The Gap Life Diaries | The Italian A&E Experience
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The Italian A&E Experience

As some of you may have gathered from my numerous moaning Facebook statuses of late, a pesky wisdom tooth has been giving me significant grief in the last few days.

After spending an awful lot of time and money in various pharmacies around Turin, gradually amassing an impressive range of pain killers and multi-coloured mouthwashes, yesterday, after four days of almost no sleep whatsoever, I decided enough was enough and grudgingly had The Greek accompany me to A&E, despite my general (and so far completely unfounded) distrust of foreign hospitals, knowing that at least an amusing experience was bound to be had.

Here’s how it went:

We walk up to the reception desk where a long grey-haired gentleman strolls towards us from a back room at an extremely leisurely pace for an emergency department. After answering his mobile mid-way through trying to assist us, he tells us that the dentist is nowhere to be seen, but that if I fancy waiting, somebody could probably give me some painkillers today and I can come back at ungodly o’clock in the morning tomorrow to see the dentist. This sounds good enough to me, so I take a ticket (which seems to be standard practice in this country given that nobody can be trusted to form any kind of unsupervised queue) and we sit and play on my clock-with-games (also known as a mobile, but this one for various confusing reasons currently lacks the communication function) until I’m finally called through to see somebody.

The somebody in question is a young doctor sat behind a desk, who laughs incredulously when I pronounce my surname, and informs me it’d be much quicker if I just give him a document of some kind if my name is going to be so tricky to spell. As I hand over my EHIC card (I knew that little blighter would come in handy sooner or later), he asks me where abouts in England I’m from. Bit inappropriate, I think, seeing as he’s barely asked me what I’m here for, but I obligingly tell him that I’m from the South West, and that no, it is nowhere near a city he will have heard of. He starts to blither on about having been to London once, and hands me the number 350 on a piece of green card, telling me to go back to the waiting room until I’m called again.

Mere moments after sitting down, I’m approached by Mr. Long Grey Hair, who sheepishly asks for my EHIC again, because the chatty doctor was so busy regaling me with his holiday stories that he actually forgot to write down my details. Awkward.

After another little while of practicing my skills on Subway Surfer, I’m called through to a room with a nice lady doctor in it. She asks me what’s wrong, and without actually looking inside my mouth for proof that I’m not making the whole story up for some codeine, writes me a prescription for some painkillers. Meanwhile, a small man dressed in blue appears from the back of the room, takes a plastic cup, fills it with something or other, hands it to me, says, “wait for it to dissolve properly” and walks off again. I could only assume that I was supposed to drink the effervescent mystery potion that had been thrust into my hands, despite nobody actually telling me to, so down it went and off I trotted to the pharmacy, ever so slightly woozy from the drugs but at least in somewhat less pain.

Let’s skip to today. I wake up at well before 7am for The Greek to take me back down to the hospital where the dental department has implemented yet another fantastic ticketing system whereby the first 25 to get a ticket are seen to, and the rest must come back another time.

Appointments start at 8, but the tickets are available from 7:30. Cue the first display of Italians turning up early that I’ve ever seen.

First up I must guess which button to press to see the correct doctor, but pot luck is on my side, and lucky ticket number 17 is spat from the machine at me, guaranteeing my appointment. Phew.

After waiting amongst a lot of old ladies griping about their toothaches, and feeling quite grim from my painkiller cocktail, I’m called through to what I presume will be my appointment, but is in fact just a miserable woman behind a desk asking me for identification.

Seeing as the EHIC worked the day before, I hand it to her, to be met with an icy glare and a rude remark about how she has no use for this and needs my identity card. I hand her my drivers license and detect a subtle hint of some eyes rolling as she quite explicitly asked for an identity card and yet the foreign imbecile wasting her time has handed her a completely different document. I look at her apologetically as she mutters about how this won’t really do either as she needs my codice fiscale. Luckily, this was printed on the prescription from yesterday which is crumpled at the bottom of my pocket. I pass it to her as she mumbles something along the lines of “finally”.

I’m sent back to do some more waiting.

After quite a long time of sitting on some very cold steps, I’m called through to see an actual medical professional.

I walk through the door, and the doctor (who has absolutely no information about me) just presumes I want him to whip a tooth out so asks if that’s what I’m there for.

Slightly taken aback, I try to explain that my wisdom tooth is coming through and is, well, excruciatingly painful, and I’d like him to do something about that, but that no, I’d like him to keep his instruments of torture far from my mouth for today, thanks.

Our interaction was as follows:

“Upper or lower?”, he asks.
“Lower”
“Open your mouth”

At this point he sticks his little gloved finger into my mouth for what is surely no longer than a nanosecond, and then makes the ever so reassuring sound, “Ahia!” (that’s ‘ouch’ to you and me) and goes to sit back at his desk, leaving me slightly confusedly lying on the chair, having hoped the almost three hours of wait would result in a slightly more thorough examination.

He then tells me I’ll need some antibiotics, and sends me on my way, saying absolutely nothing about anything else, and giving me the distinct impression that he’d like to get on with the remaining 8 people he has to deal with.

Slightly dumbfounded, I fail to ask any relevant questions, and see myself out, finding a punto giallo to resentfully pay the €23 that I owe for the experience, and going to spend yet more money on my medicine from the pharmacy.

Thanks, Italy. Your medical system really is a treat.

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