I wasn’t completely upfront in yesterday’s blog because I didn’t want to spook Pete, but the kids knew what was going on. I spent an extremely unpleasant night with two donkeys taking turns at kicking my back. Thank god albergues rise early, I knew I needed to get to hospital I just didn’t want to wake up the others and disturb their calm snoring. At 5.30am I rang the Mapfre hospital in the Burgos area. “No,” she said, “emergency isn’t covered. Do you have national health insurance?” “Yes, but I haven’t brought the card with me,” (brain dead or what!) “Shouldn’t matter, if you’ve got Spanish ID and empadronamiento.”
I phoned a taxi and asked to be taken to Hospital Hubu, but by the time it arrived I had got nervous and thought I should just head for home. The taxi driver checked his sites: “The first train to either Madrid or Barcelona is after 12, if you get lucky that gives the doctors six hours to work on you and prepare you for the journey, you look like you need that!” He pointed the station out to me as we drove to the hospital, it was about a 2km walk away.”
At the national health hospital I barely waited ten minutes. They sorted the problem out with the card and said they would be sending the bill to me, all I had to do was take it into health admin in Palma and they would be paid. Nurses took bloods and urine samples and let me lie down in a quiet room until the doctor was ready to interview me. “From what you’ve said, I don’t think it has anything to do with a sudden large consumption of anti-inflamattories, I’d like to do an X-ray.”
While waiting for that I was being introvenously pumped full of anti-nauseas and pain meds. I drifted into sleep. I was a very happy bunny. The doctor came back, “there’s definitely one kidney stone but, see this shadow, I think that’s another one behind it.”
“Obviously it’s not for me to tell you to stop your Camino, but you may take some time to pass these and you’re going to need medical support while you do it.” For me there was no question. The albergues and the Camino itself is not the place to be when you are too nauseous to eat. Carrying a 9kg pack strapped at exactly kidney height wasn’t going to be fun either. “I’m going home, there’s a train to Barcelona at 12 which arrives at 6, giving me plenty of time to get the overnight ferry.”
“OK, I can give you sufficient strong painkillers for 24 hours. I’ll also give you a prescription for anti-biotics but if you don’t find a chemist on a Sunday before you get on the train you’ll have to get a new prescription when you get home as you’re not then in the Castillia and Leon province.” I really love our national health service!
I walked to the station and bought a ticket. Three US guys living in Barcelona struck up conversation on the platform. They’d done 5 days on the Camino. “I didn’t think it would be so tough!” The most talkative one said. “The lack of nutricious food left me week as a kitten.” Would they come back? “I don’t reckon so, there’s lovely walking in other parts of Spain and in France and Austria.” However, they, like me, had discovered The Alchemist in Ages. In fact that place was exactly what they had expected from the Camino. They’d stopped there so long they were even on first name terms with the owners!
The first train was cancelled. Something to do with a car being on the track. Another train from Madrid would take us on somewhere random and then we’d have to change onto a slow train. The Madrid train was due at 14.20, the next direct train to Barcelona was at 15.00. “I’d like to change my ticket onto the next direct train please, what time should it get in?” “2100, 2130 maximum.” That would still give me half an hour to get to the ferry terminal and get a ticket.
The train pulled in at 1520. It didn’t seem to pick up much speed. We arrived in Barcelona at 2215. The lovely hospital meds had worn off and I couldn’t face eating. Anyway, there was nothing to eat. I sprinted (ish) to the taxi rank and explained the situation. She drove like an ambulance and I dashed inside wearing my most winning smile.
“Computer says no …”
“I don’t care what it is, it doesn’t have to be a bed or a chair.”
“Computer says no …”
I explained the situation and asked if she could think of any way around the problem.”
Her colleague came forward. You can try Transmediterrenea, they may not have closed yet. It’s 100 metres down the street.”
I legged it.
“OK, but we’ve only got a bar stall left for the night.”
“No problem, I love spending 8 hours on a bar stall! Thank you so much!”
The ferry was totally full. There were some sofas in the bar so I sat in the middle of one and refused to move. Once we had started I unrolled my sleeping bag and lay down, beneath a sign that showed a person lying with a big red line through it. I was sharing the area with a number of Gypsy men who were all doing the same as me, only without the sleeping bag. Ten minutes later the young steward arrived. “You can’t lie here Senora.”
“As you can see from the scallop shells on my bag, I’ve been on the Camino fror the last three weeks. I’m trying to get home because I have extremely painful kidney stones. If I were your mama, how might you rephrase your statement?” I said with one eye cracked open. He looked at me for 30 seconds.
“Have you got enough medication to get you through the night?” He said. “That’s so kind of you,” I said, smiling while I closed my one eye “I’ll be fine”.
I heard him busily chucking the Gipsy guys off the sofas. “What about her! You’re just being racist! It’s always the same with you lot!”
Each time I heard the words “Camino”, “piedras de rinon” and “Mama”. To a lad, they put their feet down and promised the steward they would look after me throughout the night! I felt a little guilty about playing on their deeply Catholic, Matriarchal society set up … but not too much!
I have to apologise to Krista and the other brilliant volunteers at Cancer Support Group Mallorca for cutting this blog short by at least two weeks. I hope the adventure raised a little towards getting them a permanent room, if not the full amount.
It is said that the Camino never gives pilgrims what they expect. It gives them what they need. In that case my walk across the bridge that led straight back to where I had been, which I wrote about yesterday, may have been more significant than I realised. What has the Camino given to me? At the risk of sounding almost criminally traditional, it made me know to the deepest marrow of my bones, that I am most happy caring for my large, noisy, sometimes exasperating, family and garden. For me, that is pure heaven x