Surviving Sicily

It was supposed to be a holiday - but it didn't turn out that way.

We are back from Italy, most of the time in Sicily. 

It was supposed to be a holiday, mostly alongside the revived Jewish communities on the island, In recent years, there has been an unexpected and largely unexamined interest in Judaism in southern Italy, where there have been no Jews since the Inquisition of 1492. Today, families who have been Catholic for more than five hundred years are trying to rejoin their ancient community, and I have been made a member of the board of the Catania community, which has a gorgeous synagogue, a Rabbi, and even a cantor.  I was supposed to work with these people, encourage conversion, and establish ties with sister cities in Israel.

It didn’t turn out that way.

I was overcome by a sudden infection, combined with a diabetic attack, and ended up for a week in the provincial hospital in Noto, where I lay in bed, underwent CAT scans and X-Rays, had the infection drained and treated, increased my insulin dosage, and awaited Barbara’s twice-daily visits, one from noon to 2, the other from 6 to 8.

You might expect that an Italian hospital would welcome visitors, including large family groups, but the Noto staff operated on a very strict schedule. It was impossible to get in before noon, and departing visitors were locked out until the next round. That gave the (excellent) staff maximum time with the patients.

That was the good news. On the other hand, we were locked into our beds and couldn’t stretch or exercise at all. 

Since returning, my American doctors have been effusive in their praise for Italian medical care. It’s yet another example of unsatisfactory organization overcome by good talent and training.

The hospital isn’t great, having been put together shortly after the war, and the food wasn’t really suitable for diabetics. I have long been on a rigorous diet, but Italian meals don’t conform to those standards.  A typical meal had pasta (what then?), fruit, some tasty protein and lots of bread. Diabetics are taught to avoid bread, especially white bread, and limit sugar intake, which means you have to go easy on fruit.  So I lost weight. 

The medical care was terrific, very good doctors and nurses, but I was locked in bed and my legs and feet tightened a lot. When they finally discharged me, we got excellent physical therapy, daily visits from nurses, and I slowly regained the ability to walk.  After a week or so of attention, I was able to fly to Rome, and then make it back home. Since then I have been seeing all manner of doctors, changed my insulin regimen, and given up some diabetes pills.  It’s an unpleasant disease, but for the moment at least, I’m coping well.  I won’t be needing surgery, for one thing.

So I’m under unusual medical attention. My doctors have ordered me to gain weight, an instruction I haven’t heard for years, if ever. I don’t recommend a hospital stay in Sicily, but I seem to have survived, and you couldn’t ask for sweeter, kinder, more attentive care than I received. If you’re looking for s truly superb retreat, go to Villa Giulia near Noto, where everything is top of the line: fabulous food, a world-class swimming pool, paradise all around,

Could have been a lot worse.  And even United Airlines came through with a fine flight to Washington from Rome. Surprise!