we were leaving.

I heard no such thing.

In fact I heard nothing at all. Mike and I emailed back and forth. He contacted the insurance company and was assured they were meeting at that very moment to determine the best course of action.

“What do they mean?” I asked. “The best course of action is to do as they promised and fly us home right away. What about that air ambulance on standby?”

Poor Mike. It wasn’t as though he could do anything. “I think we’ll hear soon,” he said.

Thursday passed with no further news. Jay and I grew increasingly angry and depressed, marooned in a place where no one wanted us, unable to leave.

That night I received a call from Samantha at the insurance company. My heart leapt! Surely she was calling to tell me we’d be picked up the next day.

“Um, I just have a few questions for you,” she said, “to help us determine the best way to get you and James home.

I was bewildered. What about the air ambulance? “Okay,” I said.

“Now, can James sit up?”

I just about choked. It had taken them 24 hours to ask this stupid question?

“No,” I almost shouted. “No, of course he can’t sit up. He broke his pelvis. He’s just had surgery. He isn’t going to be able to sit up for 40 days.”

“I see,” she said. “Well we are just trying to figure out whether he could travel on a commercial flight.”

“I thought you had agreed to an air ambulance. He has to be prone and the doctor has indicated he must have medical attendants.”

“Oh. All right. Thank you. We will get back to you then.”

“WHEN? They want to kick us out of the hospital.”

“Well, we have to make sure everything is in place at this end, that there is a hospital willing to receive him–”

“His family doctor has a hospital bed waiting for him in Stratford right now. He could have been admitted tonight.”

“Oh, that’s great! Well, the medical team will be meeting this afternoon. They’ll come up with a plan soon. I’ll be in touch.” She rang off.

I wanted to scream.






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