DM and MM's Italy Trip Diary

Day 22 - Roma

Sunday, 20 May, 2001

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I had another restless night during which I don't think I slept at all. Needless to say I felt dreadful in the morning. My nose had also swollen considerably and become an angry red colour. I decided I needed to see a doctor and we dug through our travel documents for the leaflet on the Italian health care system we'd brought from Australia. Thankfully Italy has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia, so we could obtain free medical care. The plan was to see a doctor, get a prescription for some sort of antibiotic tablets, and hopefully they would clear things up.

After breakfast in the familiar room at Hotel Rimini, we went downstairs to ask the reception guy where we could find a public health clinic of the type named in the leaflet. He said no, don't go there, go to the nearby Ospedale Umberto and find Pronto Soccorso, the first aid section, and they will look after me much better. He told us to make sure we had our passports and gave us directions to the hospital, which was a few blocks away. This was the same guy who'd given us impossible directions to the phantom stationery shop one our last day in Rome before, so we hoped he knew what he was talking about this time.

We walked in the indicated direction, taking what we thought were the turns he'd suggested, and ended up in a dead end. I asked an old woman the way to the hospital and she pointed in a direction and spoke a string of Italian I wasn't in a fit state to decipher, so we continued on our way. After asking a man a bit further on, we finally located the hospital - a huge sprawling complex with no obvious signs indicating where the Pronto Soccorso was. We had to ask for directions again after entering the grounds and wandering into a random building, but finally found it.

At the reception desk I discovered they didn't have anyone who spoke English very well, so I tried to describe my condition mostly by pointing at my nose and using the words "infezione" and "dolore" a lot. I'd also woken up with a sharp muscle pain in the upper right chest area, so I described that too, in case it might somehow be related. They recorded details from my passport and instructed us to sit in the waiting room, where about two dozen other unfortunate people were already waiting, including some with significant amounts of blood on them.

I was called fairly quickly, and followed the doctor they'd managed to find with some English skills. They told Michelle to wait in the waiting room for me. The doctor questioned me and I described the pain in the nose and the chest. I had blood pressure, temperature, and pulse taken, then was escorted to another room and told to wait. After about half an hour I was called into another room where another doctor and her nurse saw me. They asked me about the pain in the chest, which I kept describing as feeling like a muscle strain. I was wondering why they weren't more interested in my nose, which seemed to be much more serious. Eventually they asked me to lie down and the nurse walked over with a huge needle. I jumped up and asked what they were doing. They explained they were taking a blood sample before admitting me to the hospital for my chest pain!

I reiterated very quickly and forcefully that it was just a muscle strain, and I really wanted someone to look at my nose and give me some antibiotics or something, and I didn't want to be admitted to the hospital! They gave me a sort of "oh" look and told me to wait in the room outside again. After another half hour or more I was called into another office and another different doctor looked at me, this time examining my nose carefully. After a few minutes of this he told me to go wait outside yet again.

I was waiting again for more than half an hour, all the time wondering where Michelle was and when I would eventually get out of there. I'd just about made up my mind (and rehearsed the Italian enough times) to tell someone I'd had enough waiting and was leaving unless they did something immediately, when Michelle walked in. She'd been wondering what had happend to me for the past two hours or so and finally demanded to know where I was and be led to see me. We waited another ten minutes or so and finally a doctor came out and gave me a prescription. She explained that it was some tablets for pain, some tablets for swelling, and a course of antibiotic injections! I had to buy these injections and then see a doctor to have them inject me twice a day. She said whatever hotel I was staying at could arrange a doctor to visit and do this.

So finally we left the hospital and walked back to the hotel. The reception guy asked us how we went and we replied that we got a prescription but that we'd waited forever to get it. He said, "Now you know what it's like for us every time we get sick!" I asked him about arranging a doctor to come give me the injections and he said he could do it but it would be very expensive, like LIT400,000 just to get a doctor to come to the hotel on a Sunday.

After the ordeal at the hospital I was actually feeling a bit better, simply to be out of that horrible place, and decided that whatever it was I had it could wait until we got home to Sydney. We went out to a pharmacy and got the painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, but not the injections. I also got some pseudoephedrine tablets in case my sinuses were blocked on the flights.

We'd vowed that we would use our final day in Rome to go back to the Fontana Trevi to see if it was finally working, and throw our coins in as tradition demands. So, feeling a little sore but reasonably okay now, I set out on the now familiar walk down Via Nazionale with Michelle. We tried to take a few streets we hadn't seen before, so took Via della Consulta up the hill. On this street we spotted a cat sleeping on a scooter, which was a brilliant photo opportunity. I hadn't brought my camera because I wasn't feeling 100%, so I used Michelle's to snap the picture.

We continued on towards Piazza del Quirinale, where we were surprised to see armed guards carrying machine guns outside one building. We discovered later this was the Palazzo Quirinale, the official residence of the President of Italy. No wonder they had guards!

We reached the Fontana Trevi and lo, it had water in it, and it was spouting like a true fountain! So we posed for the obligatory photos of us tossing in a coin, over our shoulders. We lingered a while, knowing this was our last full day in Italy, soaking up the atmosphere of the place.

I had some unfinished business to attend to, so we walked the short distance to the Gelateria della Palma where I sampled the strongest contender for Gelateria Giolitti's claim to the best gelato in Rome. Bellissimo!

We walked slowly back to our hotel. With me not feeling too good and so not wanting to walk far, we went once again to Da Gemma alla Lupa for dinner. I figured I had some sort of sinus infection, but since we were flying home tomorrow, it could wait until we got back to Sydney. I vowed to see a doctor as soon as possible after getting home.


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