After three days of pain and fun-less travel games, I finally realized – at our hotel in Greece – that I was likely suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). I knew I really needed to see a doctor. But…
I don’t speak Greek, and previous experience dictated that not many locals this far off the tourist route speak English. My choices were to go to the hospital in this tiny port town and take my chances, or wait one more day (and one more long bus ride) until we got to our final destination and our English-speaking Greek friends.
Foolishly (I blame the hypoxia from the embolisms in my lungs for my poor decision-making!), I chose to wait. The bus ride from Igoumenitsa to Larisa was another day-long affair, spent in the position most likely to kill me. We traveled along up the coast, through some beautiful mountains, and out on the flat Plain of Thessaly. The scenery was beautiful, but I was too worried to enjoy it.
When we arrived at Larisa, our final destination, we headed (on foot!) directly to the hospital up the street from the bus station, only to find their ER was closed! Greek government cuts, low utilization, long story, but hopefully not one that ends like the usual Greek tragedy.
A security guard was standing at the door. Desperate, I began frantically patting my chest, repeating, “I’m having trouble breathing!” I must have appeared sufficiently distressed, because he immediately sprinted off, then quickly reappeared with a nurse in tow. Before I knew it, I was on a stretcher in the closed ER, being attended by a doctor who eerily resembled Cat Stevens. He reassured me – in English – that they were starting treatment right away, not to worry. I was bundled into an ambulance along with my luggage and my Sponsor, and transported to the other hospital, where our Greek friends met us.
It turned out we didn’t need their translating ability. All the doctors and nurses knew enough English to get by. Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do to treat me (I had looked that up, too!) I spent the first week of our vacation in the hospital.
The care I received was excellent, and I am obviously very grateful! The physical conditions were a bit Spartan, and the cultural expectations of privacy and modesty were quite different – a real learning experience!
Following my discharge, there was to be no exercising, no hiking, no swimming – nothing. I was placed on a blood thinner in the hospital that I would continue taking for the next six months,told to wear firm compression socks for the next three months and whenever I am sitting for long periods of time forever, and we had to wait two weeks before I was permitted to fly again to return home. Fortunately, those two weeks coincided perfectly with catching the Patriot Express (a different configuration thank goodness!) from Souda Bay to Norfolk. We decided to go ahead with our plans to visit the Peloponnese before taking the ferry to Crete. Progress was slow, with me needing to drink gallons of water and get out and shuffle around every hour or so. Once on Crete, we spent a few days in Hania before catching the PE. The cities of Napflio and Hania are wonderful for slow strolling, café-sitting, and people-watching, BTW.
We took our time – a couple of weeks – getting back to the west coast. At long last, our misadventure had come to a close. I was extremely fortunate there appeared to be no permanent damage from my series of unfortunate decisions.
Lady Cat 6 is usually a FABulous role model, but not this time. DVT and Pulmonary Embolisms can be triggered by long periods of sitting and lack of adequate hydration. And, in ladies of a certain age – the age of most Cat 6 travelers – estrogen is the number one risk factor. I had a trifecta going in the probability department! If not treated immediately, DVT and Pulmonary Embolism can have terminal consequences. My delays in recognizing the problem and then delaying treatment to get to a more convenient location could have been deadly and were definitely foolish.
Ambulation and hydration are key to prevention, so get out there and walk the aisles, and drink LOTS of water! If you begin to experience symptoms, get help, FAST! All ended well, but before that, all came perilously close to going to hell in a handbasket! Sometimes, “just keep going” is NOT the way to go.