The travel tales – Florentine fear factor

By Béibhinn Thorsch

Inthe summer of 2016 my family and I went to Italy for the first time. The trip was preceded by a stay in hospital for me, and which led to an unforgettable experience which I have now decided to call  a “Florentine fear factor”.

Before jetting to Italy I was suffering from gallstones which meant that I had to be careful with what I did and what I ate. I was allowed leave hospital to go on holiday on the condition that I stay on a diet that wouldn’t aggravate my gallstones and this meant I had to stay on a very low fat intake – not easy when going to the land of pizza and gelato.

If I made a mistake on this diet, I would have been left curled up in agony and maybe have to have the date for the operation to remove my gallstones would have been pushed back, so I was fully committed as we ventured first to Florence, then Rome and then Pisa.

I was shocked and consumed with dread when the familiar pain in my abdomen hit the second evening in Florence.

Unable to lie down or stay still in bed, I went to the bathroom to try to get sick. I took some medicine just before my mother found me. The ambulance arrived soon after.

On the journey to the hospital, the driver announced we would be going to the oldest active hospital in Italy. The outside resembled some of the tourist sites we had visited during our trip, but the waiting room was dark and unfamiliar. It had two homeless men sleeping in it.

Over in the ward a nurse came to take blood. The room was dark to keep other patients undisturbed, which led to the multiple prods of a big needle into me which were unsuccessful. It hurt enough for me to know something wasn’t right.

Suddenly four nurses were either side of me, my mother next to me, all watching as needles were stuck in and taken out, swung in semi circles back and forth like the throttle gauge on an F1 car.  I had been so proud of my ability to take a needle up to that point, and yet now I was crying silently and only yelping each time another needle was prodded into me.

When the nurse started holding me down my mother started asking for them to stop as I mouthed to her that I couldn’t take it anymore. Still unsuccessful, another nurse finally intervened and shouted at them to stop.

My arms were covered in cotton wool and tape, the bruising remained for weeks. However this ordeal didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of my adventures around Italy which were amazing.

Béibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Laura Duffy