Little Adventure: Locating a Doctor in Crete

“An adventure can be had by simply putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with life (even if said foot sports an injured toe).” – Anita Borgo

Since the initial discomfort of painful creaky knees following my 13K Samaria Gorge hike dissipated, I felt I had dodged a bullet (or more appropriately a boulder).

As I basked in my unscathed status, my big toe on my right foot begged to differ. Actually the bossy digit didn’t beg, but demanded attention at 3 am Monday.

(Check out https://afewchoicewordsbyanita.com/2019/11/20/big-adventure-hiking-the-gorge-in-samaria-national-park-is-not-a-walk-in-the-park/ for full backstory.)

While my Samaria hike rattled knees refused to carry me anywhere without protest my Samaria hike battered toe lay in wait for days to escalate in pain. I preferred the straightforward dissent of the knees to the festering rage of my toe. 

The staccato throbs shook me awake, and I in turn shook Mike awake.

“My toe, something’s wrong with my toe,” I said to my sleep drugged Mike.

I explained the situation expecting empathy or sympathy or some kind of pathy, but he came up empty.

“Put ice on it,” he responded and rolled over.

In retrospect Mike achieved morning coherency only after several cups of coffee. I doubted he’d remember the verbal exchange in the morning.

Tumbling out of bed and in a left-foot-right-heel hobble I made my way to the bathroom and located my traveling-Walgreen’s-health-care-clinic in a bag. Forcing myself to look at my toe was like forcing myself to look during the scary part of a horror movie (a few dissonant bars herald those scenes). The purple pus inflamed toe rivaled a Freddy Krueger close-up.

I squirted half a tube of Neosporin on my very own Freddy and mummified it with Curads.

After a restless few hours, post-coffee Mike and I determined that the downhill bumping of my toe against my boot during the hike resulted in the injury, and I needed to see a doctor.

Although arriving at the decision involved minutes, arriving at the doctor’s involved hours.

Although staying at a rental home had many perks a direct line to a front desk is NOT one of them. Rental homes DO NOT have concierges they have binders.

Our binder listed a medical clinic address and phone number next to the warning that if immediate medical attention was required it best to drive to a hospital because the ambulance takes too long. (Thankfully the pain localized in my toe, not my chest.)

After several failed attempts at calling, we GPSed the address and whiplashed around curves along rivers through towns and over bridges into a residential area that didn’t look as if it housed clinics. 

A confident “you have arrived at your destination” deposited us in front of an uncliniclike home with fenced yard, bicycle strewn lawn, and a terrier pressing his nose against the window.

“I don’t think this is the clinic,” I deduced aloud.

“It’s Greece. Who knows how they do things?” Mike countered.

Maybe it was a house call. Maybe instead of the doctor calling on the patient at his house, the patient calls on the doctor at the doctor’s house.

As Mike said “It’s Greece. Who knows how things are done?” it was worth a shot.

I knocked at the door.

The terrier announced my presence. A dark haired woman answered the door who didn’t look like a doctor or nurse or anyone associated with a clinic. She looked like someone who had been enjoying her second cup of coffee until a limping tourist disturbed her.

When asked about a clinic, she confirmed my suspicions and launched into extensive directions to the real clinic. It involved driving around curves along rivers through towns and over bridges. (Apparently I wasn’t the first to arrive at her doorstep in need of medical attention.)

My way of following directions is to go so far and then ask three people if I’m getting close. Then I ask about the next leg of the journey. If two of them come close I take a combined version of their instructions. This method landed us back in town. Mike scouted one side of the street and I the other.

I stopped at a house with a big wooden sign engraved in Greek. I hope it translated into “Clinic”.

A lady with a diapered baby in arms answered the door. I think she was enjoying her second up of morning coffee, too.

She didn’t speak English. I repeated “clinic” louder and slower and pointed to my mummy toe. It sparked understanding.

She motioned down the block and I left-foot-right-heel hobbled there. I finally found the clinic and a waiting room full of patients. 

Thirty minutes later Dr. Yonni winced upon seeing my Freddy Krueger toe. Purple and mushy around the nail, he instructed me to pierce the skin. If the pus appeared like milk, leave it alone. If it appeared like yogurt, squeeze it out. (Although I could relate to the description with those analogies, I couldn’t ingest either of those dairy products for a month.) 

Three antibiotics later with a soaked, slathered, and bandaged toe, I enjoyed a tumbler of wine watching the locals dance the Sirtaki. (Think “Zorba, the Greek”.)

Invited to join them, I refused and pointed to my toe. The dancer shrugged and held out his hand for me to join him anyway.

I agreed and danced a few minutes because it was time to put one foot in front of the other and get on with life even if said foot sported an injured toe.

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