“When on Santorini, don’t forget to buy your own bandages before going to the hospital!”

A few days into my trip here in Greece two of my girlfriends got into an ATV accident. It was daylight, they were sober and were not hit by another object but still ended up badly hurt. They were taken to what is classified as the hospital on this island but is really nothing more than a mediocre first aid center. While they did receive treatment the doctors the night of the injury told the girls two different things one said they were fine and one said they must be taken to a bigger hospital in either Crete or Athens. In the end they were discharged. One of my friends was lucky enough to walk away with a few scratches while the other has a broken collar bone, wrist and foot. She obviously is the one that required more medical attention. According to locals this type of accident is all too common here in the island. They all warn to not get seriously hurt on Santorini. If you do you are screwed.

After 3 days we returned to the medical center as instructed to have more x-rays on the girl’s wrist and foot. This time we were alone without any friends who spoke Greek. Thank god we were able to track down one of the doctors from the first night. He was kind enough to walk us through the steps required to get attention. There seems to be no rhyme or reason in the hospital. People just barge into any exam room and start pushing their way around. The staff at the hospital doesn’t seem to have any concern for open wounds. People are shuffled from one room to the next while there is blood dripping from their wounds. At one point I was sent to the local pharmacy to buy ace bandages for my friend to have her broken foot and wrist rewrapped (their version of a cast) up after being x-rayed. We saw the orthopedic doctor that day for the first time. At this visit everything looked ok according to the doctors. He looked at the x-rays and sent us on our way. No prescriptions, no concern.

A week later we returned for a follow up and at this time we were reprimanded for not getting her a special strap for her collar bone that the doctor first off had never told us to get before and better yet had no idea where we could get one! We were also told that her foot was getting worse and required surgery! The said she must leave the island immediately because there was nothing else they could do for her on Santorini.

My friend decided that it would be in her best interest to take the ferry to Athens and go the “proper” hospital there instead of flying back to the states where she has no medical insurance. Honestly she wasn’t in any state to fly either.  I wasn’t in the hospital with her but heard nothing but horror stories. There were no nurses; you had to hire your own private nurse if you wanted any attention. You even had to buy your own toilet paper. One of the girls used a paper towel she found and was reprimanded by the nurses that that was her own personal stash of paper towels! The main orthopedic doctor in Athens told her he had no concern over her foot but that her wrist was healing wrong. This is totally conflicting information that what the doctors on Santorini told her. The doctor re-broke her wrist and put her foot and hand into a hard cast and sent her back to the island.

After three weeks of resting and healing, she gathered up her belongings said her goodbyes and has now headed back to the states. I have had my fair share of hard times in foreign countries, but this chain of events has been the roughest patch I have ever been through in a foreign land. Going to the hospital and not understanding what is being said is frightening; having to put your trust in complete strangers to translate your condition correctly. Things that seem so common sense to us as Americans; like bandaging up open wounds is an afterthought here. I thought that Greece would be civilized. It is Europe after all but in all honestly their medical system is third world.

I am still trying to figure out the lesson that was to be learned by all this… Maybe it is that I should have bought travelers insurance. Maybe it is that I shouldn’t travel alone. Maybe it is to not get on scooters and quads. I am just going to soak all this in and tighten up my boot straps for my next adventure. I admit that this experience had left me feeling a little like the wind has been knocked out of my sails but I am not going to let it stop me.

Nohelani won't let a broken foot, wrist and collar bone slow her down!

2 Responses to ““When on Santorini, don’t forget to buy your own bandages before going to the hospital!””
  1. Haris says:

    . . .The health system in devided in two categories..1)islands…..and country side….2)Athens. All that u say about Santorini is true.

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