Greek Health Care System…

Deb here
I’m fine. Antibiotics are working.

It turns out that what I thought was an allergic reaction to a sting on my knee wasn’t an allergic reaction at all. I had an infection in my lower thigh. I must have scratched myself at some point. I’m fine. I’m on 2 different antibiotics and they are working.

This is a funny story.
Our friends the Tye’s arrived here in Lefkas yesterday about 3, so after an arrival cocktail, we went for a walk in town for a beer and lunch for them and an open pharmacy or a Drs clinc for me. My leg wasn’t looking good so I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. Of course,  yesterday was a religious holiday here. After asking around we found out that businesses, pharmacies and Drs offices were closed.  

So the guy at the taverna said to go to the police station to find out what, if anything, was open.

The policeman (who spoke good English) said that all the pharmacies are closed except 1, and the closed pharmacies will have a list on the door telling you which one is open.

Policeman walks with us to a pharmacy, and we find out which pharmacy is open, but he has to ask directions at the coffee shop next door. Lots of Greek men talking, hands waving…

Where upon, we are adopted by Gustov. Gustov is all of 5’1″ and kinda looks like a 60 y/o bowling ball. “Me Dentist.” Looks at my knee. He says “Hospital. I drive”. We pile into Gustov’s tiny car. Gustov tells us he has 2 Akitas, and by the amount of dog hair in the car, they must be bald.  Policeman laughs and waves goodbye as we drive away in a cloud of dog hair rather than exhaust.

Gustov drives about 5 blocks, waves at the guards while driving into the ambulance entrance, leaves the car there. “Follow Me.” Paula, Mike and I are busting up laughing, but we follow. Gustov sits us down in the waiting room of this sketchy hospital, and starts to charm all the nurses and lady Drs in the room. Every time I look confused, he waves his hands in a conciliatory fashion, taps his teeth and says, “Me Dentist. Shhhhh”. In about 5 minutes, Gustov and I get seen by a very nice young lady Dr, who says, “Nope. This is an infection”. 2 min later, blood is being drawn and when I look down at my arm after (because of course I close my eyes when I get my blood drawn) she has installed an IV port in my arm! WTF!!!??? “Me Dentist. Shhhh”.  

Another Dr comes in, who turns out to be the orthopedist (bone dr). He’s in ER because every other patient in the ER turns out to be couples who have wiped out on their Mopeds. (FYI. It’s always the girl in the back who eats it worse.)  He’s worried the infections in the knee, but is eventually convinced that it’s not.

Gustov looks at me, and between his 20 words of English, his Italian (he went to med school in Italy) and my brain finally starting to be able to understand some of the Greek that’s most like Latin and therefore Spanish, he tells me to watch his keys (he owns 10 apartments by the sea), because he’s got to drive my blood to the lab to get the tests done. Wave, wave, “Me Dentist. Shhhh.”

I go kick Mike and Paula out and tell them to go get lunch. Who knows what’s in my future. They leave, Gustov comes back and let’s me know that the blood will be done in an hour. He figures out that Mike and Paula are at a Taverna, so we leave the hospital, “Come!” And I still have the IV port in my arm. He and I pile into his Mario Brothers car, and drive around looking for the Taverna Mike and Paula are at. We Mario Car drive past his office. We Mario Car drive past his friend at the car rental place who checks the Internet for directions to the cafe, we Mario Car drive past another friend who knows where this cafe is, and we finally end up at the cafe. This is all done yelling past me through the open passenger side car widow into their street front shops. Gustov drops me at the plaza with Mike and Paula and tells me to meet him at 6 at the end of the road at the “poste” and he’ll drive me 3 blocks back to the hospital. I have no clue what a “poste” is, but I agree.

Mike, Paula and I have a beer and can’t stop laughing. 1/2 an hour later I go to meet Gustov at what I’m guessing is either a pastry shop, or a post office. Turns out it’s the port. But I can’t find Gustov. So I turn around, meet M&P and we all walk 3 block back to the hospital.

Once back inside, I try to talk to the nurse and say I’m back, but she cops a total attitude and tells me to wait…. Suddenly Gustov appears behind me, scolds me for not being at the poste, and runs off to collect my lab results. 5 min later, I’m back in a room with Gustov, lab results, the nice lady dr and the Chief of Staff. Yes I have an infection. I can either spend the night at the hospital on IV antibiotics or I can take oral antibiotics and come back in 2 days if it doesn’t get better. I take the pill option, get the IV port pulled out, give them my name and phone number for billing. 

Gustov piles all of us back into his tiny car, drives us to the one and only open pharmacy (where the pharmacist is the daughter of a girl he used to go to school with) to get my antibiotics, then to the butcher where they make really good salami, because by this time he’s figured out that Mike makes sausages for a living.  (Try having that conversation in Greekitalianenglishlatinspanish.  Thank god for google translate.)

Gustov drives us back to the boat where I give him a boat tour and we have cocktails, Fanta and the salami. We talk Greekitalianenglishlatinspanish for about an hour, then he leaves us, after making me promise to come to his office today at 1:10 to take my bandage off.

So with Gustov’s help, we managed to negotiate the Greek health care system in maybe 3 hours total, including an hour at the Taverna and finding the open pharmacy. Without his help I’m sure it would have taken all day. €22 for the antibiotics which would have been about$100 in the US, and nothing at the hospital. I’ll go back later and settle up my bill. Did I mention that Gustov drives like one of the Mario brothers? I just can’t make this up. 
Bottom line. I’m fine, boat is great, and always have good friends with you when you’re on an adventure. 


  1. Oh Deb, this is the best travel story! It reminds me of a quote by Marguerite, Queen Consort of Henry II in 1708: “God always looks after fools, lovers and drunkards.” My own version includes “and especially travelers”. I am pretty sure we have had the benefit of that divine providence on many of our trips. Very happy it kicked in for you. Sounds like Gustov is perhaps Greek and divine! -Sigrid

    Liked by 1 person

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