I’ve always disliked needles, especially when attached to a syringe held in the hand of a nurse who is staring intently at a nice big vein in the tender part of my inner elbow.
Fortunately the nurses at our local ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Local National Health Service) here in Pontremoli are really friendly, and seem to enjoy exchanging humorous remarks with big strangely named (ma come si pronuncia di nuovo? = but how do you pronounce it again?) English men who are scared of little needles.
I concentrate intently on the nurse’s kind voice, her smiling face, and lovely curly blonde hair, thereby completely avoiding eye contact with both the nasty needle, and the sight of my blood filling that horrid syringe (excuse me while I take a few deep breaths, I feel a bit wobbly just writing about it).
Oh well, I’ve only myself to blame, after all it was me who decided to be ‘sensible’ and suggest to my dottore (doctor), Dott. Arrighi that it was time for my ‘revisione’ (MOT test, the regular review usually carried out on vehicles and machinery, this was my attempt at humour … he actually smiled!)
Now, as with most things here in Italy, having a blood test involves a fair bit of going from a to b and back again with a couple of visits to c in the middle and a lot of waiting around, staring at drab institutional walls, thumbing through piles of tired, over-read glossy car and fashion magazines, and listening to other people compare medicines and illnesses in intimate detail: Mamma mia che stitichezza c’ho in questi giorni! (Mother, what bad constipation I’ve got at the moment!)
So, here’s how it works:
1. Va dal dottore a farti fare la richiesta per il prelievo (go to the doctor to get a request for a blood test)
The doctor doesn’t have an appointment system, so when you enter la sala d’attesa (waiting room) the first thing to ask, after everyone has said buongiorno, is chi è l’ultimo? (who is the last person before me). If there are 7 or 8 people be prepared for a long wait, maybe even 2 hours. Finally, the doctor will write you out una richiesta per il prelievo.
2. Porta la richiesta all’ASL dall’altra parte della città, dove fanno i prelievi (take the request to ASL on the other side of town, where they take blood samples)
Sit in another waiting room for an indeterminate period until it is your turn to pagare il ticket (pay for the ‘ticket’ to have your blood test done). This involves the usual filling out of obscure forms and handing over, in my case, 36 euros.
Now go back to the sala d’attesa and wait for l’infermiera con la siringa grande grande (the nurse with the huge syringe) to call you to the guillotine … great, my favourite bit!
3. Tornare all’ASL dopo tre giorni per ritirare l’esito degli esami del sangue (Return to the ASL 3 days later to pick up the blood test results). These are released after 10.00 a.m. which is inconvenient because the doctor, whose surgery is on the other side of town, locks the waiting room door at 10.30 knowing that he’ll still be there until midday.
4. Allora, il giorno seguente va di nuovo dal dottore con l’esito degli esami del sangue (So the following day you go back to the doctor, blood test results in hand), where you find the usual crowded waiting room, chi è l’ultimo? … and spend another hour sitting around listening to other people compare medicines and illnesses in intimate detail: Mamma mia che brutta caccarella c’ho in questi giorni! (Mother, what terrible runs I’ve got at the moment!), … e così via (… and so on)
Comunque, tutto sommato sono contento. Il dottore mi ha dichiarato un uomo sano, nessun problema. Meno male!
Next time, if your lucky, I’ll describe my endoscopia!