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Kindness is still everything

  • 05 September 2017


The old grey mare she ain't what she used to be: so the song says. Well, I'm definitely grey, but thought I was trotting along satisfactorily on the sands of time until about a month ago, when I was calmly crossing a Kalamata street.

I remember stepping on to the pavement, and then nothing more until a passerby was helping me up and dabbing rather ineffectually at my face and shirtfront: there was blood everywhere, and I very soon began to look as if I'd gone a couple of losing rounds with Muhammad Ali.

The passerby was extremely kind and considerate, as was the woman who emerged from the posh dress shop near the scene of this little drama. She carried a stool, a bottle of water and reams of paper towel. Overriding my feeble murmurings about my nearby doctor, she insisted on ringing for an ambulance, which appeared in record time.

And the ambulance men were also very kind and considerate, settling me tenderly before whizzing me off to hospital. I'd never been in an ambulance before, and was struck by the alteration of perspective. Although I was travelling a familiar route, I was viewing my surroundings from a new angle, as visibility is quite limited from inside such a vehicle. And was the journey a metaphor for the incident? So I wondered later.

I was admitted briefly to a general ward, where the little paper icons slotted above the banked lighting gazed benignly on me.

But it wasn't too long, after various tests had been run with no decisive results, before I found myself in the ICU, hooked up to various drips and monitors, and in receipt of new knowledge: the word idiopathic seems to mean the same thing in two languages, and is doctor-speak for: We don't really know what's going on here. Eventually it was decided I'd had a heart attack, even though I don't tick the usual boxes.

I've lived in this neck of the olive groves so long that I'm almost part of the scenery, and sure enough, there were family connections in the shape of one doctor and two nurses. But people continued to be very caring, whoever they were, and also provided entertainment in that unconsciously zany way that is also part of Greek scenery.

I wished my vascular surgeon cousin, who works in Melbourne, could have been a fly on the wall to see the senior cardiologist walking