29 May 2011


iaso logoSounds like malaise afflicting nurses and cleaners. This is more how to behave when hospitalised and above all how loved ones should comport themselves while hanging around waiting for crumbs of information from the olympian staff.

I have recently minded my mother thru a minor op and the greatest danger to the success of the mission was the bleating cry-baby blubbering text messages from my brother somewhere in the France Italy region. Apart from shredding my nerves and patience with the sheer irrelevance and nuisance value of his messages, it drained my own phone of juice when I needed it most to liaise with friends in the area and the medical staff itself.

And don't plead panic and concern on his behalf: I had surgery of the majorest in a top Seattle clinic and my girl Anna was instinctively perfect. Invisible, attentive, agile - every document and contact number right there. In fact, everyone was on form for my slicing and excising.

I've just done a week in Iaso General Hospital, Xolargos, Athens, minding mama and working with the superb staff to ensure they had everything they needed from our end to do their job with full data from mum's Corfu docs.

It was a complicated, urgent - very delicate for her age - procedure and each specialist needed certain information at various stages of their work - and I was at the end of my phone to provide or get it.

  • Precise doses of each medication
  • Scans and records thru the years
  • General medical history and the like
  • Everything.

    My hotel was 10 mins bus ride up in Pareskevi, on the only bus that, every 15 mins, did the full route to the Iaso.

    My bag was of that breed that allows you to find everything you don't need and never what you do - think cell phone, notebook and pen. Oh, and never my wallet.

    My mother was the perfect patient and I was the perfect companion, issuing crisp instructions where to sit and wait, what was going to be needed, what I was leaving to do and how long it might take; providing exactly what was needed to check in and guarding my mother's energy and making sure that everyone moved at her speed and strength.

    Check-ins take time and the juggernaut system is not to be hurried, unless you want to annoy the staff and be sent back to square one. It is not a job to do without both hands free and the mind calm and confident.

    At the far end of mum's perfect patienting was my brother: not just mewling needy texting from Italy but at the precise Perfect Storm timing when I needed least to be sidetracked or to have my cell draining.

    In fact, no thanks to his messages - each of which needed opening in case it was one of Doctor Fereti's staff - my cell ran dry and i ended up recharging at Athens airport and forgetting the phone in the flurry of securing a wheelchair.

    Olympic Airways babe - "But your wheelchair is coming. Must patient. They have your name."

    Me: But they dont ask a name. A wheelchair comes, I ask 'Holmes? For Holmes?', they spot someone who looks more needy and closer to death, and they ignore me and go to him her.

    And these other people on death's doorstep, they probably a mere 85. Chickens!'

    Funny. We'd checked in and Mum was sitting dozing and the chief check-in honcha - think Jeanne Moreau - came out and said, 'We are all talking how we cannot believe your age and your beauty.' Mum almost outta it but I thanked Jeanne and leapt at the chance to confide thru the glass that M was v tired so ... the sooner she could get to the horizontal ... ya know?

    "Let me see ... but she was check in 20 minutes! She should be ..."
    Bark gesture, minion scamper.

    "Thank you SO much"
    "But no! she wait too long!"
    Bark gesture gamma ray glares.

    Mama safely abed, I went to Dottore Feteris' office to make my mark with the true boss, his assistante. I am so unpushy and patient that she calls Feteris himself out and I hand over the docs I have which he hardly glances at and tells me the precise hour at which he will be visiting my mother.

    "I think she will have a room in-"
    "217", I tell him. He gives me that appraising look that Lords of the Universe give potential trouble makers.

    To his staff: "Lady Holmes, pou einai; Loipon; Your mother is in room 217."
    I nod and note it in my book.

    All this while, my cell bleats and tugs at my sleeve - my brother with useless message queries.

    There is your business - the hospital staff are totally focused. While we are talking, and their phones ring, they glance and ignore or instruct a fellow staffer to handle it. My phone goes,they say 'There is your business' and the next thing, they are gone.

    Every single valued hard-won meeting with an expert was fucked up by my phone going, my bleating frère, and don't say I could have turned it off because it could have been another doctor, 'Yes, Doctor Panteboy, I am with Doctor G now. I pass to her.'

    Like KY klockwork, but I needed to match their attention and dedication.

    0730 hrs - scurrying for bus in response to cardiologist call. Cell burps, which I burrow for as the A5 rumbles past. Frigging frere: 'Remind me what sort of op mum is in for'

    Classic: 20.00 hrs as i head home. "Doesn't mum have a bed phone? Please let me know" Grrr - if i had known it i would have sent it. I get the number and message it.

    Next day, 0850 ~ finally I get Mr Big of accounts, he's encircled and bombarded. Just as I have his attention ~ phone. Bleat drivel whine.

    'There is your business,' says Daddy Bigbucks, and he's gone.

    It's my bro,

    "No answer. Why can't I talk to mum?"

    Well, I don't know why you can't talk to mum. I'm down here trying to fix more urgent matters ... maybe she's on the loo? Doctors on their rounds, mebbe? I have no fucking clue why you can't get thru.

    I can think of only one other person who'd've behaved that way: my mother's own cuddly mum, dear apple pie Granny, and she would have ended,

    "All right. I'll try to be patient."

    Calls from my gals - "

    Dad! Is this a good time? Thought that 10pm might be OK. Thanks for your texts, glad Ya-Ya is doing ok. Tell her we love her. Won't bother you again. What's that music? Dad! Are you with a date? Why not? Tell her your mom is in hospital and you're alone outta town. Go for the sympathy lay. Love you, dad - you're a hero, hope Ya-Ya appreciates it."

    Wham bam crisp. Leave the decks clear for action.

    As I commented to Georgina about her blather-text uncle,

    "And this is the unilateral choice, entrusted behind our backs, to administer your and Anna's section of my will?"
    Jesus is not the only one dripping croc larmes.

    So many good stories ... I was organsing the payment - a puny €9,000 for the best and bravest - and was told to wait 10 mins which turned into 1 hr, of course - so I snapped this notice for my girls to show that it ain't just them who use the grocer's apostrophe - and was asked not to photograph.

    Loipon, just at that moment along comes the cardio who'd praised my accent and told me that I reminded him of his Oxford days. He asks what I'm doing and I tell him I'm breaking the rules and recording the notice as a lesson for my American daughters.

    He looks puzzled and then it dawns,

    "But surely, it comes after the 's'? Many patients?"

    "Unless," I tell him, "this is my mother's personal pay-in desk".

    Much literate laughter, followed by summoning of the boss accountant: how can a major hospital have such illiterate signage? Poh poh gesture rap of notice.

    'Never in your Oxford, nai;'

    I assure him it is above all in 'my Oxford'.

    "So, Lady Holmes is leaved?"
    "Just arranging the payment details"
    "But Lady Holmes [they adored the title, rolled it round their tongues with many a gargled H] ... she is checked out from ten of clock ..."
    "And now the payment."

    Oh poh poh, poh poh! The Universe Lords dont meddle with sordid payment so here they are finding how the bean counters drag their heels. I am whisked from the payment counter before Fetéris sweeps by to bid farewell to Mum and wonders why I am still cooling heels at the money changers.

    San Savvy

    1. Let the minder do the job, including briefings and updates
    2. You're not the only one worried and concerned: the medics are equally dedicated to a smooth outcome. Live with it.
    3. If you didn't ask for the background facts before, don't waste others' time on basic homework. Live with it.
    4. Quelle heure? ~ what time is it with the person whose time you're taking up?
    5. Given the updates you've been receiving, might not the answer to yr question be coming asap?
    6. FFS don't waste time acknowledging. It takes as long to scrabble for a phone to read 'Thanks' as it does to take a call or message from someone who might actually matter in the whole scheme and who is asking something important.
  • Good Rule of Thumb ~ Don't be such a Big Girl's Blouse. Just shut the fuck up and let the ones on the spot do their jobs and get back to you when they have the luxury of time to report back in full.

    My cell was handed in to Athens airport lost property and it's being courier'd over.

    Not just for my girls, not just for my attorney, I will post online as a caveat each and every bleating message, time and content as well as impact on my efforts to run the day smoothly.

    I should rename the blubberium Villa Wimpo.

    END GAME - Here's a service to y'all. If you lose anything in Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (as we cognoscenti refer to Athens airport), and are lucky enough to have it handed in, this is how to brief the courier service that retrieves it:

  • Tel 210 353 0515
  • It will have been given a 'protocol' number
  • The courier should go to the Lost Property office, a division of the airport police, next to Gate 3.
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