Tag Archives: Argalasti

BUD GETS A HAND

Young Bud is a live wire, constantly getting into scrapes, but three weeks ago yesterday he surpassed himself in the trouble stakes. Quite literally. The morning was chilly but with less cloud than we’ve been subjected to this long and bleak winter.

The various teenaged felines were going about their and everybody else’s business in the weak sunshine. In the house, out of the house, up the trees and over the walls. Retsina and Ouzo hadn’t yet stirred from their bed – our bed – Raki was taking a light nap and Mythos lounged in front of the fireplace.

At my computer with ever-present mug of tea in hand I pondered the world’s doings. A pleasant distraction as we all know which I justify in the interests of keeping informed.

Piercing screams of pain filled the air outside my window. Bone-chilling cries that paralyzed me as my brain raced through the possibilities. We’ve had packs of dogs tearing through the property occasionally this winter. Hunting dogs that should never be near here have caused us consternation for fear of a cat being caught.

Yelling for Ron, no clue what I was getting into, I flew down the stairs and out the door. The agonized howling continued. I hurtled round the side of the house in its direction and saw Grappa and Anise huddled together, staring at a tumble of ice-ravaged plants.

Costa, bless his darling heart, is the passionate creator of these grounds. I could write a book on his horticultural activities. I could write volumes on our earnest discussions as to why what he’s done/is doing/is going to do is not what I want/like/deem suitable.

Lest you get the mistaken idea that I have any clue about plants let me assure you that I don’t, but even I know that planting a succulent alongside a rosebush is not going to result in a blooming future for either. Simply put – Costa does his thing. I suggest, I protest, I insist and the outcome is always the same – Costa does his thing.

Our gardening consultations are merely practice sessions of our Greek and Albanian.

But I digress. A few years ago an excited Costa arrived in possession of a plant which he assured me was very special. I’ve learnt not to question the provenance of some of these noteworthy specimens. “Why do you care?” is the response. “It’s here, that’s all you need to know.”

This particular example was planted close to the house, on the seaward side. In summer the sun beats down relentlessly on that spot. ‘”Does it want the sun?” I ventured. In retrospect I don’t think it did but Costa surrounded it with wooden stakes and bits of rebar over which he tied some ground cover. “There! It’s got a little house to protect it from the sun until it’s big and strong.”

I was dubious but agreed to water if faithfully through the summer when he’d be back in Albania. At some point it lost the fight for life, but the ground cover flourished into a rather strange looking clump.

From under this winter-entangled mess Bud’s head and front legs strained in a desperate effort to get free. It took a few seconds before I fully understood that he was somehow stuck for I couldn’t see the rest of him. Ron arrived at a run. “He’s trapped!” I yelled, adding to the ear-splitting noise. Ripping out ground cover and summing up the situation immediately, Ron rushed off to get wire cutting tools.

I crouched down as best I could, bad knee notwithstanding, and grasped the terrified Bud by the scruff. The poor creature was crazed with fear and it took all my strength to restrain him. Pinned down as he was, struggling violently to get away, I feared he was going to damage himself very badly.

It took several seconds to cut away part of the vegetation so as to establish how exactly Bud was caught, and then several more minutes to begin cutting through the wire that ensnared his left back leg. Further petrified by Ron’s efforts to release him Bud worked his neck from my grasp and sank his teeth deep into my hand. I managed to grab hold of him again, but he so contorted his body that he was able to bite me once more and rake my arm deeply with his front paws.

Overcome with pain and shock I abandoned him – at least he couldn’t reach Ron – and ran icy cold water from the garden sink over my hand. Blood was pouring profusely from the wounds, so much of it that the paving looked as though something had been slaughtered. My hand swelled up alarmingly.

I rushed inside to douse my hand in antiseptic, wrapped it tightly in a towel and went back to the scene. Bud was still not free, and when Ron finally severed the wire that was holding him fast, it had been pulled so tight during Bud’s struggles that the loop around his leg could not be cut loose. Bud collapsed on the ground, and Ron was then able to work the snare free.

We were faced with a dilemma. I clearly needed treatment, so did the cat. Sunday, remember? No vet.

“I’ll lock him up under the stairs,” Ron took charge. “He’ll be safe there until we get back. It’s familiar. He has his food, his water, his litterbox, his bed.”

I began to protest: “What if he dies from shock?”

“Cathy, then so be it. That hand needs immediate attention.”  He placed the seemingly unconscious Bud in his bed, covering him lightly with his blanket, and we set off for the Health Centre.

It was not a pleasant ride through the mud and the rutted road. My hand throbbed intensely and I could really have used a seriously strong cup of tea.

The crew at the Argalasti Health Centre was fantastic. They always are. I felt so bad that we were disturbing them at a time when there was no other patient present – they deserve every break they can get. Instead I was the center of their attention.

“Do you know the cat? Is it feral?”  I assured them Bud was fully vaccinated.

“You’ll need a tetanus injection.”  I assured them I’d had one not a month ago when Mythos bit me, but that’s another story.

“You’re very brave.”  I assured them I wasn’t about to pitch hysterics.

My hand required a lot of treatment. I was cautioned what to do if it got any worse, given a prescription for antibiotics and was sent on my way under a shower of wishes for a good recovery and fervent hopes that they wouldn’t need to see me again. Not sure how to interpret that one!

Bud was a little more alert when we returned. I nursed him on my lap for the rest of the day. That is when I could spare the time from working my way through the collection of chocolate Ron had bought in Argalasti while we waited for the pharmacist.

By morning Bud was stronger though very subdued. Limping, of course. We set off again to Theresa. No fractures, but he did have a severe sprain and damage to the tissue. She gave him several medications by injection and prepared the syringes of antibiotic for Ron to inject him at home.

We also had to give him anti-inflammatory and pain meds orally, in addition to the cortisone he was still taking for his throat problem. Thank goodness he did take all that easily in his food.

Bud has not recovered his spirits, I’m afraid to say. Has the trauma affected him permanently? He’s subdued and timid, though as affectionate as ever. He’s hesitant to go outside, and you’ll see in the pictures that he hides away when he does. It bothers me to see him like this, though it’s good that he likes to spend his time indoors with me. Keeps him safe.

My hand has suffered too, no surprise there, for the bites were deep and into the bone and tendons. The swelling is almost completely gone, but my little finger will not bend properly, and there are painful lumps at the bite sites. It is, of course, my right hand that’s affected.

Ah well, I guess I have to hand it to Bud.

IS BUD ANY WEISER?

Bud

As I’ve already mentioned when we arrived back at the house there were kittens as well as adult cats awaiting us. Smart, those felines, for it’s relayed on the Kitty Underground that this is a Safe House.

The Cappuccino Twins were watching warily from under an orange tree as we climbed out of Paul’s car. Raki was beside himself to see Ron again, letting it be known loudly that His Sultanship was somewhat miffed. I guess I underestimated him, all of them, for I was convinced that neither he nor Mythos, Retsina and Ouzo would remember us, but it was as though we’d never left. Freddie and Kosta were with them all the time we were away; they and Stella had been anything but neglected.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of unloading I became aware that the Cappuccino Twins weren’t the only new kids on our rock. Far from it, for more and more wary moggies began creeping out of the forest as night fell. I admit I was dismayed. When finally I went to bed I was hoping that they’d depart for new accommodations once they perceived the house to be occupied by that great threat – humans. Some hope.

Clearly these two adorable girls are sisters. Grappa and Anise, as I soon named them, were waiting bright-eyed and eager on the porch when we awoke. No sign of fear, and their condition was good. Didn’t take me long to figure out that Freddie had been feeding them.

Not a problem, and even better was the fact that they were completely socialized. We have too many that aren’t. They arrive here driven by hunger, but are so intimidated that it’s impossible to tame them and as I’ve mentioned before this makes neutering very difficult.

A few days later along came their brother, soon to be dubbed Budweiser. I don’t know where he’d been but the twins were thrilled to see him. Freddie confirmed that he was with them and their mama when they’d first arrived at our house and as he was the same size as the twins, it’s safe to assume they’re littermates.

He’s a real cutie is Bud. Most affectionate, with a tiny little voice, Bud’s fond of communicating by way of the Silent Miaow.

He’d been extremely lively, fearless to the point of foolhardiness and had to be rescued on a number of occasions. It was interesting to watch him at play with the twins who are no slouches in the adventures department but Bud’s exuberance was unsurpassed. And then he began to cough. Just a little. Only occasionally. Not of any concern.

His cough became more frequent, so I dewormed him again. It made no difference, and we put this down to it needing a day or two to take the fullest effect. The cough became much worse. I suspected some form of cat flu for he’d not had his vaccines yet, but there were none of the other indications of such an infection.

Then he began wheezing. Not terribly, but he was definitely wheezing. Yet he’d lost none of his energy and was eating well, though I noticed he ate only the canned food and not any of the dry. Puzzling.

Several days later on a Saturday afternoon in February – some snow still about and the upper road a boggy mess – the wheezing suddenly became very pronounced, very bad indeed. We were extremely concerned. We are miles from our wonderful local vet Theresa, the best thing that ever came to Argalasti, who would not have been available at that time.

If there even is an emergency vet in Volos, it was pretty much out of the question to attempt the 90 minute drive with darkness approaching and snow on the ground. We felt we had no alternative but to put him to bed as usual. He and his sisters have separate beds, with heating, in a little room under the front steps, safe from predators of the night.

Sunday morning early we let them out, apprehensive as to what we would find. Bud emerged, coughing and wheezing as before, but as the day wore on it was clear this was no temporary affliction. He was getting weaker, struggling to breathe, and perhaps the most alarming was that Raki was willing to tolerate Bud on his chair.

Raki, that most possessive of cats, must have sensed something about Bud’s condition that softened his self-absorbed heart. We cuddled Bud and fretted all day until we locked him up for the night, anxious for Monday to dawn, anxious that he’d not get through to the morning.

When we opened his door on Monday we could see at once that Bud’s efforts to breathe left him in a state of near collapse. We were very alarmed. Having taken care of the rest of the furry and hairy ones early we left immediately with Bud for Argalasti, I trying to tune out the distressing sounds from the cat basket where he lay exhausted.

Theresa was her usual calm and reassuring self. She confirmed that Bud had no infection, and turned her attention to his mouth and throat. Bud resisted all her attempts to look down his throat, so she sedated him and after a few minutes he was limp enough to be examined.

“Ah,” she said, “see what’s here in the throat. The trachea is almost completely closed. He cannot get enough air through this very small opening. There is something in his throat that’s making such a big swelling that he cannot breathe. Look.”

“No thanks,” I muttered, but Ron peered at what she was indicating. Apparently the throat and junction with the trachea were greatly inflamed.

Theresa outlined the possible diagnosis. “There is something stuck here. I cannot say what it is. I cannot see it because the tissue has swollen up so much around it that it’s not possible to see. He will need an X-ray and that I cannot do. Probably he will need an operation. You will need to take him to Volos.”

A German who fell in love with and married a Greek, Theresa is a pragmatist. She’s a gem of a vet, a lovely person, mother of three, and very, very practical.

“What I can try,” she continued, “is to see if I can reduce the swelling so that I can tell better what is going on. You need to leave him here with me until at least Thursday.” This may not sound like a big deal but it is, for Theresa doesn’t have a large surgery, and does not typically keep animals overnight.

And so Bud stayed on in Argalasti. Theresa called in the evenings to report on his progress. He was on large doses of antibiotics and cortisone, and was beginning to improve, but what ailed him she couldn’t tell. She’d taken the opportunity to attend to his little buds, so that meant one more could be ticked off our neutering list. We collected him at noon on Thursday, and took him and his medications back home.

She’d prepared the syringes for Ron to give antibiotic shots over the next four days, and we crushed cortisone tablets into his food twice daily for many more days. Theresa could offer no guarantees, but the hope was that the crisis might have passed, and Bud would be spared the trauma of Volos and surgery.

Bud got better by leaps and bounds, quite literally, but he was thin and soon was obviously smaller than the Cappuccino Twins. His story doesn’t end there though, for the irrepressible Bud was racing headlong towards another and very different crisis, one which was to involve me directly.

“LET’S JUST HAVE A QUIET DAY…”

January 6th is an important feast day in the calendar of the Greek Orthodox church. It’s a public holiday, a day when friends and families gather after the religious ceremonies to celebrate. Restaurants and tavernas bustle with cheerful patrons, kids dash about. It’s winter here, so there’s good excuse to warm up with a glass or two of tsipouro, that drink for which this area is renowned.  And yes, if occasionally some over-enthusiastic reveller should imbibe more than good manners call for, it’s all taken in stride. Greeks are open hearted, friendly people who enjoy a social occasion, though goodness knows they have little to celebrate these days.

The day dawned with some cloud and enough sun to show promise of reasonably good weather, instead of the dreary chill that’s typical here in January.
“Would you like to go out?” Ron asked. “Shall we go see the cross being thrown in Milina?”
I debated. It’s interesting to watch the wild leaps off the waterfront into the icy Pagasitic by those who, to me at least, have a death wish as they seek to retrieve the cross. The restaurants would be open – a chance to have a meal for they are typically closed in the depth of winter.
“Nah,” I replied after a bit of thought, “let’s just have a quiet day.”

Ron wandered off to chat to some fishermen down on the rocks.
“They’ve managed to catch an octopus,” he told me when he returned. “Not sure if they’ll have much more luck.”
I was at my computer, Raki on my lap, when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anybody. Removing the protesting Raki, I went to answer it. A rather agitated man greeted me and explained that he had been fishing on the rocks. Thinking he wanted Ron, I invited him in.
“No, no,” he said, “it’s my brother. He’s hurt. I need to call a taxi.”
Confusion reigned for a few seconds, but I soon realized that his brother was seated on a low stone wall in the garden, surrounded by a pile of clothing and fishing gear. Calling out to Ron, I rushed over to investigate.

It appears that the injured man, the younger of the brothers, had fallen from a height onto the rocks, and that his brother had managed to carry him on his back up to the house. Quite a feat, let me tell you.

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The poor chap was in considerable pain, unable to walk, clutching his arm and apologising profusely for the trouble he was causing. Hardly. I fetched a blanket to cover him, though he kept maintaining he wasn’t cold, and a large cushion to rest his clearly broken arm upon.

After a rapid conversation we established that the injured man had driven his car to a village some distance away, and that they had then walked along the shoreline. They are Albanian, speak very good Greek and insisted in speaking only Greek to each other as “It’s very impolite to speak in a language you don’t understand, kyria (madam),” they declared. I was very touched.

The older brother can’t drive, it turned out, but he assured me that if I’d only call a taxi to take them to their car, he’d manage to drive to medical help.
“Not a chance,” we said. “you have no licence. Only imagine the police! And anyway, we’ll drive you to the Health Centre in Argalasti.”
Then it struck me.
“Are you here legally?” I asked in some trepidation, for if they weren’t, it would be unwise to take them to a hospital for fear of the medical staff being constrained to inform the authorities.
“Yes, yes,” they assured us, “we’re here 20 years and have all our papers.”
Phew. I’d already been running the names of doctors we know through my mind, planning to ask for help, knowing that the Hippocratic oath would be honoured and few questions asked.

I called our beloved Costa to inform him of the situation and see if he was nearby. He was and arrived at a run a few minutes later to engage in anxious conversation with the brothers. I insisted they speak Albanian while we debated our options. Older brother asked if we could give injured brother (I confess their names escaped me in the confusion) some water, but I explained I was reluctant to do so, or give an aspirin, lest surgery be required. At this point older brother delved into his bag and produced the unfortunate aforementioned octopus which he tried to press upon me.
“No, no! Thank you very much, but no!” I responded as politely as I could, though I confess I’d recoiled; Costa later told me that my face was a picture.

We prepared to drive to Argalasti. The back of the Suzuki was loaded up with their kit, Costa insisting on going along, and managing the operation like a field marshall, while I fetched my cell ‘phone and locked Raki in the house.  We got the patient into the car with some difficulty. He couldn’t walk, and was in severe pain, not to mention badly shocked.
“Don’t bother to get your ‘phone,” I told Ron, “we’re only going to the Health Centre so we don’t need two ‘phones.”

We made slow progress through the rough, muddy roads until we reached the tarred road, Ron driving as carefully as he could to avoid jolting the injured man. He, poor dear, was an interesting shade of green, clutching tightly on to the plastic bags I’d brought along in case of need. But he didn’t require them. Wedged tightly between his brother and the door with his eyes closed, he spoke only when I’d enquire how he was doing.

Costa kept up an excited stream of chatter in Albanian all the while, pausing briefly now and then to pass on some bit of info to me, in Greek.
“They’re from the north of Albania; they’re not from my region; they were young when they came to Greece; they have good jobs; they are married; they have children; they love fishing; he (the injured one) usually fishes alone; thank goodness his brother was with him today.” Yes, indeed.

We finally made it to the Health Centre in Argalasti, where I was relieved to notice an ambulance parked; often it happens that no ambulance is available. I knew that the injured man would need to go to the Volos hospital, as there’s no X-ray machine in Argalasti, which is not much more now in the present economic situation than a triage centre, a field hospital really. And jolly good it is too, with excellent staff exhibiting a degree of care and concern that cannot be faulted.

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I went in to explain, and immediately a young doctor came out with a wheelchair to take our patient into a treatment room. It wasn’t long before I was told that the ankle was broken, and possibly also the tibia, not to mention multiple fractures of the left arm (the miracle was that he didn’t land on his head) and yes, he needed to go to Volos. As well, Ron and I told each other, that the ambulance was there. Ah, yes, the ambulance…actually, we were informed, there was no driver available. Oh boy. We stood gazing at the fanciful representation of Chiron,  exceptional centaur and healer who lived on Mt Pelion, while we discussed the situation.

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“Look,” Ron said, “we hadn’t planned on going anywhere. I’ll pay for a taxi, and we can go home.”
Costa was rather disappointed that he wouldn’t be going to Volos; no point in a second taxi fare. Easier said than done though. Epiphany, remember? No taxi available. In the midst of the decision making, my cell phone rang.
“Where are you?” queried my friend Loula. “I keep calling the house and you don’t reply.”
“I’m at the Health Centre,” I responded just as the ‘phone let out an ear splitting sound, and went dead. I mean dead. Not run-out-of battery dead, but dead. Finished. No more. Kaput. Completely, and for ever. Dang!

“OK, we’ll take him into Volos,” Ron told the assembly and went off to bring the car round to the entrance. We all piled back in; reality struck. Ordinarily a trip to Volos would entail some shopping. Not today. Nothing open but eating places. Sure, we could take our new friends to the hospital, and the three of us could have a meal. With me dressed as I was? Fat chance! I’d left the house in ancient baggy pants, T-shirt and distressed sweater, odd socks on feet thrust into elderly clogs – I resembled a survivor of a shipwreck.

“Give me your ‘phone, “ I said to Ron as we drove along, our patient fortunately dozing as a result of the painkiller injections he’d received.
“I’d better call Loula and explain. She’ll be very alarmed that we were at the Health Centre.”
“I didn’t bring it.” he replied, “Remember?”
“Here,” offered Costa, “use mine.”
I took it, and called Loula at home. No reply. Then I remembered she’d be out. I also realised I simply couldn’t remember her mobile number, and that the number was on my defunct ‘phone. Oy vey.

The trip to Volos hospital took some 40 mins; happy crowds milled about in the coastal eateries, and around the hospital. We pulled up to the emergency entrance

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where Ron dropped our little group while he drove off to find a parking place. We walked in to the crowded emergency area where the patient was immediately taken through for treatment, Costa accompanying him. I remained while his brother gave the necessary details to the receptionist. It took no time at all before he and I could join the others. Our patient had already been whisked off to X-ray. There was nothing more for Costa and me to do but exchange telephone numbers with big brother, and insist that no, I wasn’t going to take the money he offered for petrol, and nor was Costa going to accept any for the time he’d lost from his day labour.

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It was mid-afternoon before we finally got back home. What a relief to rustle up a sandwich and make a strong cup of tea after a day of broken bones, broken ‘phones. Big brother called later to bring us up to date. Little brother had been admitted to the hospital, with multiple fractures confirmed and surgery scheduled for the next morning.

Oh, I almost forgot: It was my birthday.