Category Archives: medical

Trying to move onward with the knee

One of my posts prompted a comment about recuperation in the US vs Italy. I opined that in the US everything is go, go, go and get well, and back to work. Here it is piano, piano, take it slow, heal, you’ll be fine in good time. So which is better? Hard to say. I’m following instructions and trying not to feel competitive with those who are moving faster than me…after all, whats my hurry? 🙂 piano, piano.

That said I am not really happy with my walking ability. The knee is quite weak with it buckling unexpectedly when I take steps. This makes me less confident in my ability to walk. Other things are going well. The knee bending is very well. Sleeping is easier but I wake a lot when shifting positions and going from bent to straight leg. Next week I plan to go to the local pool with my friend Joanne who will show me the ropes there. Then I can do aqua exercises. I’m told this is an excellent way to work the knee.
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Other than the knee last week I had a unique experience. I had received a letter in the mail with an appointment for my annual mammogram. So we headed to Città di Castello to the hospital. I’d been once before so felt fairly confident going again. I sat at the desk where the woman, in pretty violet scrubs, looked up my records online and nodded to a man, wearing brilliant red scrubs, who came and took me to the scanning room. I had a bad feeling about this. His hame was Marco. He asked a couple of questions and indicated I should take my shirt etc off. Well. I had never had a male mammogram techician before but one has to go with the flow as it were so I did. It wasn’t so bad. I just have to wonder why a man would choose this profession. Yes he gets to see and touch lots of breasts but it is hardly titillating.
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Afterwards we visited one of our butchers. We needed provisions. Then, while Luther parked the car I made a loop through our Kilo zero market. The veggie people have just what is growing nearby. Cabbages…many sorts. Kale. Chard. Spinach. A few root veggies. This is the time of the year when the farmers who lived off of their crops are ready for some spring growth. They have been eating the available greens growing now, supplemented by the preserved bounty from last summer. Nearly gone. The good news is that spring has started to put in a pretty steady appearance. I am starting to look forward to the spring early veggies.
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I’ve also started to clean up our terrace. I bought a nice wood rack for the wood we didn’t use.

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And I’ve been scrubbing the grout and tiles. My pots are being slowly dug up and the old plants relegated to the trash. I will be ready in May when we start to plant again. I am thinking about what to try this year. Always fun to plan! I have lots of pots now since my failed corn adventure last year.

Italian politics

So, maybe you’ve heard that Italy had a pretty important election last Sunday. I don’t pretend to understand it all. But I’m going to try to do a little synopsis of it.

Even here in little Umbertide opinions and emotions ran high! Back in the day, Umbria voted reliably Communist. The party is the Democratic Party or the PD now. They had the most power until Sunday when they got less than 19% of the vote prompting Matteo Renzi the PD leader to resign. A real awakening for them.

The main players are the Five Star Movement, the Lega Nord (La Lega) or the League, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), and the PD.

The Five Star Movement won the most votes. The other big winner was the right-wing La Lega led by Matteo Salvini. But no one party or group reached the 40% necessary to form a stable parliamentary majority. The group achieving anything near this was the right-wing coalition formed by Forza Italia, La Lega and the Brothers of Italy (Fd’I) with 35%.

It is now up to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to decide which party leader to ask to try to form a government.

I am told that this is a huge deal in Italian politics. Sunday’s election marks the end of an era.

Italy now has to make a choice between a right-wing coalition led by Salvini and the Five Star populists. Europe has seen a big rise in the right in the last years. Here in Italy it comes mainly from two issues — austerity and immigration, both of which have hit Italians hard. Both parties that have gained most in this election are anti-immigration and Eurosceptic. 😕

Europe was shaken by this election but it has itself to blame. It has done far too little to help Italy deal with the huge influx of migrants across the Mediterranean, 640,000 in the last four years. They have insisted that arrivals be processed in the EU country where they touch land. This has left frontline countries with an intolerable burden that has fuelled anti-immigrant and anti-EU sentiment. I am not Italian but I really resent the other countries in Europe for shirking their duties to a United Europe and dumping it on some of the poorest and least able to handle the crisis…Italy, Turkey, and Greece.

So to sum up…the two biggest winners have said they will not form an alliance. No one knows what the next Italian government will look like after the election. So, unless someone forms a coalition there will be another election in two months.

Finally, Umbria went hard for the center right. A big change from being reliably red.

I’m not sure this clarifies anything for you all. I got a lot of this info from the Italian papers myself so I could understand better even though I can’t vote.

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Knee update

So, today I had an awakening. I had a lesson with my Italian teacher today. She always asks about how I’m doing with my knee and all. So I vented that it was taking so long and wasn’t like in the US where people are walking in a week..blah, blah. She looked at me and said…sometimes it’s better to go slow like here in Italia rather than go, go, go faster, quicker like in the US. Suddenly it made sense. It’s my effing American mindset ! I need to chill!

Monday I get my final X-ray and consult with a doctor and I hope I get the OK to move forward with walking etc.

The Deep Freeze…. brrrr

All of Europe is being affected by a Siberian front bringing frigid air where it has no reason to be! This morning I woke to -9C temperatures.
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The photos on the nightly news and of social media of a snow covered Colosseum in Rome are amazing. Mount Vesuvius is snow covered as is Naples. The Italians do not deal well with snow. They only got 2” but it snarled all the trains up for a day and a half and caused all kinds of traffic backups. Amusing for those of us used to “real” snow.
Here is our piddling little bit of snow we woke up to on Sunday.

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Today is market day and I bet a third of our regulars didn’t show up. It’s so cold the produce is freezing and they have to cover it. They have a fire in a barrel to try to warm themselves. And resourceful folks that they are, they are grilling up sausages on the fire!
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Knee replacement update
It is a month from the day I returned home from the hospital. I feel like I’m doing well with the recovery overall. Still not walking except with crutches. My PT guy is encouraging though. I have an appointment at the hospital for an X-ray and consultation with a doctor in a week and a half. I am looking forward to that.

We also found out from a couple of sources that it is important for us to arrange to get all my records from the hospital now or it would be very difficult to do so later. So this is another thing we have to scope out…who do we see…how do we see them? Always something.

Looking forward to springtime. March is around the corner!

Knee replacement Italia – Part 3

I was told at the hospital upon release that I was set up at Prosperius, the therapy center in Umbertide and to go there the next day. The nurse at the hospital seemed puzzled I wanted to go home right away like I wanted to spend another night with them! So uncomfortable there. Anyway we got checked out and it turns out they had ordered an ambulance for me. They were not pleased when we said we didn’t need it. Luther drove us home in the glorious outside. Lovely fresh air. I managed to get up our 53 steps on my hand crutches. And basked in being Home and again with my cats. Home and cats have healing power beyond all else.

I had a welcome home glass of wine and Luther cooked our dinner with a bit of coaching. It was a lovely evening with English language TV for a change. Home!
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Well we found out you don’t know what you don’t know! We went to the local therapy center where I was told to go. And they told me they wanted to keep me for 2 weeks inpatient therapy(!) we had no idea. Gobsmacked. And this, after we SPECIFICALLY asked our GP and she assured us I would not be an in-patient candidate. We know the name of a therapist that a friend recommended who will come to me and we pay him privately. We asked if we could do that. They were fine with it. So we sent a text to him. Meanwhile I will continue to do the exercises I learned in the hospital four times a day. They are extremely painful to do so I have to force myself and remind myself it is important to work through them.
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The stairs are very difficult so I’m adamant I’m staying up here from now on. My doctor is supposed to arrange dressing changes and stitches removal but we are trying to do much of it up here in the house. So, through a friend, I’ve found the nicest nurse who comes here to change my dressing every 2 days. Distressing that she will take no compensation. She is an angel. So one less reason to go down stairs.
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I have also, through a friend, gotten someone to come and give me physical therapy. He is very nice but his job means he hurts me. I don’t think I’d like to do that for a living. But I’m very happy to have him. And he’s told me it’s crucial to do the exercises myself many times a day. I have been dealing with sciatica pain and I asked him about it. He said it’s a side effect of the epidural sometimes. He gave me a good massage which helped some. At least I know why. I want full function so I am going to do these exercises! I know it’s not forever.
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Maybe I was a bit foolish to not just check myself into Prosperius when I got out of the hospital. But at the time I couldn’t face being in another hospital for 2 weeks. So far we are managing here.
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I think my saga is done now except for the hard work of rehab. If there is anything new to add I will write about it as it occurs.

Knee replacement in Italia – Part 2

Musings
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Normal day.
5:45 am. Time for taking blood. 6:00 am blood pressure and temperature. 7:00 nurse arrives and scans your bracelet. Gets your medicines. Administers. 7:30 breakfast lady brings coffee and dry toast, like melba, with jam. Activity levels in halls ratchet up. 8:00 they come remake or change your bed and wash you some. Around 8:30 a gaggle of medical students comes and hears about the cases. PT person comes around this time too. Lunch arrives around 12 – 12:30. Afternoon is more random. More bracelet scans and meds. Coffee break in late afternoon. Dinner comes around 7pm. After dinner more scans and night meds. Ta da. Day is done.
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I contemplated the Italian word for pain, dolore. Or painful, dolorosso. I looked up an ache. Dolore. Hmmm. Seems like they should have that distinction. Fa male means it hurts. Male is the word for bad. Pronounced mah-lay.
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Some people who stood out. Dr. Pain, the first physical therapist. Nurse Ratchet, evil morning nurse who does meds. Sr. Huffinpuff – he does stuff like move beds, bring dinner, move trash bins out, stuff like that. He constantly sighs and pants while doing his work. One blond nurse who was kind and gave me a sleeping pill one night. The nurse who complained I peed too much. Dr. Trinchese, my surgeon. I call him the stealth surgeon. I saw him in the OR and then he did a drive by visit that lasted at most 15 seconds. “Come stai. Bend your leg. Lift your leg. Belissimo” and gone.
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Random thoughts and observations
Full time monks inhabit the hospital, gliding down the hallways.
Bringing your own coffee cup is key.
Bring cutlery.
Some hospitals do not provide toilet paper. I was told I was in a posh hospital because it did provide it.
They move you around in your bed for procedures.
Some nurses are tolerant of my bad Italian, many are not.
In my opinion the food is pretty bad. They try. You get three courses. Not sure if that’s a plus or minus. Bring salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, Tabasco, anything to spice it up. Next time (hopefully a long time off!!) I would not order all the courses each meal. Breakfast is a cup of your favorite drink (not wine) and a packet of dry toast (like Melba) with a container of jam.
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Stay tuned for Part 3.

Knee replacement in Italia – Part 1

Much of the following posts about my hospital stay are musings of the experience as well as my documentation of what occurred. Most, I wrote while in the hospital.
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The surgery went well. The hospital is pretty modern. Not a young building but up to date. It is also enormous. A University Hospital. I saw very little of my surgeon. He showed up for the operation. Before surgery they take all your clothes and give you a completely transparent gown! I pulled my blanket up for the ride to the OR. As soon as I arrived they cut it off. What was the point?

Returned to my room. During the operation I had only an epidural. Could not move my legs when the tranqs ran out. The surgeon prescribed a bag of morphine for the first night. Since that there were no opiates to be seen. So my intell was correct. What they gave me was ok but my pain when I tried to exercise was through the roof. I was discussing this with one or Luther’s cousins who is a pharmacist. Opiates are properly used for recovery from surgery and for a short time afterward. As she said, “the pain actually increases the fight/flight hormones and delays healing. Also makes physical therapy a lot harder. I think they were giving prescriptions for too many pills at once and not scrutinizing refills [in the US]….” European mainland countries in general do not give pain meds. They do in the UK.

My PT started the day after surgery. It involved a machine that bent your knee over and over to the most painful angle you could stand. Then leg lifts, toe thrusts, tensing the muscles on the back of your thigh and more flexing. I kinda sat on the side of the bed and stood at a walker for a second. Unfortunately the next day was Sunday and then Monday a holiday so things slowed down. I was unable to lift my leg. It was like the signal wasn’t getting there but with a little help to start I could lift it with much pain. I think this is when some codeine would come in handy 😕 the leg was extremely swollen and I was convinced that had to be a part of the problem. I wanted to learn how to use the crutches. It would give me some freedom in the hospital. That was one of the hardest things, being unable to help myself with anything. I took great pains to keep things from falling on the floor. If they did, they were lost to me. The nursing staff are not there to help you. Sure, they would bring me a bedpan if I asked but one night, I had been instructed to drink water after a shot so I had to pee, three times in around a two hour span. She let me know she didn’t appreciate it and said it was not “normale”. I told her I had had 2 bottles of water. I was no longer trying to be nice.

The other thing was the total lack of privacy. I shared my room with another woman knee replacement patient…and her husband. He literally lived in the hospital with her. He brought a small chaise longue. With blankets and pillows and slept next to her. He was a nice man who occasionally helped me with an ice refill or cranked my bed up or down (no electric bed there!). I noticed other people walking up and down the hall with these beds. They expect family members to come care for the patients. I lived with just visits from Luther but they were invaluable.

I was not ready for the loneliness of not being able to speak to anyone, even to casually chat with the nurse or aide. I discouraged visitors so maybe I must take some blame for the loneliness. Luther visited every day and I know even HE was bored. And he hadn’t been there for 5 days
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Stay tuned for Part 2.

Hospital arrival and first day

I was told to arrive at noon today. Which I did. But last time here I neglected to take a picture of this directional board with all its colors. There are building depictions on the sides and on the floors everywhere are colored arrrows to help you find your way.
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They checked me in with much paperwork. Then I arrived in my room. It is a semi-private room and has a curtain on one side only and is very much like a US hospital. I guess it depends on the hospital. This one has nearly everything. There is toilet paper. At lunch there was plastic cutlery. There is a small shared TV. But tonight for dinner I did not have a spoon for the broth I was allowed. So I used the one I brought. They don’t provide water.

My roommate was in bad pain and I spent the afternoon listening to her cry and her husband calling for nurses. They tried a few different things none of which worked. Finally she got morphine. She’s eating and blabbing on the phone tonight. I hope they manage my pain OK. Now her husband has gotten his lawn chair and cushions and a blanket to spend the night. I had hoped it would not be necessary for me. Crossing my fingers. Poor Luther has no lawn chair.

The time is now.

Well, tomorrow is the day. I go into the hospital at noon. I have no idea what I will be doing all afternoon since the preliminary tests are finished. I guess I’ll find out.

During the last two weeks since my pre-operative tests I’ve talked to a lot of people who have told me their experiences which all differ from one another.

In an effort to get some correct information on what to expect we visited Dotoressa Mommi, our primary care doctor. She told me the length of the hospital stay depended on how I was doing. She did tell me a little about the PT process. We have to wait until I return home then we can set something up. I’ll get instructions from the hospital for Mommi to help move forward for us. It is possible to have home visits for a while. But emphasis is that I get out of the house ASAP. The stairs are a problem. I guess we will just have to trust the system.

Going to an Italian Hospital is NOT anything like going to an American hospital. All the information I’ve gleaned so far says I will be in a ward. There are no curtains or privacy. The nurses do not provide much assistance for things like a drink of water, or help going to the bathroom. It is expected that a friend or relative will stay with you. Another difference here is that the hospital provides nothing for your stay. No water or toilet paper, you even have to bring your own cutlery, plate, cup and glass! Here is my suitcase in packing process.
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And, for a bit of good news, they finally removed all the scaffolding from the Comune building across from us. It is quite striking with its bright yellow paint and white trim, new copper gutters and downspouts and earthquake stabilization. The interior is gutted so I have no idea when that part will be even started. Maybe it will wait until the new government in town comes in. So now, I can again see the piazza. Here’s the building from our window.
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Knee surgery scheduled

About 6 months ago, I told you I needed surgery here in Italy. Non-emergency surgery can sometimes be a long wait, as it was in my case. I got a call last week from the hospital…at long last…to schedule my knee replacement surgery. My first appointment was today, for pre-op tests.

Well, I’m back from my tests. It went well for the most part. Ospidale Silvestrini sits commandingly on top of a hill south of Perugia city. It is the University hospital, so a teaching hospital. The hospital is ENORMOUS. And a VERY busy place. We were to go to the Segretario Ortopedica. Luther looked it up and the instructions said to go to a parking lot called Menghini and find a specific door. The place has multiple buildings connected with enclosed walkways. Our building was A, third floor.

It was 7:50am and our appointment was for eight. We got there and saw a door with the correct sign and walked past a whole room of people waiting and down a hall to the Segretario’s office. Asking permission he invited us in. Suddenly, all the people in the waiting room seemed to swarm the room but he told them to wait. Seems he had no appointment for me. But I was lucky, and he was helpful. Once we told him we had a surgery date and he looked in that book and there I was, he moved to fix it. He called down for my blood work and we went down to building P.

It was a pretty long walk. There, room 17, our destination, had an open door. We asked to come in giving our name and they seemed to be expecting us. Again the waiting room was full. I was feeling we were jumping the line! There was a man and a woman there. He took my blood, she did pulse and BP. They gave me a form to fill out with my history and a number and we returned to the waiting room. I filled out the forms and my turn came and I went in to see a young anesthesiologist. He was nice and even tried a little English. He asked questions and answered mine. A little disturbing is that I may get an epidural only along with mega tranquilizers, so not a general. Man! I hope I don’t wake during the operation!

Next we went to radiology and got a number. Everywhere we went was busy but here was the busiest. They are just next to the Pronto Soccorso or emergency room. When I was called I went down and got a chest X-ray first and my knee second. The chest was because I told them I used to smoke when they asked if I had. And how much. But wow, I quit nearly 40 years ago. But still…X-ray. So all was finito and we headed home. It took about 2.5 hours. All in all, I’d say the hospital was as good as anything in the US. This is reassuring. Everyone was very nice, and patient with my Italian. I’m crossing my fingers the intervento will be as good. I am scheduled to go in two weeks for the intervento, or operation.
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My friend Angela here (I grew my corn at her place last summer) has a friend named Quintino. She calls him Quinto. I knew he brought wood to her house to split. He’d also leave it there. So I asked if he’d need a spot of work to bring me wood. Well he did, back in December and he would not take the money I offered! Un regalo, a gift he said. I said no, no carrying it all up here, and believe me, it’s heavy! So I asked Angela about how to pay him and she said block his way and make him take it. I got some more this week and this time I made him take it. He didn’t want to because I was a friend of Angela’s. Now I have way more wood than I need.🙂 oh well. Rocky has decided he LOVES fires. And Quinto even brought me olive wood. He said it was for carne…meat when I cook.

So last night I tried out the olive wood. Smooth bark and small in size, it pops like firecrackers are going off in the house. So far this has not fazed Rocky. I grilled one of the good steaks we get at Etrusco in Bosco, a town south of us. It turned out very good and I had a nice, warm kitchen.