There’s a much-used Italian word – ‘furbo’ (feminine form ‘furba’) which means sly or smart depending on the context.
It’s basically what Florence is, as demonstrated by the photo.
She was due this morning to be sterilised, but the only way to get her into the car is to bribe her to jump up with a bowl of food.
Since she had to have an empty stomach for her operation, this device wasn’t possible.
So what happened? She saw straight through all my pretences, flatly refused to co-operate, and we had to cancel.
On Armistice Day a year ago, Clive fell on his knees in a hotel just outside Rheims in the North of France. He couldn’t get up by himself nor could our friends get him up. He slipped into a coma. It was the fire brigade which finally laid him on a stretcher and transported him to the local hospital where he was put in Intensive Care.
He was on a ventilator for a month. After a further month we heard that the hospital in Britain wouldn’t receive him even if he recovered. I’d been forced to return to Italy and he was effectively in solitary confinement.
Another month elapsed and a colonoscopy was arranged, but cancelled and forgotten. It was finally performed a month later and revealed a large malignant tumour in Clive’s lower intestine.
Nearly 5 months after his initial collapse, at the beginning of April, Clive was transferred to a hospital in Paris. At the end of 3 months of chemotherapy, he underwent an 8-hour operation to remove the 4-pound tumour. It left him with a colostomy.
In mid-August the Paris hospital arranged for his transfer back to Italy where, naturally, he had to be confined to a sofa after spending more than 9 months on his back and receiving absolutely minimal physiotherapy.
We had a visitation today from 2 doctors and a nurse. My understanding had been that they would look at possibilities of rehabilitation. Nothing doing. The hoist and wheelchair that had been mooted seem to have gone backwards; their specification will be changed; you have to understand these things take time … I couldn’t raise a single shocked eyebrow regarding the 3 months we’ve now spent in Italy without seeing any progress whatsoever.
This has been our own ‘annus horribilis’ but unfortunately it’s still continuing.
I took Kepler to the vet this morning to check that the ulcer on his cornea is healing – which apparently it is.
The vet was in the middle of an extremely heated ding-dong with someone on his mobile phone, almost certainly his wife. He had difficulty calming down enough to deal with us, poor man.
Kepler at long last limped in front of him and he was able to confirm that the cause is, as he thought, a slack tendon which moves out of the groove on his kneecap every so often. He may have to have an operation.
I mentioned to the vet that Kepler had been absent from home (perhaps I should say ‘official home’) for nearly 12 hours yesterday. Semi-humorously he suggested putting a bell round his neck.
Well, I got him a bell, of the sort that sheep and hunting dogs wear. It has a very pleasant pastoral tinkle, but I don’t think he likes it very much.
This evening we could hear him most of the time, in the olive grove and nearby woods, when normally we would have had no idea where he was at all.
We’re considering putting a rough address and our mobile phone number on the bell, but that’s the next step.
The District Nurse (or Italian equivalent) visits Valtopina once a week on a Thursday.
Being a Thursday and also a week after Clive’s operation which is when the surgeon said his staples could come out, I thought I would ask her to remove them.
I phoned up. She told me that they don’t have ‘the material’ to do this in Valtopina, but we can go to the clinic in Nocera Umbra, a large town in the opposite direction from the city of Foligno.
And do we have a chitty from the doctor asking for Clive’s staples to be removed? Otherwise it can’t be done.
I phoned up the Chief Nurse (a man) in Nocera Umbra to check the clinic’s hours and told him the name of our doctor. We attend the surgery in his home in Nocera Scalo, a very small place where the main (if not only) landmark is a railway station, but he also has a surgery in Nocera Umbra where the clinic is.
“No problem at all!” exclaimed the Chief Nurse. “Just phone him and he can drop off the chitty direct to us this morning so that everything’s sorted for when you come.”
This story illustrates very well how things so often work in Italy. Rigid bureaucracy is mitigated by a network of human contact and little shortcuts are found through the system without actually contravening it.
Clive was led away just before 9.00 am. I accompanied him to the disrobing room where he sat in his gown until collected by the assistant surgeon.
Yesterday it had been implied that I could sit close-by and receive the odd progress bulletin so I stayed on, but after a while I was shooed to the room and firmly told to stay there.
We’d been told that the operation would last between 1 and 2 hours, so when the 2 and a half-hour mark was reached I was getting very anxious, scanning the faces of the personnel to see if I could read anything between the lines of their blanket reassurances.
Finally I was called to the recovery room where Clive, looking very much like his usual self, asked me who I was. Very funny.
He was determined to get off his high bed and walk to the room, trailing vitals monitor and drainage bag and anything else to which he was attached, but fortunately the various personnel prevailed.
He was wheeled to the room, covering his face with the sheet and saying at intervals that he was dead and could only prove that he wasn’t by getting up and walking.
The anaesthetist and the secondary surgeon paid visits quite quickly after. Everyone had been clearly impressed by Clive’s attitude and stamina during such a long operation.
The principal surgeon came to see us in the mid-afternoon just as it was getting dark.
Two things stood out from what he said. The first was that car accidents don’t normally cause spinal prolapses BUT a high speed impact, as was the case for Clive, could very easily have done so.
The second thing was that being overweight does not cause spinal prolapses. They occur in people of all BMI’s and there is no correlation or connection.
I wish we’d had that confident pronouncement to throw in the faces of all the multiple people who, over the years, have attributed Clive’s back pain to his weight and judged him accordingly.
Things were very intensive today in the Betaklinik Hospital in Bonn. There was hardly a moment’s peace between MRI scan, CT scan, visits from the surgeon, the deputy (?) surgeon and the anaesthetist, and various frustrated visits by the cleaner who only got in on the third attempt.
Clive suffered extreme pain lying on his back for both the scans, but had a surprisingly pleasant time in the masculine environment of the operating theatre when they made sure he could sustain a prone position for the actual operation which will take place tomorrow.
We had been slightly disconcerted to realise, first thing, that the surgeon and anaesthetist hadn’t spoken to each other and agreed upon whether Clive would have a local or a general anaesthetic. Anyway, the anaesthetist ‘won’ and Clive will remain conscious throughout.
It seems there is little life-risk involved in the operation, but whether the actual outcome will be what we hoped for, i.e. removal or lessening of the back pain Clive has lived with for nearly 20 years, is by no means certain.