118 is the number you dial when you need medical attention. Good to know if you are in the throes of food poisoning. So yes, I have almost completed my tour of Italian lifestyle and finally got to experience the health care system. The ambulance came up stairs to assess me, helped carry me down, were kind and gracious hosts, took me to Santa Maria Nuova hospital (designed by some one famous, can’t think of it now). Luigi, a Londoner named Frederich and I had a small festive laugh filled session in the hallway after someone attached me to an IV. Then the white blood cell count was too high, so, they did what Italian hospitals do: insist they admit me. Yes, unlike America, the Italians really don’t want you to leave a hospital. They go out of their way to make you stay. Aching stomach, maybe you should rest more. Headache, perhaps an exam is in order. I was there from Sunday night until today (Tuesday) morning. They ask you to bring your own glasses if possible and there are no hospital gowns. It is quaint and slightly bizarre. After I told them I felt fine, really, can I please go home, they agreed — they agreed by saying “yes, you can go home, after one more night”.
The beautiful, lovely thing was that I didn’t pay anyone when I left. No, my paperwork in order allows me free medical. I love it. No worries about getting thousands of dollars worth of bills in the mail. Even the ambulance ride (past the Duomo no doubt) was free.
Fine now. Sorry I didn’t tell anyone but I didn’t want to worry you. As I told my director here, I’ve been released back into the wild where I belong.