They say that accidents most often happen within 40 km (25 mi) of home. Not always, and that can add a whole different dimension. This post was penned by my brother Michael.
40 Hours – Many Heroes
by Mike Fooshee
HERO – he·ro
1) A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities; a person who is the object of extreme or uncritical admiration and devotion.
2) Another term for hoagie or submarine sandwich.
Thursday, May 24th – the last day of our 12-day trip to Italy. Time for one last day-trip to the city of Vicenza! A visit with Chris and Jeannie on their travels has become an almost annual pilgrimage for Kathy and me. After this last outing, we will pack this evening and fly home Friday, May 25th.
Descending the stairs on the train upon arriving in Vicenza (about 10h20), my foot slipped on the stair edge and I fell down the stairs in the train, landing on the floor in excruciating pain. Lying in the train corridor, I had effectively lost the use of both legs in an instant.
Unable to move and in significant pain in both legs, I was slowly assisted to the platform away from train. This process took about 15-20 minutes, assisted by multiple persons, passengers who were medically trained, and railway personnel alike.
I begin to realize that I am suddenly in need of emergency care, and dependent on others for everything.
The Language of Compassion:
Over the next 40 hours I would experience extreme pain, fear, and anxiety. I would also counterbalance that with a continuous stream of caring from compassionate individuals, heroes to me, that stopped their lives for a brief moment to make me the focus of their complete attention.
At the train landing five people, in addition to my brother, took charge of getting me away from the train, alerting emergency personnel, creating a level of comfort I could handle and helping start the new journey with a “You can do this” mentality.
An English-speaking Italian lady with a medical background kept anyone from me or even touching me without her OK. A tall man with a mustache, who spoke no English held my hand during several shifts of my body. His grip matched mine and his eyes said “You are not alone – I will help you get through this.”
I was picked up, along with Kathy, by the Regionale Ambulanza. I have to add a small laugh here, as we actually stopped to pick up another patient along the way. The numbers are really starting to prove how overwhelmingly compassionate this citizenry was.
At the various waits in hospital people would invariably ask if they could get us something – anything.
The diagnosis by the Italian doctor was spot on. I had torn the quadriceps tendon from my right knee cap and seriously sprained my left quadriceps muscle. It was not what I wanted to hear, but in time it could be fixed, and I would heal.
Chris and Jeannie were right there the whole time as well. I was feeling very anxious coming up with a mental 12 month action plan but knew they were helping behind the scenes to ask many questions that had to be asked.
My Wife – my love – my friend:
Upon recognition of how serious the nature of my injuries were (I would require surgery on one leg – maybe both), Kathy immediately went into her “protect” and “travel” modes. When that happens, I know to stay out of her way!
I am laying in a hospital that is a three-hour drive from Milan which is a nine-hour flight to Newark which is a three-hour flight to Tampa then a 30 min drive home. Grueling with both legs, but with zero use of both legs? Yeah, this is gonna be fun!
My doctor in Italy and his nurse spent their own time helping arrange an ambulance to carry us from the hospital to Milan. The accident happened at 22h30 (10:30 am) Thursday and now it is 18h00 (6:00 pm). The best that can be arranged is that an ambulance will arrive at 03h00 (3:00 am) Friday to take Kathy and me to the Milan airport.
Leaving me parked in a side room of the emergency area, Kathy, Chris, and Jeannie took the train back to Verona (45 min ride) to quickly pack all our stuff. They then got Kathy back to the train station for her trip back to the hospital.
Many strangers helped along the way or this would be a different story. I was lying in a bed, no pain meds, where I cannot speak the language, and with my support group gone. I figured Kathy would get back around 2:00 am, at best. Then a text comes in telling me she will be with me by 10:30 pm. I cried.
Returning to the USA:
At 03h00 (3:00 am) the ambulance arrived, with two very caring ladies who were going to transport us to Milan. This was not their first rodeo. They got my 215 pound body into the ambulance without a problem. But once at the airport the first agent we encountered said, “Oh no … he will not be able to fly if he cannot walk! I was not informed.” Immediately, Kathy produced a medical document that said in bold letters, “FIT TO FLY”. When Kathy is on task, I know to back away slowly and throw chocolates at her. A second agent affiliated with our airline, United, was called and literally stayed with Kathy till the plane shut its doors.
To get me on board the plane, the ambulance drove onto the tarmac, having had our bags scanned and passports checked at the airport. Then at the plane, my ambulance team put me on a scissor-lift vehicle that lifted me up to our side of the plane. We had to have “Lie Flat” seats or the doctor would not have signed off so when I was rolled onto the plane, our ambulance team, who had been by my side for 7 hours, demanded that they put me in my seat. Above and beyond – plus! Oh yeah, and these 2 ladies were volunteers!
They both hugged Kathy and I when we parted, as though we were family.
Most of the first-class passengers had been moved around the cabin, still in first class but different seats, to accommodate my need for an aisle seat with Kathy beside me – not a word of complaint, only several who came by and wished me well. The liaison from the airline had this handled and then prior to departure asked if she could get us anything.
I am a believer in helping where, when, and how I can, but I was, by this time, overwhelmed with all the gestures of caring people – mostly strangers.
For the most part, the flights from Milan to Newark, then from Newark to Tampa went pretty smoothly. My two buddies from our neighborhood were waiting in the airport as they wheeled us into the main lobby. They were doing jumping-jacks and squat-thrusts asking me if I wanted to join. LOL
They were ready, at a moment’s notice to transport Kathy and I to our home, taking extraordinary care with healthy doses of humor … it’s our style.
These are my friends – this is my family – this is my world! If you always look for the bad you’ll find it, but if you open yourself up to compassion in your own heart, compassion will always find you!
I had surgery 6/7/2018, two weeks after my fall, and my surgeon said everything went well. There will be different levels of recuperation ahead as my leg must remain immobilized. Then physical therapy and more over the next 6 – 18 months as we get ready for the next journey!
Medical Travel Insurance with evacuation coverage should be purchased by anyone leaving the USA even for short trips. My wife, Kathy, was able to handle travel arrangements and my medical insurance covers emergency treatment outside the country, but not my medical transportation costs which were significant, and if she were not able to take over all the complicating issues and logistics we would still be in Italy. We were lucky this time but will make that purchase on our next adventure.
My List of Heroes, in order of appearance (Italics indicates Italian assistance providers and medical team):
- Chris Fooshee – my brother
- Tall man – with the “you can do this smile”, stazione Vicenza
- Medically trained Lady on the train platform 1
- Medically trained Lady on the train platform 2
- Middle-aged Male Train Station Worker, stazione Vicenza
- Ambulance Team 1
- Lady 1 in Emergency Room, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Lady 2 in Emergency Room, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Ismael and Mom – waiting for treatment, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Gurney Pusher, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Jeannie Fooshee
- X-ray Tech, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Ortho Nurse, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Ortho Doctor, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Sonogram Tech, Ospedale San Bortolo di Vicenza
- Dave Scallaro – United Airlines
- Derrick – United Airlines
- Ambulance Team 2
- Milan Airport Representative
- Flight-1 Attendants
- Wheelchair Attendant 1
- Newark Maint. Worker
- Wheelchair Attendant 2
- Passenger In 12a To Tampa
- Wheelchair Attendant 3
- Chad and Constantin my neighbors in Florida
- Kathy, my wife.