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Published: December 7th 2006
I think that to really get to know a culture, it’s quite necessary to pay a nice visit to their medical facilities. For the past little while I’ve been having this problem with my eye where I really can’t see very well, especially out of my left eye, which is definitely kind of a problem. The school decided it was time to take me to the hospital to have it looked at, so I was driven to the hospital right outside of Siena, to the ‘pronto soccorso’ or emergency facility. They directed us downstairs to the eye specialist and, after explaining my status as an American student and filling out the necessary paperwork, I took my seat in the waiting room (ok, so it was actually quite more of a waiting hallway, but anyway..). Now, from my seat in the waiting hallway, I had a great view of everything that was going on (or, to be truthful, not going on). Even though I was the only one waiting, and there seemed to be a number of doctors in the ‘ambulatorio oculisto,’ the eye examination office, I still had to sit and wait for a little while. After a little, they called
my name (by this time, I was on my own, although my host mother was very sweet and came by a little later to sit in on part of the examination and listen to what they said).
So, I went into this big, depressing room where there was a doctor and his assistant. They asked me what the problem was (I had planned out how to describe my problem in Italian before going in to make it go a little more smoothly), and then told me to take a seat. Well, I sat down and put my bag down...almost right into a puddle of water on the floor, which I pointed out, expecting that someone might want to clean it up, but they were like, “Yeah, it’s just water.” They then proceeded together to give me a little vision examination, the kind of thing where I had to read the letters on the screen, but I really had trouble seeing even the fairly larger ones (and I would get a little confused because I wasn’t sure whether to pronounce the letters in English or Italian). Maybe the eye doctor felt bad for me, I’m not really sure, but I’ve
The cathedral in Siena
They had been doing construction on the facade for the whole time I had been here, and they just uncovered it last week...
never had an eye doctor begin helping me cheat during a vision test. He started giving me hints about the letters, telling me to try again if I got it wrong, and at times starting to sound out the letter for me, which, with a letter, doesn’t really leave that much room for guessing. He then started looking in my eye with these bright lights (when he first took out this little red circular light, I didn’t know what it was and got kind of freaked out so I backed away- really, it’s quite scary to have a little Italian man coming at your eye with a mysterious looking red gadget). He got really annoyed at me when I pulled away and started muttering irritated things to me in Italian. When he didn’t see anything wrong with my eye, they decided to dilate my pupil (luckily the words in Italian for ‘dilate’ and ‘pupil’ are very similar to the English, so I wasn’t too freaked out when they started putting the drops in my eyes). They told me to go back out in the hallway and wait ten minutes for my pupils to finish dilating, so I of course obliged.
Interestingly, the doctor then took his bag and left the office...and didn’t return for about 50 minutes. I’m not sure if he went on his lunch break or just needed a little personal time, but eventually he came back, only to peak in my eyes for about 8 seconds, deciding that everything was fine and that I have no urgent problems (because obviously not really being able to see out of one eye isn’t really very urgent, I mean, come on, I’ve got another...). The doctor just said that I am probably stressed. They decided that I should return the next day for some kind of OCT test where they take pictures of my retina to see if anything is abnormal, and I decided not to go. To pay for the emergency visits here, you get a ticket when you check in that you are then supposed to take to some other payment building when you leave the hospital. Because I thought I would be returning to the hospital the next day, and there was a very long, snaky line in the said payment building, I decided that I would just wait and pay everything when I returned, but since
I didn’t go back, I’m wondering what will happen if I just don’t pay at all. I figure, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ve had such a rewarding experience visiting the emergency room, I can’t even imagine how fruitful a visit to the local prison might be.
Deciding it would probably be best to see someone else, my school made me a private appointment, so on Friday I went to this wonderful eye doctor right near my house. She didn’t speak any English and I went by myself, but everything went pretty smoothly (except that when I was trying to read the letters, I couldn’t think of the word for blurry in Italian, so I got very poetic and told her that it looked like I was looking through a cloud). She gave me a very thorough eye examination (complete with putting this color stuff in my eyes so she could see my corneas more clearly. When she said the words for what she was doing and started to put these little color swabs in my eyes, I didn't fully understand and got really freaked out and nauseous and had to sit back for a few minutes..). She
told me that I have lesions on my corneas, perhaps from my contacts, and gave me a number of different drops that I’ve been putting in my eyes three times a day (one of them smells kind of bad and burns my eyes, but it's helping), and my vision has definitely improved a lot.
Last weekend we took trips with school to Florence, San Quirico, Monte Oliveto, and Bagno Vignoni, and we had great weather both Saturday and Sunday. Here are just a few of the pictures I took of all of these Tuscan towns.....
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