We are in our last week of medical school! Hooray! On Tuesday night, Gordon, Jens, and I went to the Alzheimer’s association of Heraklion. Although the meeting was conducted in Greek, a few people were willing to translate for us so we got the gist. A social worker ran the group and the participants played structured word games. One lady explained to me that they were here to keep themselves sharp. Later that evening, one of the doctors, Dr. P had Gordon, Hileal from Turkey, Jens from Belgium, and myself over for a traditional Greek dinner. Dr. P is an internal medicine doctors at the University of Crete PAGNI and his wife is a nephrologist in Rethymo. Gordon and I visited Rethymo last weekend with my parents and it is about an hour and a half away from Heraklion, so we were surprised that she worked so far away. Dr. P and his wife explained that when they chose their specialties, they both loved internal medicine, but thought if they both specialized in it that they would be unable to find jobs in the same city. Dr. P’s wife also liked nephrology so she chose that instead in the hopes of working in the same location. Unfortunately, there has not been an opening in Heraklion for a nephrologist in over 10 years so she has to make the long commute to Rethymo. She is one of three doctors in her group and takes 10 days of 24 hour call a month, with no post call days. She says it is very difficult to work basically like a resident indefinitely and to be away from their kids so much. Dr. P also told us that the doctors and residents at The University of Crete have not been paid for their duty hours in five months because of the financial crisis in Greece and the residents are planning to go on strike.
On a happier note, the dinner was absolutely delicious. Even cooler, everything we ate was from somewhere local in Crete and had been hand made. We had salad and local cheeses, Dr. P had made the olive oil and his brother made the wine. Mrs. Dr. P made goat, rabbit, chicken, potatoes, spaghetti, and hard bread. For dessert we had traditional sweet Easter bread and local fruits. While we ate we listened to traditional Greek music. The doctors were so gracious and so kind to have us over for dinner. I think it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten.
We also asked them about the shooting of guns at a track suit full of sawdust that we saw in santorini on Easter. They explained to us that that is a tradition in small villages and the shirt filled with sawdust represents Judas, the apostle of Jesus who betrayed him. They also told us that there are many injuries every year from this tradition – I can definitely see why! That’s all for now!
This weekend marks the end of our third week of the rotation. We’ve finally gotten into the swing of things at the hospital (right in time for our last week to begin!) We have a couple scholastic endeavors planned for the week including presenting a topic in front of the whole internal medicine department on Wednesday and a visit to the Alzheimer’s association of Heraklion on Tuesday night.
This Friday, my parents came to Heraklion. Hooray! It was so nice to see some familiar faces! They also were amazing and brought us some peanut butter, which is a staple in our household but is impossible to find in Greece! Gordon and I talked my parents’ ears off for a full two days. We have family that lives in Sofia, Bulgaria that my parents have been visiting. Because our trips overlapped, they decided to spend some time in Greece as well. From Sofia, they drove to theseleniki, flew to Santorini, and then took a ferry into Heraklion to see us.
On Saturday, we took them to Knossos which is 5km outside the city and is famous for its Minoan ruins. We took them on a brief tour of Heraklion, including Koules castle, Lions square, and the port of Heraklion. Sunday, we took a bus out of Heraklion about an hour west to the city of Rethymno. My favorite part was actually the bus ride. We traveled more inland into Crete than Gordon and I have been before and we’re able to see some of its mountainous countryside. It has been a very good visit with my parents and we’ll be very sad to see them go!
Today is Friday of our third week. While at the University of Crete, we have seen some really interesting cases. The case of visceral leishmaniasis was really interesting, and the patient is doing much better after the treatment with Amphotericin B. Because the hospital we are at is one of the largest hospitals in Crete, with the most resources, they see some of the rarest and severe patient cases. Today, we saw a 22 year old make with Steven Johnson syndrome, which was caused by some antibiotics that were administered at another facility. Although I’ve read all about Steven Johnson syndrome, I’ve never seen a case. There is also a 21 year old male with severe cerebral palsy who has been hospitalized with a respiratory tract infection for the past three weeks. After seeing pleural effusions on ultrasound yesterday, a thoracentesis was performed. Today, the results showed possible tuberculosis. We are currently awaiting further confirmation whether or not it is TB. These are just a few examples of many interesting cases that we’ve seen so far.
On a completely unrelated side note, the food in Greece is delicious and very well priced! They also don’t seem to have the same qualms with unhealthy food that American hospitals have! I enjoyed a donut as big as my head today! That’s all for now!
Yesterday was Greek Orthodox Easter. This past week there have been wind and thunder storms in Crete with the winds up to 40mph. We had booked a ferry from Crete to take us to Santorini this past weekend, but because of the 20+ feet waves that the winds were creating, our ferry was canceled.
We, however, are not that easily dissuaded. We used our refunded ferry tickets to buy two flights on the first flight out of Heraklion to Santorini. Because that’s what you should do in a wind storm, fly in an airplane. The flight was not for the faint hearted, but we made it two flights and five hours later. (Even though Crete is really close to Santorini, there are no direct flights so we connected through Athens.) We are staying on the Caldera, which overlooks both Fira and Oai. Oai is most recognizable, as it is the most photographed village in the world and the poster child for Greece. Everything in Santorini is white buildings with blue tops.
It’s sunny and in the 70s. We visited one of the many black sand beaches, which stretched about 3 miles. Because of Easter, all the restaurants were grilling lamb on a spit over hot coals. (Also not for the faint of heart or any Lambchop’s Play Along fans). Gordon and I walked the beach and ate at one of the restaurants along the beach. As we waited to catch the bus back to Imerovigli (where our hotel is) we witnessed something very odd. A shirt filled with sawdust was strung up in the street. A crowd began to gather and Gordon and I stopped to watch. About 15-20 men with guns (shotguns and handguns) lined up and on cue started to shoot at the blue shirt until it was blown off of the line it was strung up by. Everyone in the crowd clapped and then everybody dispersed, leaving all their shotgun shells and casings on the ground. We literally had no idea what it was, if it was an Easter transition or military related.
When we looked it up, we found that shooting off guns and fireworks on Easter at the time of Christ’s resurrection is very common and a pretty big source of Injuries on Santorini every year.
Santorini was truly paradise. Gordon and I both love the outdoors and took the 10km walk from Fira to Oai (luckily our hotel was situated in the middle so we broke up the mountainous hike over two days.) At the bottom of Oai there is an area called the Ammoudi Bay. It was recommended that we eat there so we took the advise and sat down at one of the outdoor eating establishments. The fish was so fresh that the waiter actually took us into the kitchen to choose our own fish to eat. We had grilled grouper and it was tremendous!
Until next time!
Today, Dr. P took us to a nursing home that is funded by the municipality in Heraklion (not belonging to the private sector). This nursing home is also called a “poor house” because of the low fees charged to the residents and the fact that the nursing home has six residents that pay nothing at all to live there. With the nursing home residents, Gordon, myself, and an ERASMUS student named Jennis dyed traditional Greek Easter eggs. As I mentioned before, Greek Orthodox Easter is this upcoming Sunday and is the main holiday in Greece. Today is Holy Thursday here. To dye the Easter eggs, the eggs were hard boiled first. Small leaves and flowers were gathered from outside. We placed the leaves on the eggs and placed a cut piece of panty hoes around the eggs, stretching it tightly around each egg before placing the eggs in the dye. (After several failed attempts) the eggs came out with a beautiful pattern!
Unlike in the USA, we died the eggs red and yellow. The red symbolizes the blood of Christ I’ve read, but I don’t know what the yellow symbolizes. All of the nursing home residents were super sweet and talked to us in Greek (sometimes someone would translate and sometimes not!) One resident was a former nurse and spoke to us for a long time about her life and career before coming here. At the end of our visit, we toured the facility, which included separate men and women’s units as well as a garden with orange and lemon trees and a small vineyard out front. It was such a cool way to meet members of the Heraklion community and get involved in some Greek traditions!
This week is a Holy Week in Greece leading up to the Greek Easter, which is typically after Catholic Easter which was last week. Greek Easter is HUGE! All over the city, people are shutting down their businesses, closing down shops, and getting the heck out of dodge. Dr. P explained to us that Easter is the main holiday in Greece, bigger than Christmas. He is on vacation time, but still took us on a tour of auxiliary services in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Heraklion yesterday. As a group, Gordon, Hilleal (a Turkish medical student), myself, and Dr. P all visited a community center, occupational therapy center, physical therapy center, and a nursing home. We talked with each of the professional staff (with the help of Dr. P’s translating) and learned about their roles in patients’ health. Dr. P told us that one of the big differences between medicine in Greece versus the USA is the difference in auxiliary services. Although there are all the same professions as in the United States, the doctors here take on roles that are reserved for others in the USA. For example, doctors do blood draws, start IVs, do their own EKGs, and do a lot of social work and nursing home placement here. USA doctors also do some of this, but to a lesser degree.
All of the medical students are on Easter break this week so it’s just Gordon and I with a couple other international students at the hospital. One student is Turkish, one is from Sweden, and one is from Belgium. They, and the Greek students and residents, are all completely fluent in English, and it is used as a common language to communicate in. We are blatantly aware of how little Greek we can understand, although we did pick up the Greek word for “sorry” (signome!) That’s all for now!
PS As Gordon mentioned, there are a million dogs here. They are adorable and super people friendly. Every day Gordon has to remind me to not pet /play with /bring home these lovable little guys! This dog was just chilling at our bus stop today.
Gordon and I had the weekend off this weekend, so we hopped on a plane and flew to Athens for the weekend. It worked out perfectly – there was a late flight Friday night (10 PM) and a late flight Sunday so we’ll be back in time for work on Monday! The flight was quick, only 50min from Heraklion to Athens. We brought only his bookbag and my purse and booked a hotel room on expedia (thank goodness for the internet!)
We got to Athens too late to do anything last night but got an early start this morning. We booked a hop on hop off tour this morning and spent the morning and afternoon touring Athens. We saw so many sights steeped in ancient history, with a HUGE metropolitan area surrounding it. A few of the sights we took in included the Arch of Hadrian, the temple of Zeus, and (an absolute must) the Parthenon.
The Parthenon is set on top of an incredibly high/steep/treacherous hill, but we toughed it out and made it up there.
The view of Athens was AMAZING! (And the Parthenon wasn’t too bad either!) We have a free walking tour of the acropolis tomorrow before hopping on our flight back to Crete. Until next time!