As promised, I must confess why I was sans comment on many of my posts – and your blogs – last week.

Yes…I had a friend in town, but that wouldn’t have kept me away! No way – no how!

You see my friends, Calabria, and Italy in general, is chock-full of new experiences just waiting to be grabbed up. Last week, I grabbed one…In fact, I grabbed a whopper.

The picture you see to the right is the Ospedale Pugliese in downtown Catanzaro. You see….

Well, let me back up a bit.

All was well last Monday until 2:00 PM. I was actively writing blog posts and chatting with friends, when I felt a sudden – a strangely powerful – pain in my lower back. In fact, I was somewhat immobilized and walked hunched over upstairs to rest in bed.

I consulted my trusty webmd and discovered I could have anything from gonorrhea to a strained muscle to gas. Pretty.

Since I was sure to be STD’less, knew I hadn’t lifted more than a pen, and have felt gas pains in the past – I Googled on. I called my mom. I called my students to cancel a lesson. I called my mom, again.

A few hours later I shuffled to the airport to meet my friend.

After a night’s worth of sleepless hours, I agreed to visit a doctor.

He punched, he pulled, he pressed – painfully so.

The final diagnosis?

Kidney infection.

Drink 2-3 liters of water a day, take this antibiotic, and give yourself a shot if the pain becomes unbearable. Yes, you read that correctly. “Give yourself a shot.” When Peppe returned home from the pharmacy with five “fresh” needles, my friend and I explained how needle usage works in American.

“Diabetics. Junkies. That’s it,” she told him holding up a needle for emphasis.

“Well, you can trust me,” he assured us. “I’ve given shots before.”

Breaking my hard-core rule of never trusting a man who says, “Trust me,” I let my husband give me a shot.

I felt absolutely – not even – .001% better.

So, I did what any red-blooded American girl would do. I filled up on Advil and Tylenol.

Over the next few days, I learned a few lessons about pain management with kidney infections.
– Walk. A lot. The pain is intensified when you lay down, and almost unbearable when you sit.
– Chug more water than you ever thought you could.
– Have an ample supply of Advil and Tylenol on hand, and alternate dosages every 4-6 hours.
I marched on through the week, taking my friend on various outings, shopping, and walking, walking, walking to avert the pain.
“If it’s not better tomorrow, you are going to the hospital,” Peppe tried to sound forceful as he laid down this rule three days in a row.
Finally, on Saturday evening, I relented, and for the first time in 17 years, I went to the ER.
We arrived at L’Ospedale Pugliese in downtown Catanzaro around 6:00 PM. Check-in was painless and we were sent back to see a doctor by 6:15. And, they say socialized medicine will slow us down in America! After a few minutes of questions, pokes, and needles I was sent upstairs to have an ultrasound.
This, in fact, was the most notable difference between Italian and US hospitals. I wasn’t laid on a gurney and rolled around. Instead, I walked to the elevator, pressed the 4th floor button, and went to see the ultrasound dottoressa myself. In 10 minutes, she was squirting me with a chilly gel-like substance, and Pep was looking on the screen hoping to see a bambina. Luckily, he didn’t.
The oh-toothorough doctor, wanting to further scrutinize my goods, asked me to drink a liter of water, walk around, and return in 30 minutes.
During this 4th floor passeggiata, I noticed another profound difference. A thick whiff of cigarette smoke-filled air bit my lungs and stung my eyes.
“Ah, yes,” Peppe proclaimed. “We are in Italy.”
One minute later, I see an orderly with a light green surgical cap enter the hallway, with a cigarette hanging from his lips. He walked right past the non-smoking sign without looking up.

Another ultrasound, a visit to the urologist, and a return to the ER doctor wrapped up my evening. Just before leaving, I was asked if I wanted a shot to help with the pain.

“Why not,” I thought.

Trying to make small talk with the nurse, I told her about Peppe’s fruitless shot earlier in the week.

“Don’t worry,” she told me nicely. “There’s enough room there for two!”

After she left, I looked to Peppe for confirmation.

“Did she just say there was enough room on my ass for two shots?”

Peppe struggled, unsuccessfully, to repress a grin.

“I can’t imagine she would be that rude,” he quickly added.

Hum! Can’t imagine!

Indignantly, I marched from the ER and rubbed my sore bum.

Big butt…hum!

I’m never going back there again!

26 Responses
  1. Giulia

    Oh wow! I hope you are feeling better by now, Cherrye! How on earth did you get through playing tour guide with your friend, with all of that water in your system?!
    People here are flat out blunt when it comes to weight. If a person thinks your even the tiniest bit overweight, they will let you know… without thinking twice of how they say it! Why that lady would comment about your tush like that is…well, let’s just call her a bIyotch! ๐Ÿ˜‰ lol

    P.S. I have added that webmd site to my favorites. Thanks for the link!

  2. Becoming Me

    Bless your heart! What a terrible ER experience. I cannot believe doctors and nurses walk around with cigs in their mouths. I hope you are feeling better…you never want to return there.

  3. Texas Espresso

    Hope you are feeling better! can you get cranberry juice over there? it helps too.

    Good lord you are tiny – I can’t imagine someone thinking you had a big butt. they will freak when they see mine then! lol

  4. Cherrye

    Oh, G, I know they aren’t shy about it, but come on! I was sick. Give my big bootie a break!

    Becoming Me – The experience was actually MUCH better than I expected, and much shorter than any experience I’ve had in America (with family members, that is). I mean, the cigarette thing was bad, but…

    Stacy – Forget about it. No cranberry juice here! You should also bring your own heating patches when you come. The ones they sell here are useless. ๐Ÿ™ I am feeling much better, though. Thanks!

  5. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    This post made me laugh out loud. I think the PC police would just die in Italy. Smoking in hospitals? Saying there was room on your butt for two shots?

    On serious note, glad you were able to get in and get out quickly.

  6. Cherrye

    It was a funny experience, Arlene. The thing is, the gal said it so “matter of factly” – what do you think that means? lol

  7. bleeding espresso

    I’m sure that’s not what she meant–almost too witty for an Italian sense of humor ๐Ÿ˜‰ OUCH!

    Oh for cranberry juice….

  8. Brooke

    I have no words…too funny!! If it’s going to happen to someone besides me…it’s going to happen to you!!

  9. Erin

    Oh, my goodness. What an experience. I’m sorry, but I giggled. I’m sure it wasn’t funny. I hope you’re feeling better.

  10. Where in the World

    Wow…I can feel your pain. Literally. Nothing is worse than a kidney infection. (well, I’m sure some things are, but when you are going through it NOTHING is…)

    I got a kidney stone when I was in Florence. I was a huge supporter of socialized medicine until I went to a hospital in Italy. I dig my privacy when I am sick…and there is nothing private about Italian hospitals.

    Water, water, water. And, as difficult as it may be here, avoid coffee (doctors fail to mention that in Italy), and Coke. Cranberrys, blueberry and pomagranites are really good too. (I get the “fruiti rossi” juice). I’ve been through this one too many times, so I’m beginning to learn all the tricks…

    I did however get some major pain medicine in Firenze that didn’t include needles. And I was happily drugged and oblivious to Italian so luckily I couldn’t understand any comments about the size of my rear…

    You poor thing. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  11. Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy

    Sadly the hospital visits in Italy usually end up making us laugh (I have at least 1-2 more I haven’t published) – I had a similar shot experience except I was at my in-laws and only my MIL knew how to do it – 10 shots in the ass brings a family together. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope you’re feeling better.

  12. Cherrye

    Yep, that’s what she meant, Maryann!! ha ha

    You know, Michelle, it did seem a little toooo clever.

    Oh, yes. Brooke…thanks!

    Erin, it is ok. I’ll laugh, too. One day.

    Thanks for the tips, Maggie. You don’t have privacy here – that is for sure. Take the pharmacy for example – in front of the whole room – WHAT DO YOU NEED?? Luckily, I wasn’t “in” the hospital. I agree – this was the worst pain I’ve ever felt!

    Sara – as usual…lol.

    Thanks, Geggie. ME, TOO!

  13. Stephanie

    I too feel your pain Cherrye. I have had the dreaded “kidney stone”. I thought I was going to die, or wanted someone to kill me for sure. While reading your blog, that is what I thought you had….I work with Kidney specialist. One of our Spanish doctors told me to drink alot of BEER!!!! You poor little thing though, having to entertain and in pain…….

  14. Anonymous

    oh poor you. I also have lots of syringe stories. First of all that they are freely available in every supermarket (and usually on the bottom shelf – not great when you have a toddler in tow!!). You can’t buy an aspirin but hey, syringes – no probs. ah the irony.

    Anyway, i’d have to say I have had to inject my cats with antibiotics (twice a day for 10 days!!) , in addition to having to mix up the drugs myself!!

    A few months ago, my BIL had a knee op, and my husband had bad toothache, they BOTH had to have butt injections as treatment. They would take it in turns to visit and inject each other. SO funny… Though of course they didn’t see the humour in it! Vanessa

  15. Louise

    Oh my goodness I hope you are feeling better!!
    I can’t believe that nurse!! wow!
    You are a kind,true friend for taking your friend around while feeling ill!!

  16. j

    Well, once when I was in Italy one of my boys needed to get rehydrated because he was throwing up, so we took him to the hospital in Sienna. I thought the nurses there were much more nurturing and caring than the overworked stressed out nurses I’ve experienced in the US. Maybe it was just because he was a little boy so it brought out the Italian grandmother in them.

    I remember seeing that hospital in CZ and was surprised to see open windows. I’ve never seen open windows in a US hospital.

    I hope you are feeling better Cherrye.

  17. cheeky

    That my dear was funny! Not laughing at your pain, trust me. That was well written and you had me laughing. A few things:
    What a sarcastic nurse. Hope it came out funny. I’m guessing she was a wee bit jealous of pretty American girl and wanted to sink her claws into Peppe?
    What’s in their shots? Water? This sort of concerns me. You?
    As a pro, and I mean pro, at having multiple kidney infections, 4 kidney stones, repeated ER visits and admittances, IVP’s and a surgical procedure to remove a kidney stone I know there is “strong” medicine that works.
    All joking aside, kidney infections can turn dangerous when left too long or not treated properly. I feel your pain and completely empathise.
    I was hospitalised here in Australia 2 years ago for a kidney infection. Socialised worked well for me as well. No waiting, to my surprise, at the ER. I was admitted immediately and had a really positive experience with medical treatment here, although I wasn’t given any “diy”shot kits. Just tablets for pain and infection.
    I can’t say walking ever helped me though. I’m going with the pain tablets.

  18. Nadine

    I’m so sorry Cherrye you were so sick. I hope that you get better really soon.

    With that said, I believe if I ever get to Italy that I will avoid the ER at all cost. Thank you for the laugh.

  19. Cherrye

    Drink beer? Well, I tell you Stephanie I was in so much I’d have tried anything!!!

    Joe – you are lucky. Be sure to stay out of there!

    Vanessa – At least your husband is a doctor!!! lol No, Pep did really well, it is just “different” ya know??

    Thanks, Louise. I tried. She had come sooo far.

    Will check you out, Notebook. Thanks.

    Good point, J, that is another difference. Also, I didn’t have to sign any releases or promises not to sue! I don’t think it was a bad experience, at all. I mean, besides the smoke (and the comment on my booty!)

    Oh, wow, Cheeky. I hope I NEVER get one again. They are brutal!! I couldn’t imagine having so many. Walking really did help me, as did the American medicine and hot hot showers. Do what you gotta do, I guess.

    Nadine – you should avoid the ER at all costs just cause ALL ERs are a pain. This one wasn’t too bad. I thought it was better that I walked where I needed to go instead of waiting on doctors to come to me. It seemed to go much faster!

  20. Linda

    Your post made me laugh because I had a pretty similar experience 14 years ago. I was visiting Mimmo in Milan when I came down with a kidney infection. The pain!! I stayed a week in hospital and shared a room with 3 old women, one of whom could only speak veneto. Good times!

  21. Cherrye

    See, Linda, THAT is why I didn’t want to go into the hospital! No private rooms!! ahhhhh

    Thanks, Katie. I am finally feeling better. No well enough to drink vino at lunch, but I am back on my daily cap!

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