It was supposed to be a short break (remember that word dear reader) to recharge batteries and prepare for Christmas. My wife and I were going to stay at a hotel we had stayed in during a summer break in Pernera, near Protaras in Cyprus. It was only an hours drive from our home in Cyprus, but far enough away and in a tourist location to make it feel like a holiday away from home,
A Walk on the Wild Side
On the first day the weather was sunny and warm, so after breakfast we decided to take a walk. Along much of this coastline there’s a walkway following the line of the natural beach, so the idea was to walk from the hotel in Pernera along the coast to Protaras. However, no sooner had we rounded a corner than we were presented with a path going down to the actual beach. But we had to take the path as it narrowed into a very short gulley strewn with rocks. Ever being the gentleman, I went first to help my wife down. That’s the last I remember of our little walk because it ended abruptly with the rocky path giving way under my foot and that’s where my flying skills came in handy.
Flying Without Wings
If you have read any of Douglas Adam’s books about the adventures of Arthur Dent, e.g., The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you will know that at one point, Dent learned to fly by mistake. Dent fell forward and at the crucial point of his body contacting the ground, he was distracted and suddenly he was flying without any artificial aid. Let me tell you now my dear reader, that doesn’t happen in real life. In real life you hit the ground and depending on your speed, weight and general disposition to avoid getting hurt by rolling with the fall, you will injure yourself in some way. My way was, to say the least, spectacular and as I fell forwards and hit the ground I rolled until I met an object that stopped my forward momentum quickly and, painfully. Needless to say, searing pain, lack of breath, shock and an Adrenalin rush takes control… and I screamed.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
In my case the rock was a solid lump and I had somehow managed to roll over the hard place and was now on my back, slightly wedged. I screamed a little more, just for effect you realise, and saw my wife attempting to get down to me. I whispered for her to stand well away in case the ground gave way again. I was concerned for her, but also myself, as I was the ideal soft spot to land on if she stumbled and fell. Here it was that I realised I couldn’t breath, at all, and had to resort to breathing in short bursts. Generally in life you never realise how precious the air that you breath is, until it isn’t there anymore.
As luck would have it the beach area was full of tourists and among them was a nurse from Wales. I had the presence of mind not to panic because I couldn’t breathe and since my screaming had attracted attention my mind went into logic mode and I stopped screaming. A life-guard appeared on the scene followed by a doctor who was clearly not on the beach sunbathing. Mobile phones are a wonderful invention and before I knew it an ambulance had arrived and with it, the growing realisation I was going to have to move.
He Ain’t Heavy
Sitting up straight is easy enough, if you’re not experiencing searing pain just by trying to answer the medic’s questions. Moving to sit up proved agonising and I had mainly only myself to rely on to achieve this sitting position, the area was too tight for anyone to be able to assist.
Once in a precarious sitting position, I then needed to get myself up the slope to a wider area. I can understand why people faint from intense pain. I didn’t faint but I gritted my teeth so hard and yelled so loudly my jaw and throat were sore for days.
The final step was to squeeze into the smallest collapsible chair I have ever seen, but in it I got and then the medics, several life-guards and the doctor in attendance picked the chair up and carried me, stumbling, to the waiting ambulance. I’m 6’ 2” and weigh about 18 stone (252 lbs to my American reader and 1.9 metres to my European reader) so the poor guys were truly relieved to get me to the ambulance.
Now here’s a cautionary tale for unwitting travelers to Cyprus. We have an excellent national health system here and there is also a thriving private sector. Make sure you have up to date travel insurance. You will see why later in my story.
Getting me onto a gurney and into the ambulance was painful, hell, everything was painful that morning, but nothing compared to getting me to hospital. It wasn’t far, but the driver seemed to target every speed bump he could find. It was also a very fast journey, so I was grateful for that small mercy.
At the hospital we were greeted by a doctor who informed us we were at a private hospital. Neither myself or my wife were thinking clearly and we simply ignored the implication. The main priority was assessment and pain relief. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
What a Picture
I was transported up into the 1st floor ward and into a private room where an assessment was carried out and pain relief given. To aid my breathing I was put onto oxygen. Oxygen became a significant part of my stay in the hospital as breathing was difficult. Eventually I was told I needed x-rays.
Standing in the x-ray department for five takes was difficult. The nurse assigned to stand and hold onto me between takes was less than half my height and couldn’t have stopped a puppy keeling over. But, all was well and the doctor informed me with grin that I had broken seven ribs. I was in for the long haul.
Lie Back and Think of England
For the next 10 days I essentially could do nothing more than lie back and heal myself. Ribs are that strange quirk in human anatomy that only need a bit of peace, quiet and time to heal. The problem for me was the intensity that the doctor and nursing staff treated my wound. Apart from multiple lacerations and bruises, the ribs needed constant support. I was tested for my blood sugar (as I’m a diabetic) as well as my oxygen levels. I was permanently attached to oxygen, pulse rate tested and generally nursed 24 hours a day for 10 days, even being woken multiple times during the night for tests. The staff were fabulous and I’m convinced their dedication to my well being helped hugely in getting me well again so that I could leave.
The Waiting Game
So, I waited and also worried. Because by the time I was well and truly embedded into this hospital it dawned on us that we would be receiving a hefty bill for their services. Here’s where things took on a tricky juggle between getting well enough to leave and leaving quickly before the bills mounted up. The problem began, at the point of where the ambulance was called. Whoever called the ambulance called one from a private hospital, presumably because we looked like tourists and would have insurance. Except we’re not tourists but residence and therefore don’t have private health care. We are looked after by the state health system, but by the time we realised the situation it was impossible to move me until my ribs had healed more. Until I could be moved or released, the medical bill was rising.
Everybody Has to Leave
During this time in hospital I was told on three occasions I may be able to leave the next day, only to have my hopes dashed the following morning. My wife was back home by then because our three day hotel stay was over (mine before it even started) and she needed to look after our dog Holly. So because I was maybe coming home, we decided she should not need to visit. So for half my hospital stay I had no visitors and we relied on text messages to stay in touch. And then one day I was told I was going home and that was a joyous day, until the hospital bill arrived.
The Great Escape
The bill was less than the shock I expected, but was still a stunner at over four thousand Euros. I paid half before I left and promised the rest during the following week. So as I slowly walked and winced my way to the ambulance I was in a state of semi shock. The driver strapped me into a stretcher and the nurse accompanying me settled himself in. The hospital is located in Paralimni, a little way beyond where our hotel was, so I reckoned I was in for a good 70-80 minute journey. The driver was a venerable old man who was both courteous and caring and he took his time driving through the busy traffic on his way to the highway… until we got onto the highway and that’s when the Demon Driver took over. You don’t need a jet powered car to beat the world land-speed record, you need a Cypriot driver in a vehicle with flashing red lights. The journey was enough to put my recovery back by days. My feet were touching the rear door and I was worried it was going to fly open. I clung onto the sides of the gurney as the vehicle took corners like a Formula One racing car.
Forty frightening minutes later, in half the time I estimated, I was exiting the ambulance outside my home. The driver and nurse took their leave and my wife settled me down in the lounge. “You look as white as a sheet,” she said.
I smiled weakly. “I’ll be better once I can stop shaking,” I said in a weak voice.
Taking it Easy
Today is the two week anniversary of my accident. I’m healing but still in some pain. Moving around is getting easier and I’ve even found a place to sit and write without having to move after only a few minutes.
There is no moral to this tale but I have learned several lessons about living I Cyprus. Always carry a mobile phone. Make sure you tell the driver of the ambulance to take you to a state hospital. Pay attention where you are walking. Enjoy life, because if you don’t, the next accident may be more serious and you may not be around to write about it next time.
There is no end to this story yet
Copyright © Tom Kane 2019