Friday, July 24, 2009

The University Hospital of Heraklion is huge. It is built on a hill outside the city and its corridors seem to go on for miles. The cardiac unit is on the second floor of the third building and commands a breathtaking panoramic almost 360 degree view. To the north the city and the sea and coming around to the south a beautiful vista of a countryside that could not have changed much in a hundred years or more. The only thing to bring modern times to mind is a row of five white windmills on a mountain top. The wards, I was in 44 facing south, are all of three beds and looking out the glass door I could see some of this landscape but, if I walked out on to the balcony that stretches the full length of the building (very useful for smokers), I got the full, as my American students would have called it, “awesome” view. If one ignored what was at one’s feet two floors below, obviously something horribly unfinished and consequently a bit of a wasteland, immediately beyond that a row of fir trees and red oleander, a vigorous highly decorative shrub that grows all over Crete, mostly pink and white flowers, occasionally cream and red, that line either side of long stretches of highway. There is a road just on the other side of the wasteland but invisible behind a screen of foliage and only noticed when vehicles drive by. Then rolling hills dotted with a few white buildings, a little white church and a patchwork of olive groves and, from a distance, what looks like vineyards. Beyond a small village beneath the mountains that loom up all grey and barren to complete a picture I never tired of looking at even when limited by my being in bed. I’ve not been to Tuscany but I have seen pictures and that is what this landscape reminded me of.
Everything in the clinic is on wheels, with the exception of personnel of course, and nurses were constantly wheeling in heart monitors, blood pressure gauges, etc., even the weighing machine fitted with a chair. A daily blood sample was taken and Douglas was quite convinced there was a vampire somewhere on the premises. To begin with I was the sole occupant in 44 in the bed nearest the door but that didn’t last long. The far bed was soon occupied by Manousis who I was informed had been a high ranking police officer and who deserves a blog all to himself. I should have known by the fancy blue silk pyjamas that we had a bit of an ego and a feeling of self-importance here, especially when I saw the first thing he did was wipe down the surfaces of his bedside locker with meths.
The first two nights Douglas found himself a hotel room in the middle of town but at 55 euro a night it would be getting a mite expensive to spend his whole time there so for two nights he slept on the empty bed next to me but then that too became occupied, by Manolis. The hospital has an adjoining hostel for visitors and Douglas managed then to get a shared room there for the rest of his stay at only 15 euro a night. Quite a difference and so much more convenient.
The third occupant of the ward when Manolis number one was discharged after only a couple of days was Manolis number two, an extremely frail old gentlemen but such a charmer, uncomplaining and highly independent despite his age and frailty, the very antithesis of our ex-policeman. We took to him immediately. Manousis hated him!
More on ward 44 another time.

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