Last night I went to pick up the prescription from the doctor that my school uses, to get the H1N1 vaccine. My allergist suggested that I get the immunization with asthma and allergies making the possibility of severity that much more worrisome. Luckily, my friend Kate (we teach together and she is also American and has been living here for three years) came with me, since she knew where it was. It was dark and foggy out, there was no sign, no reception desk, and there is no way I ever would have found it without her! We walked up a few floors, and finally came into a reception area. The woman behind the counter only spoke Italian. Kate knows more Italian than I do, and was able to figure out where the doctor’s office was. At first they couldn’t even figure out who we were asking for.
We finally found the doctor, who does speak English and was ready to write me the prescription to go to get the H1N1 shot. I had to bring in documentation of all my allergy and asthma medications, then she wrote up a letter stating that because I have asthma, I qualify to get the vaccine. It was a bit of a process! She printed a map to show me where I should go to get the actual shot. The only hours I could go were between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. I work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which meant I would have to miss school either way.
I decided to go this morning to get it done. I had no problem taking a different bus than I usually take, getting off at a stop I had never been to, then finding the gated in area where all the medical buildings were. The problem that I did have was trying to find which medical building I was supposed to go to! After roaming around in my clunky black rain boots, holding an umbrella, trying to keep my map dry from the rain, asking about six different people in Italian where to go, getting pointed in six different directions, then finally navigating it on my own, I found the right building 45 minutes later!
I went inside the building and found a reception desk. I showed the woman my map and asked if I was in the right place. She said yes, and was kind enough to take me to the room that I needed to go to, explain I spoke English, and show my prescription to the woman. They brought me into a room five minutes later. There were three other people in the room, speaking Italian and googling on the computer. My Italian is at a very basic understanding level right now, so I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, until a woman in broken English explained that they needed the consent forms and paperwork to print for me in English. This took a good hour or so! Finally when everything was printed, I was expected to read through it, then sign all the forms.
They asked about my allergies, so I showed them my Medic Alert bracelet. It was the first time I had used it since being here. When they saw that latex was on there, that took another 25 minutes of Italian debate. Unfortunately, I had no idea what they were debating about. Finally they showed me that the syringe that they were planning to use had latex. I tried to explain that I avoid latex as much as I can because I am allergic to banana and kiwi (and there is a link between them and latex, so my allergist told me to avoid it and also have it on my Medic Alert in case of an emergency), but that it would be okay, because I am not allergic (yet, luckily!), but that did not translate, so 20 more minutes went by before they found latex free syringes to use to give me the vaccine. After I was finally given the vaccine, I had to sign some more paperwork, then wait for a half an hour to make sure I didn’t get a reaction. I was then finally able to leave!
Even with the long, difficult process I went through, I am glad that I was able to get it. Victory! I got the vaccine, in Italy with my bad Italian…somehow!