We’ve been holed up in the apartment for days. Tom and Ray have missed a week of school. It’s easy to feel vulnerable in a foreign country when you’re sick. All the usual comforts are thousands of miles away. I don’t recognize the brands of medicine. I don’t know all the right words in Italian for our symptoms. And we hadn’t even met a doctor.
Until today. We dug up the number that Matt had found way back in August and gave him a ring.
The doctor answered the phone and listened to my attempts at describing everyone’s problems: coughs, sore throats, congestion, night sweat, fatigue, etc. He concluded that we all have the flu and recommended a symptom reducer called Paracetamolo, and then asked me to call back in four days if we weren’t better. So Matt ran across the street to pick it up. Ten minutes after taking it, Ray had a stomach ache, Tom had a headache and I felt vertigo. So I called him back to ask if this was all a normal reaction to the medicine. He said it has nothing to do with the medicine and that these were all classic flu symptoms.
I kept asking questions. He sensed my apprehension. He finally agreed to see us.
There are several differences between doctor visits in Italy and the US. The biggest is obviously the fact that Italy has a universal healthcare system; every citizen is entitled see a doctor, and it doesn’t cost anything for an appointment. And anyone, including an Italian, a tourist, or an undocumented immigrant, gets free emergency room treatment as long as he or she needs while in Italy. Another difference is that doctors make house calls when a patient is sick. So today, we didn’t even need to leave the apartment.
He arrived at our door with his satchel and notebook. We took turns breathing for him while he listened to our lungs for signs of pneumonia or bronchitis. After a few other tests, he recommended that we continue with the medicine and stay put in the apartment with lots of warmth until Monday. Perugia is just full of the flu right now, he said. He stayed for a little while and told us about his relatives who live in New York. He will check on us again Saturday if we want.
In the meantime, I’m in pajamas on the couch listening to tiny, whiney violins playing in my head. Italy is right out our door, but the energy to walk down and up the 89 stairs is too much. To pass the time and escape the frustrations of confinement and isolation, we’ve been renting lighthearted movies set in modern Italy (but only those that are available on iTunes, which is very limiting). Here are a few we’ve seen, in order from good to horrible: Mid August Lunch; To Rome with Love; Under the Tuscan Sun; Eat, Pray, Love; Salt of Life; and Letters from Juliet (really dumb). We’ve also watched all six of the Star Wars movies. (Scenes from Epsiode I and II were filmed in Italy.)
The prognosis is for three more days under covers. Please send movie recommendations.