Last Friday night I had to take my 13 year old to the hospital here in Florence, we went to the Meyer. Before I tell you how it went, let me tell you more about my boy.
Tiago is 13 years old and has been to hospital just once before in his life, with a massive cut on his forehead, that his dad had to hold together while I drove to the nearest hospital in France. This time, he went to the Meyer, here in Florence. When we were in France it was very interesting because although this was by all means a child who was well, we had a real emergency, we were literally holding his head together (he had been helping his brother empty the dishwasher, fell over, broke a plate and cut his forehead in the process), so we arrived at reception, they took one look at us and started making phone calls, we were in and out, with his head perfectly sewn up in about 45 minutes, they were quite amazing. He has a tiny line on his forehead now where the cut was, you would never imagine the gash it was before.
This time my reason for going in was very different. Tiago started getting sick on a Sunday night, he developed a fever, we medicated it and booked the doctor for Monday morning, pretty certain it would be Covid. Arriving at the doctors, one negative antigen later and he has suspected glandular fever (mononucleosis). This is where the Italian health system kicks in. So I left the doctor with a prescription for a blood test in my hand, to confirm the diagnosis. The next day I went to get blood tests at Istituto Fanfani, here in Florence. There was the usual queuing up outside, due to Covid, but our time came round very fast, I was kind of surprised. We get inside and it’s like we’ve stepped into the home of a kind relative. This lab looks more like someone’s home than lab, I was worried I’d made a terrible mistake. But low and behold, we are taken up the stairs by a lovely lady and shown to a room, where a very nice receptionist takes all our details. We pay (insurance will reimburse), and someone comes in to take the blood. There was a 5 minute delay between the call and the arrival of the nurse to take the blood, the receptionist must have apologised 5 times, I said it was more than ok, we were happy to wait. Anyway, my son is very calm about medical procedures, he’s lucky to never have had anything super painful done to him and I always warned him that vaccines hurt, so he would be prepared and not shocked when the needle went in. Taking his blood is not difficult, but this lady made it look super easy, he said he hardly felt the needle go in and it was impossible to see from where she had drawn blood afterwards, a true work of art. Anyway this was an exam that had to be done on an empty stomach, and I had filled a ziplock bag full of Pan di Stelle (life in Italy, what can I say?) so he would have a bite to eat when we left the lab. Little did I know when we left the room, there was someone standing with a table set for a king. They pushed the table into a private room, where he enjoyed a most delicious breakfast. He said he wants to have his blood taken there every week. Even I had a cup of coffee. Let’s not forget we were there because he was running a fever non-stop, so preliminary results (sent to us by email one hour after we left the lab) showed that it was indeed glandular fever and there was nothing to do, just sit and wait for it to pass.
Fast forward to two weeks later, his fever is now worse. His glands are almost deforming his neck and I think it’s time to see the doctor again. We take him to Dr Kerr, who measures his fever at 39.2C, some serious fever. Dr Kerr says that yes, this is compatible with glandular fever, but he is not happy that the fever is getting worse instead of better, so I should take him to the Meyer, this fever is a bit too impressive. We do that, and arrive at what can only be described as a state of the art, calm, efficient, well-ran, warm, caring environment, where I felt that although I was taking a child with a pretty clear diagnosis already, everyone took us seriously and treated my son with absolute love and respect. Once they measured his temperature and it was now 39.5C, their sense of urgency grew and we were ushered into the waiting room for no more than 10 minutes before being called to the examination room. There again, a young and kind doctor, examined him, talked to him and even worried about his dermatitis (which he never gets rid of because he never uses his cream). Again Tiago had to have his blood taken, and again it was an easy and well done process, clearly by someone who knew what they were doing. We were asked to wait for the results, maybe an hour, and they would then decide what to do. Tiago had a sleep in the examination room, but after about half and hour, they needed it for someone else, I was grateful to leave that area, because it was quite noisy and I had a work call to make (yes, I talk to clients even by my child’s hospital bed, give me a medal). We were in the waiting room for about 25 more minutes or so, and the kind doctor came out to let us know everything was reassuring, prescribed medication and sent us home. I got him home, gave him medicine, we got into my bed and he woke up a new child. He is now well on the road to recovery and I’m literally feeding him every hour or so, my Esselunga bill was huge this week! All this care, the state of the art tools, the infrastructure at the hospital, from reception to the senior doctors, all this free at the point of service. All this paid for by tax money, no insurance, no profit, just an amazing hospital for the young population. The grown-up’s hospital, (is that what you call it?), is just down the road and I’m told it’s just as good, and I know it’s just as free. This is life in Italy!*
When you move from one country to another, one of the biggest questions in my experience, if you have kids, is whether your kids will be safe, what if there is an emergency? When you move from any country, any city, to Florence, you can rest assured that should anything happen, your child will be in excellent hands, Meyer is one of the best children’s hospital in Italy and in Europe, it is a model of efficiency and good practice. When you live in Italy and you are part of the health system, you can access all these services for free, if you’re not part of the Italian health system, your insurance will cover you. Your child’s health, and your own health, are two less things to worry about when you move to Florence.
* This is a true description of life in Italy for somebody who has a Tessera Sanitaria and can access the national health service. This blog is not intended to give legal or health advice, consult your lawyers or doctors if you need this kind of advice.