Learning Italian: At the local doctor’s office

The last three months of 2013 were absolute hell for me, I’m glad 2014 is here and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a healthy new year. At the beginning of October I came down with ‘colpo d’aria’ which roughly translates into a ‘stiff neck’. Now, this wasn’t just a little stitch in my neck it was a HUGE pain in my ass neck; you know the kind where your ear is glued to your shoulder and any movement you make sends shivering, painful shocks down your neck, back and arms. Heck, even sitting on the toilet was painful.

Then, I came down with a head cold which lasted two weeks. All that sneezing didn’t help the pain in my neck. By the middle of October my stiff neck was finally back to normal but I was still suffering from a serious bout of influenza which was now attacking my chest and lungs – I was a beautiful snotty, coughing mess.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

By mid-November I was slowly getting back to my normal healthy self when I caught a nasty stomach virus which lasted a good three weeks. I thank the heavens above that I didn’t spill the contents of my stomach but the pain was enough to send me to the doctor for antibiotics, which I was instructed to take for a month. I dutifully took my medication and was beginning to feel better, at least I was finally eating full meals and enjoying a little Nutella on the side.

Just when I thought I was getting back to normal; one early, dark morning I awoke to make the morning coffee when the coffee pot fell from its perch on the stove sending the boiling contents down the top of my leg and onto the side of my calf. You can read all about it here, it was horrible. I couldn’t walk, sleep or shower for a good two weeks and the pain was incredible!

Four days after the scalding accident, I stubbornly threw on a pair of old track pants and limped into town for coffee at my favourite bar. It was nice chatting and catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few weeks due to my illnesses. As I made my way out of the bar I slammed my thumb in the door causing blood to splatter on the door and the side of my good leg. I cried, and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes until I gathered enough courage to limp back home.

During the Christmas holidays I discovered a womanly problem that only a doctor could diagnose. The following morning I made my way down to the local doctor and this is what happened:

Me: Buongiorno.
Doc: Buongiorno.
Me: Oh, um … Dr. Fantastic isn’t in today?
Doc: No, he is on holiday and will be back on the 4th. You can leave and come back then if you prefer.

I wasn’t mentally prepared to tell this very young and rather stubborn doctor my womanly problem. I was used to Dr. Fantastic, who usually visits me in my home if I call him and smiles and laughs and makes me feel comfortable. This temporary doctor had me flustered from the moment I walked into the office.

Me: Okay. Um. I have a little problem, here, and I think I need to take an exam.
Doc: Who sent you here?
Me: Uhh, huh? No one sent me here, I came on my own. I found this little problem and maybe I need to have an exam done.
Doc: Okay, but who sent you here?

Seriously, at this point I wanted to sucker punch him. What was he trying to get at with this question? I was beginning to think I was in the wrong office – it felt all Godfather-ish.

Me: Umm, uhh. No one sent me here. However, I would like to have an exam done please.
Doc: Yes, but I asked you WHO sent you here?

Really? Again.

Me: No one told me to come here, no one! This is a doctor’s office right? And you are a doctor, correct? I have a problem, please …

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer Avventura

Internally I made this face at the doctor.

At this point I was a little freaked out and wished my husband was with me, cause one swift look from Hub the doc would have shut his idiotic trap.

Me: Listen. Dr. Fantastic is my doctor. I live in this town and I have a health problem.
Doc: What is your name?
Me: Jennifer Avventura.
Doc: Write it down.

He quickly throws a pen and paper in my direction and I write my name down.

Doc: So, what is your problem?

Big internal sigh.

Me: I’ve already told you, three times!
Doc: Oh, then you will need an ultrasound?

Did he really just ask me what type of treatment I needed? Oh, heck yes he did!

Me: I don’t know what type of exam I need. I am not a doctor, you are.

He rudely types away at the computer, then the printer starts. Dr. Stronzo throws the la ricetta medica in my direction and tells me to have a nice day.


Without an examination!

What did I learn?

  • Never visit the doctor’s office during the holidays.
  • La ricetta medica – is the little piece of paper from the local doctor that you take to see a specialist.
  • Colpo d’aria – a perfect translation is ‘air shot,’ however – it’s a stiff neck.
  • 13 is no longer my favourite number.
  • It’s probably better that I wrap myself in plastic bubble wrap the next time I leave the house.

More in the Learning Italian series can be found here:

Have you had any strange expat experiences while visiting the doctor? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

P.S. a total clean bill of health. Finally.

31 thoughts on “Learning Italian: At the local doctor’s office

  1. Pingback: Learning Italian: The verb to like | My Sardinian Life

  2. Wow, you have had quite the string of maladies!
    Expat medical stories – well I could tell you about my experience with a Hospital in Qatar when my husband had a heart attack, but it would take most of the day!

  3. Sorry… I shouldn’t have liked your pain, agony, discomfort and locums. I did like your telling of the tale… hope the year we’ve just entered treats you just magnificently!! As I say these days, have fun, do better!! 😉

  4. Jesus, what a run of bad luck! Hopefully 2014 will be better! And Dr. Fantastic will be back! You should have sucker punched the other one – that would have made for a great post – probably not so good for your sore thumb though… 😉

  5. I would have walked out, you did well with this very rude doctor! I am glad that your doctor is back! Stay healthy this year! You are just too much and oh so funny under serious conditions!

    I had a new doctor one time and he was weird, made me very uncomfortable before an exam, so I excused myself, got dressed and never went back!

    My current doctor is smart and a sweetheart! But there are very strange people out there, professional ones too!

    The Sard/American

  6. Reading mr. Joesard post. It’s hard to comment sentences like “many Italians are known to graduate at forty+” (most of Italian doctors graduate at or under 30, simply refer to statistics) … or “They are just specialized in writing off prescriptions in hieroglyphics. I’ve heard (I HAVE HEARD!) that the breifing they receive from their peers in these circumstances goes something like: If a guy comes in feverish give him this or that antiobiotic, if hes got a headache try an aspirin” (a clown could write down better such a joke) … “Italians are notoriously a nation of hypochondriacs“ (higher percentage of depression and anxiety could be found in northern European countries, according to World Health Organization – WHO). I really don’ know if these statements are simply insulting or simply figment or simply ignorance or simply offensive bullshit. I know that our “Sistema Sanitario Nazionale – SSN” isn’t perfect. But in the rest of Europe is not easy to find something better FOR FREE. Someone who knows European healthcare problems also knows how things are going on. And maybe someone might know that acute diseases, such as neoplasms, are cured in Italy better than in the rest of Europe (FOR FREE), simply refer to Agenzia europea per i medicinali (European Medicines Agency – EMA). All the rest is simply old-fashioned and dusty conceited outdated prejudices. Anyway I’m going to copy and paste mr. Joesard post, sending it to “Federazione Nazionale degli Ordini dei Medici Chirurghi Italiani” in order to be mindful of their good name.

  7. I think one interesting thing is how blunt going to the doctor in a foreign language can make you. I would never say some of the things I told the doctor when I wasn’t feeling well!

  8. great post and how utterly annoying! I had similar issues at the doctors office with some miscommunications on both sides. The fact that he asked YOU what treatment you needed is beyond no no. On a side note – I hope you’re feeling better on all fronts!

  9. It seems that you should be classified officially as a disaster area!
    Locally, as soon as we find a good doctor they emigrate to somewhere! Should I change my deodorant, do you think?

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