I know I promised to keep my blog regular (sounds somewhat intestinal, but needn't be), but I'm sorry, it just can't be done. Even as I write this I have a pretty good idea that it'll never get finished and published today, perhaps never, for the following reasons:
There is quite a lot to say, and I am inclined to ramble and get distracted easily (as you can see)
There are lots of photos to find (and my 'photos to be sorted folder' contains nearly 14 gig of crap to sort through)
V could explode at any moment which means the next time I'll get a few hours free to indulge myself in blogging could be late spring...2012
So I'll try not to deviate or repeat myself. Fat chance.
PS Of course, it's a couple of days later, and in the car taking the boyz to school I had a brain-wave...why not write a para or two every other days and just publish?...forget making it look pretty, spell-ckecking...might try and get everything I wrote yesterday ready, publish and be damned....
Hospitals are rubbish. Doctors are lazy. Nurses are useless.
I generalise of course. If you are nurse, or a doctor, or a hospital, I probably don't mean you. If on the other hand, you live or work in the area of Poggibonsi, then your chances of getting caught in the crossfire are increasing. And if you happen to work at Poggi hospital, don't come anywhere near me as I may just stove your head in for the fun of it, even if you work in the café. It wouldn't do much for you (especially after V has jumped up and down on your life-less carcass a few times), I know, but we would feel a whole lot better. Actually, that would be bliss. Any volunteers?
As we all know, V is expecting. She's due quite soon now and we have a preliminary date for the caesarean of 19th October. Our GP here recommended that we go to Poggibonsi hospital because their obs & gynae (sp?) department is supposed to be one of the best in Italy. Good to know.
And you know what, I am sure most of the doctors there are brilliant. We have certainly met a couple of really excellent ones. Our problem is that we've seen rather too many docs since V got preggars, over 7 that I can remember. And the system here means that although someone is supposed to be following our case, no one has to. So they don't. It makes the NHS look like Nirvana. The doctors run the show completely, and if ever you want proof that doctors make useless administrators, this hospital is it. So if your first doctor happens to be a useless piece of ### that really doesn't enjoy or care about her job in any way shape or form, then you can find yourself in deep shite. Because our first two visits were with a doctor so lazy and indifferent that she really honestly didn't care what happened to us or the baby, from then on we were invisible. We tried to get ourselves back in a sound footing by changing to a better doctor (one that had been recommended to us), but by then it was too late. We were out of the loop, in between the cracks, down the drain.
Now this wasn't a big problem when everything was hunky dory, but during a routine scan they found that V's amniotic fluid levels was too low, and that's when we really started to wish we were having this baby back in the UK. No one, but no one, wanted to take personal responsibility for our case and see it through. This means that every time we had a bank of tests (and there have been lots) the doctor reviewing our notes would be a different one, with a different view. But that doctor would not want (nor have to) make any decision whatsoever because we weren't his/her patient. And when we asked who's patient we were, we'd be told it didn't work like that, and that we weren't allocated a specific doctor. Catch 22. So no one ever had to make a decision because they could all claim that they were not our doctor.
You also have to picture a medical system based on a semi-feudal hierarchy, with the doctors, with their vast intellects and infinite knowledge (because they are doctors and went to university) lording it over the lowly patients and support staff, who, quite frankly are way too stupid (because they are not doctors) to understand what is going on and should consider themselves blessed by God to have even 5 minutes of time with such superior beings. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, oh great ones.
This attitude is, of course, passed on to all those who work in the hospital so that at almost every point of contact, from doctor to nurse to admin, you'll find yourself on the end if the same arrogant, condescending attitude. It's a real eye-opener. There's not a hospital in the UK that would last 5 minutes without being ripped to shreds by the press, or the staff, or the patients if they behaved like this. But here, I think people must assume that the more arrogant the staff, the better the hospital.
Last Friday was almost the final straw. We'd been into hospital on the Wednesday for more blood work, swabs, scans, ECGs, you name it. We hadn't been given or explained any of the results. We saw useless-idiot 'dottoressa' (the doc that we'd seen on our first two visits) who flicked through the results, and said she couldn't make any decisions because we weren't her patient (though clearly we were more her patient than anyone else's). Bear in mind that V was 36 weeks gone and needed a date for her caesarean. When I pressed her and asked her to at least look at the timetables and book us a preliminary slot, the look on her face was a picture. Honestly, unless my Italian is worse than I thought, I really didn't ask her to eat ### or to take a dive out of the 4th story window she was sat next to. Once her mild shock at being asked to do something had worn off (didn't take long), she told us to come back on Friday to see the doctor who might be carrying out the caesarean. No appointment, just come along and try and get 5 minutes with him. We knew this was dodgy as, but what could we do?
We had an appointment with the anaesthetist on the Friday in any case, so we went along. The anaesthetist was miraculous. I say 'miraculous': he didn't walk on water, raise the dead, bring world piece, etc. But he was thorough (was the first doctor to take us though all V's test results and explain each one, and it wasn't even his job to do so), extremely gentle, courteous...the first really patient-focused doctor we'd seen, and it was a blessed relief, I'll tell you. The next two hours weren't so encouraging. We waited, and waited, and waited. We tried to leave a note for the doctor with the nurse in charge, asking him to call us so we could come back when he was less busy. But the nurse looked at me like I was insane, as if to ask a doctor to call a patient was tantamount to calling the doctor's mother a camel. (It is considered quite bad form to call anyone's mother a camel in Italy. Apparently.) Rather than risk the doctor's subsequent wrath (and possibly endangering the lives of her, her family, all her friends, possibly everyone she's ever met) by giving the doctor a note, she repeatedly went looking for him to ask him to see us. He was clearly very busy, and we were perfectly willing to come back another time, but sure enough the doc finally came to see us.
And boy was he pissed.
We rushed us down a corridor to a room with a scanner (which didn't work well as a piece of theatre because V don't rush, no way, no how), and while he scanned her he proceeded to rant about his extremely busy and nightmarish day. It truly was horrendous, I'll grant you. And then moaned about how he can't be expected to interrupt his schedule and see anyone who just turns up. Good point I thought. V was nearly in tears at this point, but I don't think it was out of sympathy towards the doc. I'm pretty sure it wasn't. But then I told him how his crappy colleague had told us to come and see him, without an appointment, and how it was her fault, not ours, that we were here at all. And I asked him what other course of action we should have followed? A very pregnant mother who, according to the doc who gave her the last scan, needed watching very carefully. No date booked for a caesarean then needed to be performed in no less than 2-3 weeks. No medical person (doctor, nurse, or midwife) we could talk to help us get on track. Exactly what was the right way for us to go? What alternative (and perhaps more proper) course of action should we have followed?
At this point the doctor calmed down a bit, and actually apologised. He then took us to an office, gave us an appointment for next week, and even gave us date for the caesarean.
Amazing. After 2.5 hours of considerable stress (one of the things all the docs have told V to avoid), and some considerable, semi-heated Italian-style 'discussion', we had exactly what we came for and could go home. Well, actually, we went out for our last supper alone for quite some time. Very nice fish restaurant in Poggi. Brilliant in fact. Lovely salmon carpaccio, amazing sword-fish...sorry, I digress.
And by the way, this doctor is one of the good ones. He actually seems to care. And he's thorough, and when he's not stressed, over-tired, over-worked and annoyed, he really is very pleasant.
But like all the docs here, he's working within a system so dependent on those at the very top (the docs) to make all the decisions, that no one else is willing to take any responsibility, and the docs themselves will duck additional work almost at any cost. Some of the docs, after you've harangued them for the right length of time, will do the right thing and actually help their patients, while others just don't care. Maybe they did one day, maybe they did once care about being good doctors, and the system has beaten it out of them. Don't know. What I do know is that I intend to be as pushy and irritating (I can do pushy, and I could have been an Olympic irritator – it's a gift, ask V) as I need to be to make sure everything happens as best it can. Or maybe we just need to learn to bend over and take it like an Italian...?
I don't think so.
A house in the trees
Ever since we moved out here we've been talking about building a tree house for Harv. Of course, with everything else that's been going on, a shed in the trees has always slipped down the priority list. But one evening, while Harv was in the UK and I was out with my cousin Marcello having a pizza, I mentioned the idea to him. And that was that. Oh, did I tell you he's builds kids furniture for local kids hospitals, custom kitchens, etc? Hand bloke to have around. Over the next hour we had some ideas down on paper. I then worked out some detailed plans and measurements, bought the wood, and one hot Wednesday in August, we started work.
It took three days of extremely hard labour, and Harv worked right alongside us the whole time, building some muscles he'd never had before in the process. Marcello was amazing, and knew exactly what to do every step of the way. Friday evening and the job was done.
Harv and some of his school mates slept out in it on Saturday night, cooked salciccia on a camp fire, and went wild in the woods until (by way of a walkie-talkie) I told them to shut up and go to sleep. But it was good seeing them all go native in the fresh air.
Stories from Tuscany
To come next time I write....
- Manic summer and the heat
- Worrying olives
- School for Sam
- Bookings for next year