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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Location: Istanbul

MapA big day … after three and half weeks in this room in this Istanbul hospital, and seven weeks since we left Tasmania, we are leaving for home. The Insurance Company have arranged Business Class flights (to allow me to elevate my leg) via Dubai and Melbourne flying Emirates. Incidentally, today (May 19) is a public holiday in Turkey – referred to as “Youth and Sports Day”, it is dedicated to the Father of the Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the youth of the Republic. The date is significant as the beginning of Ataturk’s fight against the Ottoman regime following the First World War. Coincidently, we were admitted to this hospital on another public holiday – April 23 is “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day”, and it commemorates the first meeting of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1920. These holidays are a good illustration of just how important Ataturk and the post WW1 republic is to the modern-day Turkey.

We said goodbye to the night staff – Meral has been a fantastic nurse over our time here, and her friend Temel is a male nurse who works in Intensive Care but has frequently visited us to say “hello” in his very broken English. An enduring image of my time here was the day when Temel and Dayna were sitting in the corner of my room, each armed with their laptops, and having a conversation using an on-line English-Turkish translation website. Duelling laptops!!! This morning Temel used a translation website to tell us that he and Meral will miss us, they like us, and wished us a good trip home. This is characteristic of the friendships we’ve had with our nurses and doctors here, and typical of the beautiful nature of the Turkish people.
More preparations for leaving – I have the intravenous drip removed from my arm. It has been there since Day One, and has changed locations every 3 or 4 days across both arms and hands, to enable drip-fed antibiotics three times a day. To not have this thing sticking into my body somewhere is like being set free. Quite symbolic, really.
We shower, and the lovely male attendant gives me a shave and a trim. I haven’t felt this spruce for a month. Baris calls in to say hello, and goodbye. Being a holiday today, Dr Mik called in yesterday to say goodbye. Sadly we will miss saying goodbye to several staff, as they are off today. A quick change of the dressing before we go, and a final farewell to the Plastic Surgeon. The insurance company called to make sure all is ready. The flight itinerary arrives by fax. The hospital manager confirms that the bill has been taken care of. The handover of all medical reports written by both surgeons for us to take back to our Tasmanian doctors. And an official “OK to fly” for us to present to the airline at the airport.
At 4.30, at taxi arrives to take us to the airport. Our flight leaves at 7.30. On the way to the airport (I finally get to see some more of Istanbul), the Turkish flag is flying everywhere for today's celebrations, and if it's not the distinctive red flag, then it's a portrait of Ataturk. Many high-rise office buildings drape a huge flag down one side, as big as the building itself.

As we finally depart, I pause to reflect. Turkey is a fabulous country, and we’ve loved being here. The last three weeks may have been frustrating, but even under these trying conditions, the Turkish friendship and warmth has shone through. To call it an eventful seven weeks is an understatement, and half of this period was not planned the way it actually unfolded. But then again, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.