Italy in a wheelchair

I thought I'd write a short report about injuring myself my first night in Rome and then continuing my trip in a wheelchair. So my 16 year old daughter and I landed in Rome and had a great first day sightseeing. We were staying in a fabulous apartment off Campo de'Fiori. That night I took fall down the stairs from the bathroom and broke my ankle. Spent the next day in an Italian hospital where there was minimal communication possible due to my not speaking Italian. They wanted to do surgery, but wouldn't be able to do it until 8 or 9 days later. I said to heck with that, bought a wheelchair and we continued on. I'm sure many of you know that Italy is not a very accessible country, but we made do. Instead of walking everywhere in Rome, as planned, we taxied and even did a "hop on hop off" bus one day (not in the original plans). The only thing I really missed was the Forum, as that is not very accessible. My daughter pushed me around through all of the bumpy backstreets and we had some fun with it. Many of the sites let me in free, which was much appreciated. After 3 more days we caught our train to Florence. The good thing is that I was able to get out of the chair for a few steps at a time with the use of a cane, otherwise we'd have never been able to do so much.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

I agree with Pat and admire your spirit! A broken ankle would be hard enough to deal with at home, never mind thousands of miles away in a less disability-accessible country. Glad to hear you had a good time in spite of your injury.

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

I'll post some more about Florence and Venice, but right now am off to my doctor to see what they say about this ankle of mine (we just got back Saturday)

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Jodi, way to make lemonade out of lemons! I bet Venice was tricky, I recall many of those little arched bridges are actually stepped not ramped, must have been interesting.

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

The train was tricky, but I found out later that you can request a portable ramp to be used for boarding. Florence was rather hard with a chair between the cobblestone streets and very narrow sidewalks. Again, we made it work since I could take some steps and it helps that everything is so close together. Our lodging included stairs, but I hobbled up at the end of the day and then stayed in until the next morning. We were able to see all of the sights I had on the itinerary. The train to Venice was not good. Jam packed and no room for our luggage and I couldn't get down the aisles due to so much baggage, so I just sat in the wheelchair in the baggage compartment, threw the brakes on and let everyone crawl over me when they needed to get by. Vapporettos in Venice were able to accommodate me, but boy the bridges were a pain! We had rented an apartment there as well and once more found ourselves dealing with a lot of steps. We couldn't do much wandering the backstreets like I had hoped. Mostly we'd take the vap to whatever site we were to enjoy and just stayed boxed in around it. We attended Musica Pallazzo (MANY stairs!), Midnight Mass at San Marco and a Vivaldi concert on Christmas Day in San Vidal. All very lovely. Anyway, I thought if anyone had a question about accessibility I might be able to answer it. Italy was a hard country for newbies in a wheelchair, but we managed. It's doable.

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

Thank you Pat and Sarah! I had saved & planned this trip for a year and there was no way I was going back home unless it I was told it was an emergency. Turns out, my doctor here says "no surgery" and just put me in a hard cast. It was a bummer, and the day at the hospital was nerve wracking (not understanding very much) but I figured it taught my daughter that you just soldier on. No whining and play it like it lies. It taught us to be resourceful and showed me how mature she is by the way she handled everything (and me!).

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

So happy to hear you enjoyed you trip.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3206 posts

Wow Jodi, I love your positive "can do" attitude. Good for you! A lesson for us all. And you taught your daughter a lot about life and how to roll with the punches. Hope you get well soon!

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

Ahhhh! I did the same thing in Vienna in April!!!! Unfortunately, I had to come home because I was there by myself, but I am making my triumphant Nordic return in the middle of March. I'm glad you got to enjoy the rest of your trip, and please, please, please, don't overextend yourself at home. Rest, dear Jodi, have your daughter do the cooking and cleaning, and PROP THAT LEG UP! Buy some books and snuggle up next to the TV and laptop. Enjoy the downtime, because once that cast comes off, everyone sees you as back to the way you were.
If you get frustrated, PM me or visit mybrokenleg.com Fabulous outlet for venting and whining about how much having a broken leg sucks.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

I had a similar experience, breaking an ankle in Portugal near the beginning of a two week trip through Portugal and southern Spain this October. (I didn't know it was broken, thought it was just a very bad sprain.) The first day or so was really hard, and we ended up taking a bus tour to Sintra just so I could get off my feet and we could still sightsee. From there, with a help of an ace bandage and a beautiful Portuguese cane, I hobbled to Seville, Cordoba, and Granada in Spain. The hardest day was the Alhambraso much walking on the grounds, so much elevation gain to get there from the center of town! When I got back, I ended up having surgery and had a plate and eleven screws inserted. Turns out I broke both leg bones, the tibia in several places. I'm still in a cast now, and hope to be using a walker and an airboot soon. It's a long haulsometimes it can take up to a year to get fully healedbut I'm really glad it didn't turn out to cost our vacation in Spain. Take it easy and do any physical therapy recommendedit's boring and uncomfortable but it's the key to getting back total mobility. This is especially important for those of us who are middle aged or olderI was told by my doctor that less than half of 60+ women ever get full mobility back, but that physical therapy is the key. So hang in there! Incidentally, I once sprained an ankle in China. Now that's a country that isn't handicapped-friendly!!

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Jody, JER, Emily, I'm in such admiration of your spirit and help for each other. Those were nasty, nasty breaks. It's amazing how you all coped. This reminds me that a couple of years ago I fell in a hole behind an alter in a small church in Brittany two days before a conference my husband had been anticipating for a year. Thinking my foot was sprained I didn't see a doctor, attended the conference, hobbled for a week. I found out it was broken when I saw a doc back in the US thinking I needed PT. I had it so easy: friends with cars at the conference, bulkhead seat and wheelchair transfers. I'm in awe of all of your can-do spirits. Superwomen.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Even Venice is wheelchair-accessible to an extent. I've seen wheelchairs exiting vaporettos, with help. Piazza San Marco is accessible, as is another level area toward the Rialto Bridge. The bridges can be avoided with planning. I think the area around the Accademia can be accessed via wheelchair. At the Venice train station I saw an office dedicated to handicap travel. I've injured myself in Europe, falling off a curb. A knee injury was the worst I experienced. I jettisoned half my clothes (it was near the end of my trip) to lighten my load, then cut back on activities. I continued my trip as planned, just with a lot less moving around.

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

It's amazing how many stories I've heard since I got back about injuring yourself abroad. A co-worker had a friend that landed in Rome a few days after me and broke his wrist within three hours of landing. He had to come back home right away. I also am surprised by how many friends have told me they'd have come right home after what happened. As long as I wasn't being told "emergency surgery" then heck no! I had traveling to do! I figured it gave me a good story, especially about the differences between Italian medicine and USA medicine. Like having to give myself injections for 2 weeks (thrombosis) and that I was refused any pain meds and how inadequate my phrase book was for the hospital (some comedy resulted from that). The pain meds were actually not a big deal, as once my foot was stabilized I wasn't really feeling pain.....but still! I am impressed with y'all and your own stories. I guess travelers are a hardy bunch!
I forgot to also add, right before take off my phone slipped out of my pocket and into the toilet, thereby frying it and leaving us with no internet or phone for the trip. That was almost as much as a pain as the foot issue itself!

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

Oh, and I would have never been able to stay if it hadn't been for my daughter. If she wasn't with me (basically, if I was by myself) then I WOULD have come home!

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

My goodness JER and Emily! I hope you healed quickly Emily and good for your return trip. Enjoy yourself!
JER, wow. I hope your healing continues. You must be a tough lady!

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1560 posts

I broke both bones in right arm in Hawaii and God bless my son who had to help me get shoes tied, cut meat, etc. we laughed later about incident in the clinic as they asked for my credit card, am standing there in bathing suit and he has to fork over his, can still see his jaw tightening but he did it. Only problem was on flight, swear the cart went by my seat hitting arm each time. Broke four toes before trip to Edinburgh and again lovely son dragged me all over, determined not to cancel trip. It can be done.

Posted by Laurie Beth
Was MN, now TX
638 posts

Gail, you and your son are both to be congratulated. You because you raised such a wonderfully kind and patient son and your son for being the man he is.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

You people are remarkable, and you're not alone. When I fell off a ladder (cleaning gutters), I broke both legs. I was in bed 7 weeks without putting one ounce of weight on my legs. I would have had to have been on the plane home had it happened in Europe. You are indeed heroic world travelers by overcoming any limitations.

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

Good news! We're going back for a "do over"! This time I'm taking my mother along as well since it's her 70th Birthday. The plan is to head back in November for Thanksgiving and stick to pretty much the same route as Mom has never been to Italy. As of now I'm in a boot and so far healing as well as can be expected.
Here's to traveling through Italy fully mobile (knock on wood, cross fingers)!

Posted by Jodi
Mountain House
53 posts

Oh David....7 weeks....ugh! I'm going stir crazy because I can't drive so I don't think I'd do well being bedridden that long. Yes, that would certainly have been a come-home-at-once type of injury.

Posted by Heather
Seattle, WA, USA
30 posts

Jodi, I think Europe is more dangerous as far as tripping and falling. On our trip to Europe last summer the cobblestones in Copenhagen got my daughter (she was just walking, not running). She ended up cracking off both of her front teeth (permanent ones), and we got to spend 9 hours in the hospital emergency waiting to be seen by a dental surgeon. For the rest of the trip (4 more weeks) she ate mashed bananas, yogurt, and applesauce, and lifted her feet high with each step and spent more time watching her feet than all the sights. There were a couple of times on the trip where I nearly fell down stairs that were shallow in depth or unevenly spaced. I quickly learned to hold handrails (if there), go slow, and focus 100% of my attention on navigating the stairs, refusing even to converse while on stairs. Have fun there with your mom, and watch your step!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Heather that is horrible, your poor daughter , ouch ouch ouch.

Posted by Denise
Lake Forest, CA, USA
1391 posts

You are all amazing! I admire all of you for your determination and willpower. Jodi, did you have travel insurance? If so, how well did it work? Glad you are home and in recovery. Your mom is going to love the trip you are planning. Have fun!