Friday, April 28, 2017

The Bag Lady remembers a trip full of hiccups

My husband Art and I volunteered for a month at Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. We've been home for three days now, and we're remembering. Not just the people of the camp and what we did, but the hiccups. Of all the trips we've taken, this one had the most:
  • I checked my large suitcase which contained supplies for camp. It got lost in Amsterdam, arrived in Greece two days later, and was sent by bus from Athens to the Schimitari station, which is open for limited hours. Naturally, I arrived while it was closed. We've had lost luggage three times before, but the airline always delivered it to our door. 
  • Between the time Art checked his bag in Seattle and picked it up in Athens, a third of his medications went missing. He had to ration everything for a month - meds for blood pressure, cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. Fortunately, he didn't tell me about it until we got home, or I would have spent time getting the meds replaced.
  • When we pulled into the camp at Oinofyta, Art didn't see the tall curb near the office trailer so he hit it. The bumper of our rental car was damaged. When we returned the vehicle a month later, we were charged 600 euros (about $650) for a deductible before our insurance picked up the last 400 euros. 
  • Art has an implanted pacemaker/defibrillator as the result of a cardiac arrest three years ago. Three days after our arrival the defibrillator started beeping.  Exactly every four hours. At the recommendation of the camp doctor, we drove to the emergency room of one of Athens' public hospitals to have him checked out. The ER waiting room was chaotic, with patients and their families milling around, gurneys coming and going, and no English whatever being spoken. Art took a number and waited two hours to see the doc. An EKG revealed no problem with his heart. He was instructed to come back the next morning and go to the Cardiology department to have his device checked. He did. Device was checked and then adjusted. He was instructed to come back five days later for a follow up. He did. No beeps, no problems. The biggest challenge was driving our tiny car in Athens. Google Maps has trouble in Athens.
  • I left my CPAP at home but decided to have it shipped since, after five nights, my snoring was keeping my roommates awake. Decided to pay $250 for four-day expedited Fedex shipping. The package got to Athens in four days, but got detained in Customs because of its declared value. I told the truth. I had to send them a copy of my passport and then pay 215 euros to their local bank account. The package was released from Customs to a local courier, which took another three days to find me. Total cost for the CPAP was $500 to ship! When I got home I wrangled with Fedex for a couple of hours, and they finally gave me a $120 credit for the delayed delivery.
  • Art developed a pain in his hip and could feel a kidney stone coming on. He gets one about every eight years so he knows all about it. We'd planned on spending a week in Crete after our month-long volunteer stint at Oinofyta, but we decided to cancel our plans - and our plane reservations for May 6 - and come back early so Art's medical issues could be handled by his American doctors.  We changed our flights to April 24, incurring a $300 per person change fee for the Athens to JFK leg on KLM. I'd made separate reservations on Delta for the JFK to Seattle segment because of a pricing advantage, but their website wouldn't let me change the flight without calling. Delta's Athens office was closed for the day, so I called the US line which had an 80-minute wait time! Decided to just cancel the flight and rebook. 
  • We boarded our flight as scheduled on April 24 and sat there for two hours while mechanics checked out a problem indicated by a light on the cockpit instrument panel. The captain then told us the part needed was not available anywhere in Western Europe, so the flight was being cancelled until the next day. Delta put the entire planeload of people up at a nice hotel across the street from the airport and fed us lunch, dinner and breakfast, then scheduled an extra flight the next day - on the same plane! - to take us home. No problem for us, the retired couple, but very inconvenient for people still working. The airline also reimbursed everyone for the cost of their flight.
An unusual number of hiccups, for sure. And yet, that is part of the adventure of travel. What goes really well is sometimes not as memorable as what doesn't!

I'm grateful to be home. Art's hip issue turned out to be bursitis, which he is treating with ibuprofen and exercises. And the kidney stone is moving along and will be checked out next Tuesday by a urologist. 

There's no cure for jet lag, though, except time. And THAT is a pain!


Meryl Baer said...

Your entire trip sounds surreal. I don't know if I would have the stamina for all that you experienced! You guys did fabulous work.

Linda Reeder said...

Because of Facebook, I was pretty well caught up,on your "hiccups". What I have admired all along is your ability to take it all in stride and cope with it.

Anonymous said...

Glad you can keep your sense of humor through all of this. I wouldn't be able to do so. That's the reason I don't do international trips.

Arkansas Patti said...

Yikes, those seemed more than hiccups. The beeping would have done me in as I have a pacemaker also. The rest of the hics were full of aggravation. Glad it is over for you.
Delta however deserves kudos in how they handled the delay.
Welcome back and hope everything is smooth sailing for a while.

Terra said...

Those may be a record number of hiccups for one trip. I remember your post about the CPAP machine, but wow, there were lots of other hiccups too.

BethB from Indiana said...

I'm just glad you were flying with Delta rather than United. Hard telling how you would have been treated!!

I've loved reading about your experiences on each of your volunteer stints in Greece.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I think you are too kind to room mates. Alot of money and they still managed the additional 7 + days for you device to arrive.
Are you aware that taking MSM daily reduces snoring ? It even works for pets. We but the crystals and mix it into our water. It is also a good help for our aging memories.. Mine improved quite a bit. Hubby's hipocampus is already too damaged so there is less of an improvement except he snores quietly. Buddy loves it too. He feels it gives him some relief from his psoriasis. MSM is a natural substance. My use it to help with joint pain. It is more popular in alternative medicine. We love it.
I cannot get over all your obstacles and the costs. And sadly it is hard to believe we are leaving a large population of misplaced people to camps for survival in 2017!

whalechaser said...

You are very resilient, something very necessary in a world traveler.

DJan said...

The best part about travel like that is getting home and back to normal. What a trip that was! You told it very well, and it made me very happy that I was not traveling myself. I think I'm feeling my age. :-)

Elizabeth said...

It helps to be sanguine in adversity - and you are an excellent role model! Thank you for the updates ... always so interesting. Hope the jet lag is over soon. I find it takes all of a week.