So, I can now say that I’ve gone to a doctor in another country and survived. But it was an experience.

Google told me that there was a tourist 24-hour walk-in clinic at the Nuovo Regina Margherita Hospital in Rome. I was encouraged by the fact that it was for tourists, hoping against hope that it meant English-speaking doctors were on hand. Regardless, I was going to have to go somewhere because I knew that my ears were infected, and flying home for 11 or so hours, on two different flights, wasn’t going to go well otherwise (says the girl who has a ruptured eardrum in her repertoire).

We grabbed a cab and headed out, being driven through a part of the city we had yet to see. It was beautiful. Different from Florence, certainly, as Florence is smaller and more intimate somehow. Rome is, well, ROME. It’s a massive city with a much faster pace, and building after building denoting its prominence in world history. It’s almost too much to take in. Before we knew it, we were deposited in front of what looked like a non-descript office building. We walked into the first door, and found ourselves surrounded by Italians, speaking Italian, filling out Italian forms and reading instructions off Italian signs. When we asked the receptionist if she spoke English, she said no.

This is where my blood pressure started to rise.

Finally, we found a person who told us to go around the corner to the Tourista Medico Guard. Whew…HERE’S where they keep the English-speaking doctors!

Or not.

We were in the right place, and there were three doctors, one of whom met me in the lobby and asked me what was wrong in very broken English. There, in front of the other patients, I raised my pants leg and showed him the rash, then in short, one-word explanations, accompanied by hand gestures, told him about my sinuses and ears. Then he told me to sit down.


So, I waited until two more doctors called me back. I went into the exam room, where they sat together, and went through my song and dance again while they conversed over me in Italian. Then one of them told me they wanted to get blood work, again in broken English. Alarmed, I quickly told them I would be back in the States on Thursday, and could be at my own doctor on Friday, to which they agreed.

(I love you, Italy, but I do not want your needles in my arm at your third-world-looking blood lab.)

When I tried to explain my concerns about flying with my ears in this condition, one doctor told me I needed to chew gum. Bless him. I finally got them to understand that my ears hurt RIGHT NOW, and they got their otoscope to take a look. We were on a roll, now. They diagnosed me with an ear infection/sinus infection and I nearly wept when they prescribed me  Augmentin for my antibiotic. I’ve never been so thankful for American pharmaceuticals! They also prescribed some other things that I had to look up to know what they were (decongestant, and something to decrease mucus), and told me to follow up with my doctor concerning the rash.

Kevin was waiting in the lobby with eyes as big as saucers when I walked out. He just said, “Let’s get out of here!” and so we did when I asked what I owed them, and they just looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently, he was witness to a man who was trying to explain explosive diarrhea to the lobby doctor in German, and an old woman who came in with blood running down her legs, complaining about being pushed down by a “stupido Americano” while the doctor kept glancing sideways at Kevin.

We were both super happy to leave.

Not far from the top point of the Via del Corso (the main boulevard for walking traffic and shops), we grabbed a cab to that location and had a beautiful lunch of spinach ravioli and spaghetti with bacon, artichokes and mushrooms. After about an hour, and one of my antibiotics at work, I started feeling markedly better.

We set off down the boulevard, veering off to see the famous Spanish Steps with its beautiful views of the many rooftop gardens across the city. We got a gelato and walked to the Trevi Fountain, where I had my picture taken throwing in the obligatory coin. We marveled at the 1800 year old Pantheon, still containing 80% of its original stone, and then stumbled upon what I determined to be the most picturesque (and my favorite) street that we’ve seen, filled with fine antique shops.

(This is where I would tell you its name, if I remembered it)

Finally, we came upon an open air market, filled with artists selling their work, and surrounded by cafes, as so many of the piazzas are. We were drawn in by an Italian man playing romantic tunes on his guitar, and grabbed a coke at the cafe across from him to rest and listen. I sat there in the perfect weather, awash with atmosphere and music, realizing that everything about this day was a gift…even the doctor. I now don’t have to worry about flying home since I have medicine (and familiar medicine at that!). That visit afforded us the gift of a leisurely day to enjoy this part of the city on our own, and stumble on sights we might not have, otherwise. While we were supposed to have been on a guided tour of the Vatican and the Coliseum that day, and our tour guide couldn’t reschedule, Bernardo from Florence was able to find us a guide for today, at the last minute.

I know I’ve written about this again and again, but I don’t think we open our eyes to the gifts in life nearly enough. We are blinded by the inconvenience and frustration and fear that its interruptions throw our way. Every second of life is fraught with gifts from a God who makes it His business to bless. He’s going out of His way to pour them out on you, if you’ll just take a look.


“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17 ESV

“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16 ESV