This post is about my first trip to A&E in Athens. Before I recount the tale, however, I should say that my experience of British A&E is (fortunately) limited to one occasion when I lived in Wales. On said occasion, my boyfriend decided at 5 o’clock in the morning that he was dying, so we rushed up to the hospital. We waited quite a long time in a roomful of drunk people, who had managed to injure themselves in various ways, before being seen by a doctor. This doctor couldn’t speak very good English and insisted, all evidence to the contrary, that my boyfriend had a STD (probably because he was a student, so he was obviously having lots of unprotected sex with promiscuous strangers). In the end, it turned out to be a kidney stone so, all in all, Greek A&E (for me) didn’t have much to live up to.
Now, the Greek Experience …. I had gone for a walk with my parents-in-law and my daughter on a Sunday evening. We had just been to the 50 cent rides outside the kiosk and were happily swinging the child about, because kids like that, on the way to the cafeteria. Suddenly my daughter started screaming her head off. Now, for those of you who don’t know her, my little girl is pretty tough. Nine times out of ten, when she falls over, she thinks it’s funny. And if she does hurt herself, she rarely cries for more than twenty seconds. Heck, I’ve seen this child fall out of patio doors onto her face and she was laughing two minutes later (not to suggest I’m a bad mother or anything, but these things happen ….)
So, there we are in the central square of Ilion with an inconsolable child, clutching her arm and wailing. It transpired she could move her fingers, so therefore nothing was broken (the sum of my medical knowledge, I’m afraid), but she couldn’t move her arm and, if someone else moved it for her, the screaming redoubled. We put ice on the arm, which she held there for a while and then ate, and we decided we had better take her to a doctor.
While we were waiting for my husband to bring the car, various friends and acquaintances appeared. They all did their own brief medical examination and then bought my daughter a bar of chocolate or a lollipop, so she did quite well out of it, although she was too upset to notice at the time. Once we had the car, we then had a further discussion about which A&E to go to (it now being 8.30 on a Sunday evening), in terms of distance and likely waiting times. Eventually, we decided on Penteli, which is on the eastern edge of Athens, in the foothills of the mountains. It takes about half an hour to get there, along the Attiki Odos, although my father-in-law (who had been holding The Arm in question at the time The Incident occurred) managed it in about 20 minutes.
Penteli Hospital is specifically for children and, when we got there, we saw a family coming out with a girl – probably about 12 years old – who had her leg in plaster. Apart from that, we saw no other patients. We literally walked straight in and the receptionist pointed us to orthopaedics. A nurse then pointed us to the correct room and a man in green scrubs called us inside. We told him what had happened, he stood up, did a sort of Chinese-burn-type movement on my daughter’s left forearm, which made her scream blue murder, and sat down again.
“Lift your arm up,” he said to her. “Can you lift your arm up?”
She was a bit reluctant to try this, but we tempted her with a bunch of keys, and up came the arm. No pain. Needless to say, she was delighted (as were we) and spent the next hour waving expressively to everyone and shouting “geia sou!” and pretending to play the drums.
The doctor explained that a tendon had moved from its rightful place in the wrist as a result of the swinging. This is apparently quite common in children, probably because no one tells us parents that they shouldn’t swing their kids around, or let them wear tight things (like hairbands) around their wrists, until they’re 13 and the tendons have stopped growing. So now you know.
The upshot of all this was that I was very impressed with the Greek A&E experience (which, by the way, is free for kids – I didn’t even need to give my name or IKA number). Although my father-in-law did say that, if we had gone to central Athens, it would have been a different story. We also got some fantastic cake on the way home because my father-in-law was so relieved, and because we just so happened to be driving past THE BEST bakery in Athens; Despina. (Which was open, of course, past 9 on a Sunday night). My daughter got a cup-cake (decorated in front of us and filled with chocolate fondant) and we bought milfeȉk, which was just amazing (and, the best part, had a label on the lid saying it should be consumed within 3 hours of purchase to be eaten at its best). Here is a picture of the box because, at the time of writing, no cake remains:
Anyway, this story doesn’t really prove anything, it’s just an experience. I can’t compare Greek and British A&E on the basis of one visit in each country. However, this story does have a moral, applicable worldwide; don’t swing your children and, if you do, do it in Greece because there’s cake at the end.