The Schadenfreude Saga Continues

If you’re just joining the saga of my fall in Greece, you may want to start at the beginning. And be advised that many of the photos are on the disturbing side.

The insurance company’s doctor called me the following Monday, and I described to him that there was some improvement over the weekend but that the bruising was spreading quite a bit and moving the leg was still very painful. He decided that he wouldn’t be able to declare me fit to fly without more information than he could get examining me in my hotel room, so he contacted the insurance company and had them arrange for me to be seen at a private clinic. The clinic sent a car for me, and the driver was most helpful in getting me checked in for the exam and explaining the paperwork to me.

My vitals being fine, the doctor ordered a sonogram and an INR check. My INR actually came back low, but not dangerously so, so he bumped up my warfarin dose a bit. And the sonogram came back negative for DVT or any other worries. I was fit to fly! I forked over a few hundred Euro, and they faxed everything to the insurance company and summoned my driver back. Things were definitely looking up!

Tuesday morning the insurance company came back with the decision that I needed to fly business class and should leave directly from Athens, and they suggested a flight nurse. I thought that was a dandy idea, as my leg was looking like this: IMG_20160503_091614Yep, still extremely painful and swollen and blistery. And there is more bruising on the foot than there had been. Though at this point there is starting to be some give when I press on the skin, and it is feeling slightly less like I stuck my leg in a bonfire. By the end of the day, they had arranged for a nurse to arrive in Athens the next evening and escort me home on Thursday.

Wednesday I decided that I was not leaving Athens without seeing the Antikythera mechanism, dammit. Which, of course, was not anywhere near my hotel. It is displayed at the National Archaeological Museum, and my only real option was to take a taxi. I had the hotel call me one, and it was fine. Gaining entrance to the building was a bit more of a challenge: IMG_20160504_143452Athens is really not designed with disabled people in mind. I’m sure there was a disabled entrance, but I still couldn’t tell you where it was.

I wish I had been in better shape, because it really is a great museum and I would have loved to spend many hours there. As it was, I had a bit of a treasure hunt finding the mechanism. Nothing on the museum map said “Antikythera Shipwreck Artifacts Right Here” with big arrows pointing to it, and the website suggested that the artifacts were no longer in a shipwreck-specific display. After wandering about the main level a bit, I asked one of the museum staff, and she made vague gestures on the map and couldn’t seem to decide which level it was on, so I began methodically searching the rooms with promising titles like “Metalwork Collection.” I finally located an empty display case where some of the Antikythera items used to be, and it provided clues to the gallery I sought: IMG_20160504_132956

I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was fascinating. I spent far too much time wrapped up in the mysteries of the mechanism, so by the time I was ready to leave, I was in quite a lot of pain.

I located an elevator to the cafe/gift shop level and spent a while relaxing there as I decided just how I was going to get back to my hotel. Walking even as far as the Metro station was out of the question. As I exited the building, I had decided to try Uber, but there were three taxis sitting in front of the museum. So I took one.

Huge mistake. Yooge! Long story short, as the driver was dropping me off — nearly two blocks from my hotel — and I quickly recognized that he was cheating me in at least three different ways, something in my brain clicked: You are a disabled female trapped in a vehicle with a man you cannot trust. Forget the fucking change. Give the man a bunch of money and get the fuck out of this car NOW. Next time, I will totally try Uber.

To Be Continued…


Schadenfreude, Part II

In yesterday’s post I showed the leg a few hours after injury and then just the knee the next day. Y’ain’t seen nuthin yet. So if you’re squeamish, like me, you might want to surf away to something more pleasant.

The travel insurance company suggested I ask the new hotel if they had a doctor on call who could come to my room and do the evaluation. They did, and he arrived shortly thereafter. He cut the leg wrap away, and this is what he found: IMG_20160428_154838At this point the swelling was still rock-solid, to the point that I couldn’t really bend the knee much at all, and moving the leg was extremely painful. You can also see some blisters beginning to form due to the swelling.

I got the INR lecture again, along with an admonishment for travelling alone. He prescribed a round of antibiotics and some heparin gel, told me to keep the leg elevated as much as possible, even when going out for meals, and to refrain from walking more than 10 minutes at a time. He recommended I return home as soon as I could arrange a flight and wrote me out a “fit to fly” note.

He gave me some notes for the insurance company, but he, too, refused to complete their paperwork. He nattered on about official documentation approvals from the Greek government and how the insurance company would have to get everything from the KAT’s administrative offices after a few weeks because doctors don’t do ::gasp:: paperwork. Just writing out the credit card receipt for his 100-Euro fee was offense enough to his professional status. The theme of his rant was an interesting combination of “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a secretary,” and “Fuck this American bullshit.”

Merolia arrived shortly after the doctor left, and she was able to get the antibiotics prescription filled for me. After trying several different pharmacies, though, she was finally informed that heparin gel is no longer an actual thing, so arnica cream was substituted.

I emailed everything to the insurance company, and they weren’t satisfied with his rather limited examination notes. For one thing, he didn’t have a pulse oximeter, and that was a clearly stated deal-breaker for them. So they decided to take matters into their own hands, and they sent me a doctor of their choosing the next day. He took one look at my leg and said, “You are not fit to fly.” He confirmed that I was taking antibiotics and elevating the leg whenever possible, and he filled out the paperwork (including all the required vitals!) and sent it to the insurance company along with a pretty picture of my leg. (It looked and felt much the same as the previous day, so I didn’t take my own photo.) He said he would have to re-evaluate on the following Monday. So here you can see the progression over the holiday weekend:

In the Saturday photo, you can see the colors deepening and the blisters growing. In the Sunday photos, you can see the yellowing of the bruises as well as the shifting of the lividity. You can see where one of the blisters popped and bled, but the others are still growing. Quite painfully, I might add. Throughout the weekend, the most painful part was moving the leg into a vertical position. Once I did that, walking was not all that bad.

To Be Continued…


Your Schadenfreude for the Day

So, I went to Athens, Greece, for the 2016 BookCrossing Anniversary Convention last month. It was awesome. More on that later. The plan was to spend a few more days sightseeing in Athens, maybe hop an island or two, then head on to Italy and France for an adventure by rail before returning home. ::sigh:: Yeah, that last part didn’t happen.

On what was supposed to be my last full day in Athens, I was checking out the Ancient Agora. I had just entered the site and taken a few photos. Like this one: IMG_20160427_143340 And then suddenly, I know not why, I pitched forward onto the lightly pebbled path and landed on all fours. But mostly on my left knee. A staff member and a bystander rushed over to me. We determined that I didn’t seem to have broken any bones, and they helped me to my feet, gathered my things, and got me to a bench out of the sun. Dimitria (the staffer) brought me some nice cold water and chatted with me for a bit while I rubbed my knees and reassured her that I was probably just a little bruised. After all, my jeans had escaped damage save for a very tiny hole below the knee, so I probably hadn’t even broken the skin. (I was wrong about this.)

Eventually, I decided that I had done what I could to ease the pain in my left leg, so I might as well see at least part of the site. I was in the Stoa of Attalos, and that seemed as good a place as any to start. I wandered around the lower level and then discovered the stairs to the second level. They were absurdly steep, but I limped up them, holding onto the railing for dear life and hoping there was a way down that wouldn’t give me vertigo. And I was rewarded with this view: 13147459_10153545498886127_5055401417790637681_oI was relieved to find a non-vertiginous set of stairs at the other end and made my way back down.

My leg had gone from hurting (which, being no stranger to chronic pain, I can cope with fairly easily) to feeling Very Wrong Indeed. So after a brief stop into the gift shop for postcards, I decided to make my way back to my hotel. You know one way to tell you have crippling social anxiety? You have a leg that is damaged in some unknown and possibly severe way, but you don’t know how to hail a taxi, so you limp back to your hotel nearly a kilometer away. (Yes, Pete, I have since installed Uber on my phone.) But I digress.

And here I suppose I should post a Trigger Warning: No more pretty pictures. From here on out you get to see what an arterial bleed looks like. Which could be useful if you are a writer trying to accurately describe such an injury over the course of a few weeks. Or maybe you’re just a sicko who wants to revel in my pain.

I limped into the lobby and explained my predicament to the nice lady at the front desk, and she quickly fetched me a bag of ice and called the elevator for me. Once in my room, I took off my jeans and assessed the damage: IMG_20160427_171545Doesn’t look too bad, right? But what you can’t tell, since I normally have very large, muscular calves, is that the entire bruised part of the left knee is burning hot and swollen rock solid. I’m also at this point wondering how in the heck I got all those scrapes without seriously damaging my jeans. And I’m thinking that my BookCrossing friend Merolia is not going to take me shopping in the Syntagma area that evening.

I was right about that. Merolia arrived and agreed that I should see a doctor instead. I contacted my travel insurance company, and they advised me to consult the hotel front desk about a medical facility and then re-contact them to file a claim for reimbursement. Merolia and the front desk staff determined that I should go to the KAT hospital, which specializes in orthopaedic medicine, and they arranged for a taxi. Merolia accompanied me, and I am so glad she did. I would have been lost without her.

The ER doctor at KAT ordered x-rays and determined that I had no fractures. His conjecture was that the pain was caused by an enormous hematoma pushing the patella into a bad position. He wrapped the leg, lectured me on the folly of travelling abroad with a high INR (that makes sense if you know anything about warfarin therapy), flat refused to complete the insurance paperwork, and told me to ice the leg and stay off of it for a week. I flat refused to do that and explained my ambitious itinerary. He rolled his eyes at me and released me back to Merolia’s care. Merolia got me back to my hotel, brought me some dinner and a fresh ice-pack, and promised to return the next day.

I was at a loss as to what to do next. I emailed the insurance company what little paperwork I had, but as the KAT is a public hospital, there was no charge for them to reimburse. And nothing from the ER doctor but a hastily scribbled reassurance that I hadn’t broken my leg. The hotel was completely booked for the following night, but it was becoming clear that I was not leaving Athens the next day, so I got myself booked in for the next night at the hotel next door.

After breakfasting the next morning, I moved next door (with the gracious assistance of the lovely hotel staff), and then I dared to take a peek under the wrapping: IMG_20160428_131858

To Be Continued…