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TRAVEL: Overcoming Olympic travel hurdles in Greece

Frank Basile
September 17, 2011
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Frank Basile

Katrina and I were in a village in Greece when I slipped on wet pavement and injured my shoulder while trying to break my fall. The tour guide, “Poopie” (no kidding), took Katrina and me by taxi to a nearby town since there was no hospital in this village.

Every traveler’s nightmare? Not exactly.

When we arrived at the hospital emergency room, Poopie immediately took charge and told the intake person I needed X-rays. She then escorted both Katrina and me to the X-ray room and told the technician what X-rays I needed, then took the slides to the doctor.

Meanwhile, the taxi driver, who was waiting for us, came into the emergency room, commented on an old skiing injury he’d suffered, and joined with the tour guide and the doctor in examining the slides. I had no idea what they were saying, so Poopie interpreted what she felt I needed to know.

The three of them decided they needed an orthopedic specialist to review the slides, but the doctor said one was not scheduled to arrive for another two hours. The tour guide walked into the office of the hospital general manager. At her insistence, he phoned the specialist, who agreed to leave immediately for the hospital and arrived there in 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, Poopie served Katrina and me a cappuccino and cookies and put her coat over me for warmth. I was close to passing out from shock and pain. Poopie instructed the nurse to give me a pain pill.

The orthopedic surgeon arrived and the four of them (the surgeon, the ER doctor, the tour guide and the taxi driver) conferred in Greek and concurred that I had a broken bone in my shoulder and would need to wear a sling for a few weeks, after which I would require physical therapy.

I asked the tour guide about the charge and she said since this was a public hospital (no private one in town), there was no charge. And I received no paperwork!

I was immediately concerned that I had gotten what I paid for.

We also wondered how the hospital ordinarily functioned without the assistance of Poopie and the taxi driver.

When I asked about pain medication, Poopie and the taxi driver drove us to a drugstore, where they and the pharmacist debated what medication I should buy. The driver seemed to have won out and we bought very strong pain medicine, which was the same as he had taken after his ski injury. The pharmacist said the medication was not available over the counter in the United States. I couldn’t read the label, but the taxi driver said to take it twice a day and the tour guide recommended that I take one after breakfast and one after dinner. I took the first dose and felt great!

We arrived back at the hotel at 7:30, just in time for dinner with the group. We didn’t miss a beat during the rest of the tour, which turned out to be a wonderful experience. All went well until we departed Athens en route to Indianapolis and were changing planes in Amsterdam.

Since my arm had been in a sling for six days, I had not shaved and looked more than a little disheveled. At the boarding gate, awaiting the departure for Detroit, we were questioned for about 20 minutes by a customs official. The questioning centered on passport stamps reflecting our trip to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon nine months earlier. We were asked why we had gone, what we did, whom we knew there, what contact we had had since our return, and so on.

We were told to wait while the official disappeared with our passports. We assumed she went to confer with someone and perhaps check computer records. I told Katrina that I thought we had a 50 percent chance of getting on the flight. I was fairly certain that, since 9/11, federal agents had the authority to deny boarding based solely upon strong suspicions. The official finally returned after what seemed like hours but was actually about five minutes. She announced that we could board the plane, but only after a very thorough search of our bags.

Back in Indy, I went to a doctor about my shoulder. He asked to see the paperwork, including the diagnosis, which, of course, I did not have.

He took X-rays and examined me and recommended … the same treatment the Greek doctor had recommended.•

__________

Basile is an author, professional speaker, philanthropist, community volunteer and retired executive of the Gene B. Glick Co. His column appears occasionally. His new book, “Traveling with Frank and Katrina,” is available in various stores. He can be reached at Frank_Basile@sbcglobal.net.

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