Posted by: debrakolkka | October 14, 2010

A medical emergency

We had a medical emergency in the middle of the night recently.  It hasn’t happened before and we were a little unsure of what to do.  When it became obvious we couldn’t handle the problem alone we decided to call an ambulance.

We were very impressed with the response from the man who answered our call  to Emergenza Sanitaria at 118.  I gave him my surname and he immediately came back with my christian name, address and telephone number.  He told me an ambulance would arrive soon to take the patient to the hospital.

What happened next was a farce.  We may be able to laugh about it in the future but at 4.00am in a difficult situation it was not amusing.  The ambulance went to the wrong bridge – there is only one Ponte a Serraglio – but they managed to be in the wrong village.  The voice on the phone asked why I could not see the ambulance on the bridge.   I replied that there was no ambulance on the bridge.  The voice assured me that they were on the bridge.  I repeated the address several times and included descriptions of nearby businesses.  The voice kept insisting that I should be able to see them.  Two words came to mind – headless chooks.   I have no idea why they didn’t check with the person who gave them directions in the first place.  He may have known where they were.  I certainly didn’t.

The ambulance finally arrived and the 3 attendants were excellent.  They transported the patient down the steps and into the ambulance in a very short time and soon the patient was enroute to Lucca hospital. In the ambulance they took his temperature and blood pressure and once at the hospital he was admitted in record time.

The staff at the hospital were very efficient, if a little abrupt.  The doctor, in the end turned out to be very caring and kind, and it was perhaps our scant knowledge of Italian medical terms and her reticence to speak what she considered to be her bad English which made her seem abrupt.  She diagnosed the problem promptly, the correct medication was administered and our patient was soon on the mend.

It would pay to have a plan of action in cases like this.  I have intended to put emergancy numbers by the phone, but of course hadn’t done it.  I will now.


  1. Everything ok now with the patient, Debra???

    • Yes, our patient is recovering nicely. Though confusing at times, the hospital did everything they should have done. I would be confident about being treated at Lucca hospital should the need arise.

  2. Glad all ok now – it must have been rather frightening…

  3. Thanks for the information, Deb, scary, funny and invaluable as it happened. Glad that the patient recovered well in the end. Good to know what to do in a crisis and a learning experience when living in a different country.

  4. Oh i am glad it was sorted in the end but you dont have to be overseas for such errors…. Even here in our city with 000 having calls from all over the country the emergency crew can go to the wrong place…. or even the wrong state….. Lots of rest now for both the patient and the attendee… you both deserve a good cuppa and maybe a wine in a few days… V

  5. Oh my…., awful situation & very worrysome…, good thing tho that now you’ve got emergency numbers all in the right places. Glad the patient is fine too.

  6. I had to call an ambulance in Tuscany for one of my people on tour. they came and took the patient to Grossetto hospital, all went well. at the time worrying but even more so for an Australian admitted to hospital with no Italian language skill.Roz

  7. This is really a great post. When we have to think in English we haven’t these problems of what to do, or what numbers to call. I will be making an emergency list this afternoon, quick thinking in Italian hasn’t come to me yet. One day soon I hope. Glad everything turned out for the better.

    • It was a bit scary at the time, but the treatment in Lucca hospital was excellent.

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