Home living abroad Socialized Medicine In Italy. How To Not Die.

Socialized Medicine In Italy. How To Not Die.

written by M.E. Evans July 4, 2013
Socialized Medicine And The ER OF DEATH: Emergency Room In Florence. Apparently Almonds Are Deadly (clearly my husband is genetically flawed).

Socialized Medicine And The ER OF DEATH: Emergency Room In Florence, Italy. Apparently Almonds Are Deadly (because F’s body hates awesome).

Everything always happens to me as though it’s called on by the universe. If I think about someone a lot they are bound to pop up (which sucks because I think more about people I want to stab with a spork than people I actually like), if I want something to happen it usually does, and so it’s only natural that in the midst of arguing with friends on FB about socialized medicine that I’d end up in the emergency room in Florence. Well, I didn’t end up in the ER but Francesco did and we’re married so I had a sympathy experience. Because he was “itchy.”

On my birthday last year Francesco took me to this incredibly cute restaurant that I instantly fell in love with. One of my best friends and her then fiancè were in Italy and they met us there to celebrate my birthday. We didn’t even make it through the antipasto before Alex, my friend’s fiancè, had to rush Francesco out of the restaurant to the ER because his face swelled up and he looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid. It came out of nowhere and Ivetta and I just stayed and tried to finish dinner because we’d already ordered and couldn’t cancel it and also wine. Speaking of which, I have the worsts birthdays ever! It’s a curse. Luckily Ivetta was there with her cool, calm personality and her super fun sense of humor. She totally made up for the fact that my husband was dying.

We thought that this all happened because Francesco, the Italian, was allergic to the wine. I’d written it off as a one time thing and it didn’t occur to me that it might happen again. So I was not that supportive when we were on our way to the grocery store and he said he was itchy.

F: I’m itchy.

Me. Me too.

F: No, but I’m really itchy. My ears itch.

Me: Mine too.


Me: You know what? YOU don’t OWN itchy. I can be itchy too. My allergies are super bad this year and I’m itchy. I hate hay fever.

F: My mouth is dey itchy and so do my hairs (ears).

Me: Mine too.


Me: Well I’m sorry if I am also itchy. What do you want from me?

Then I looked over and noticed his body rejecting him with white dots on top of his suddenly cherry red skin.

Me: Oh man! You look like shit! Dude!? What the hell!?


Me: Oh. Yeah. Well, ITCHY IS KIND OF FUCKING VAGUE! You need medicine.


Me: No. You told me that you were itchy. That’s not the same as “I’m dying from an allergic reaction.”

F: English is not MY FIRST LANGUAGE!

Me: Right. Well, that is clearly our first problem. Benedryl?

F: I go to hospital!

Then he took a violent right-turn and sped maniacally towards the ER. I watched quietly while his face ballooned like it was trying to take flight and his hands turned rainbow colors. We arrived to the hospital, left Oliver in the car (it was raining and super cold outside, don’t worry, he was safe), and ran inside the double doors where we stopped abruptly in a dim-lit room. Chairs full of worried expressions surrounded an empty, island-type office with the sighn CLOSED taped to the glass.”Can the ER be closed!?” I yelled. Someone pointed to a small, pee-colored intercom on the wall. You had to buzz a buzzer to tell the secretary/nurse that you WERE DYING before they would buzz you into the back room for the patience. We buzzed three times before a woman answered, it was good that he wasn’t having a heart attack or something. A nicotine tinted door clicked open and we stepped through into the first scene of The Walking Dead. “Holy shit! ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!” I said. “Porco dio!” Francesco said, which means, “pig god,” and is so not going to help his chances of surviving if he’s pissing off the gods. There was an office and a long hallway lined with bodies on stretchers, most of them sleeping or passed out.

The secretary/nurse shuffled over to us, and raised an eyebrow to ask, “what’s the problem,” because speaking would have clearly exhausted her. “Allergic reaction,” he said. She plopped into a chair and entered his information into the computer while she smacked her bubble-gum and chatted with some guy hanging out by the desk. Then she stood up so lazily that it seemed like her body was covered in weights and dragged herself three feet to us where she tossed a machine at Francesco. “Sigh. Put this on your finger to check your blood pressure.” She stood there while hd did was he was told, chewing her cud, hand on hip doing the “little tea pot” while she counted dots on the ceiling. “Your pressure is normal.” She said before flopping herself back into her chair, exhaling wildly. She tilted her head to me and said, “you wait outside.” I looked at Francesco who was nervously rolling his tongue between his teeth trying to itch it. A nurse next to us slowly covered a few  stretches with new sheets at the rate of a snail making it’s way across a sidewalk. He sang loudly and passionately to himself. The long line of people on the stretches hadn’t moved and I started to wonder if they were actually dead but hadn’t been removed because it would be too much work.

I walked to the car where I waited with Oliver for TWO HOURS before Francesco came outside. I spent most of that time taking a lot of Instagram photos of myself and Oliver with Francesco’s account, and trying not to pee my pants (there were no public bathrooms for miles). I sat forward, backwards, sang, unzipped my pants, and at one point even looked for a bottle to pee in. It was a frustrating two hours. When he emerged he said they gave him a cortisone shot and told him he’d be fine. The next time it happens to take a Benedryl.

F: The hospital here is scary.

Me: Totally is the scariest hospital like ever.

F: Yep. That’s Italy for you.

Me: How much was it?

F: Free. All free.

Me: Well, at least there is that.

F: But it’s better in the US.

Me: Our hospitals are faster but we pay a fortune for it. And I don’t have insurance because I have a pre-existing condition so nobody wants to take my business. So, if I were you I would have had to go into debt a few thousand or just hope I didn’t die.

F: Oh. Well, that’s scary.

Me: No help is much scarier than shitty help.

While this post probably sounds like I hate socialized medicine but it’s actually the opposite. All of the republicans are throwing up their hands right now, I know guys, sorry, I am a fan of socialized medicine and here is why: The public facilities might not be the best care in the world but at least everyone is entitled to it. If you have extra money you can go to a private facility that is excellent and top-of-the-line but if you’re middle-class like the rest of us at least the government won’t let you die or take your house away in return for ER payment. It doesn’t happen, you say? I have a friend who is a fashion designer. A few years ago she was teaching part-time at a community college and running her business on the side. She went on vacation, went hiking, slipped and fell onto cliffs and broke her back. She’s twenty-seven years old. She had to be flight-lifted to the ER. She owes nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS because she couldn’t afford health insurance at the time. Her entire life will be spent paying off that debt. In Italy her care would have been a little ghetto, but she would have lived, and she could spend her life building her business and being a stand-up citizen by buying a house and a car and putting money into her company. An accident that doesn’t kill you shouldn’t cost you the rest of your life.


You may also like

%d bloggers like this: