Three weeks in a Greek hospital

6 Feb

Spending three weeks in a Greek hospital is inevitably one way of learning the culture. Between all of my son’s suffering, surgeries, and other procedures, I did manage to seep up some interesting phenomena.

We were in a public (children’s) hospital so we met all sorts. The vast majority of the people we encountered there didn’t speak English, and our Greek was too paltry for anything but the most basic communication (read: mime).

1) All sorts – this case won’t leave me.

The first few nights of our stay, a woman who couldn’t be older than 22 slept in the crib next to us with her infant son. She was eight months pregnant with her fourth child (to the best of our understanding), and no one bothered to bring her food. When her husband and his brother (I assume) came for their half-hour visits, they brought her cigarettes. I can only describe the brother as a mega-ars, who wore a vest from the early 90s and a large diamond stud in his right ear.

The woman/girl kept slapping the baby, and was coughing heavily (likely because of her heavy smoking). Thankfully, they moved her out to a private booth so that the rest of the room wouldn’t catch her cough. Poor kid.

No one else spoke to her, except when the other parents tssskked her for hogging the rented TV which wasn’t hers.

2) We learned of new places, from which our roommates hailed to be treated at this Athenian hospital: places such as Limnos and Mytilini. They had to either travel by boat for 12 hours or be rushed by airplane. Others were lucky enough to live three or fours away from car. In all of those cases, both parents came to the hospital and slept on chairs for several nights with few changes of clothes, and little opportunity for washing.

First, this indicates the difficulty of running Greece as a country; how can any government administer services and manage a population so dispersed on remote islands? How can citizens communicate effectively and receive equitable access to state resources? When many of its residents can’t easily get to a hospital, this doesn’t bode well for the state. Though I don’t know this for sure, Greece must spend lots of money on emergency transport of remote residents to hospitals in medical emergencies.

Second, it made us realize how lucky we were to have an apartment nearby, where at least we could change and shower easily and bring new toys and clothes for Amitai. Our friends fromĀ  (an island in the northern Aegean sea), whose daughter underwent the same surgery as Amitai, didn’t have that luxury and they were still there when we left. And the wife is nine months pregnant.

3) Greek doctors speak English really well and we are very grateful to the team which treated him. I can’t say the same for the nurses – or at least they didn’t let on to it. It’s totally our responsibility to learn the local language but it’s frustrating when after three weeks in the same ward, you learn that most of the nurses who refused to communicate with you or your petrified son actually do speak some English but couldn’t bother to make the effort

Oh well, at least our Lonely Planet Phrasebook came in handy. Sort of. And I know a lot more Greek words now (“rash”, “pain”, “sheets”).


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