Last summer I had a really scary personal experience with my health, while I was on holidays with my wife. We both had some time off in July so we decided to find a peaceful island, not so popular and crowded as most of them, without much fuzz, without too many tourists and not enough night life. We didn’t need to look much.
We found Samothraki, which is a natural paradise, with a lot of vegetation and really great beaches, with clean water, that also has all the requirements that I just mentioned above. We had never been there, but we had a friendly couple that was from there and always told us how wonderful Samothraki is. They could not accommodate us but they would be there during July, so we could have some time together and show us around.
We booked our holidays and planned everything beforehand. We first drove from Samothraki to Thessaloniki to visit some other old friends and spend a nice weekend there. And it turned out that I really like Thessaloniki, so I’ve written some more on the topic, (see posts at the bottom).
Then on Monday morning we took our car again and drove to Alexandroupoli for a couple of hours, that is about 300 km away from Thessaloniki. Actually there’s no direct connection from the seaport. So we got on the >boat at port of Alexandroupoli and got to the wonderful island of Samothraki.
Everything was just great for a couple of days, were where having a wonderful time in Samothraki. Just one or two days later, though, I started feeling a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen, on the right side, that was getting sharper as time passed. At first I thought that it was probably my stomach and something spicy that I may had consumed, since I love spicy food. Then a few hours later I thought that it could be maybe food poisoning, but all my friends said it could be appendicitis.
It was really late and the local medical center of the island (there’s no hospital on the island) was closed.
At that time, I didn’t think that it was such a big deal, and that the pain would just disappear after a while. Therefore, I didn’t really feel like looking for the doctor during midnight. After all, at the medical center there’s only one available doctor, who was technically a doctor for types of breast cancer, and who of course can be contacted on an emergency but is not available for 24 hours in his office. Or you can just hope to find a doctor having his holidays and maybe staying on the same hotel.
The next morning, I was feeling really bad. The pain was more intense and mainly felt on the right side of my belly. I started thinking that it was maybe appendicitis too. My wife took me to the Medical Center and my fears came true. They said I had an elevated white blood cell count. The doctor examined me and told me that I needed to be operated as soon as possible. This of course was not possible in Samothraki, since he was the only doctor on the island and there were not suitable medical facilities and operating rooms on the island. And they needed to find an ultrasound machine or CT scanner.
Normally I would get on a boat and be transferred back to Alexandroupoli to be operated by a surgeon at the local hospital. The doctor said that we could not wait much more so he was forced to ask for assistance, so that I could be transported to a hospital by air. The fact is that Samothraki does not have an airport or proper runway. For this emergency situations they managed to persuade a brave pilot to land on a farmers field.
Samothraki is a medium sized island but it’s not very densely populated. Only around 3-4 thousand people live on the island and most of them are situated at the area around the seaport. So it’s a very warm and friendly community where most people know each other by his first name. My situation was actually the news of the day for everyone living on the island.
So the doctor finally decided to make his request and about one hour later a small Cessna 180 aircraft arrived from Thessaloniki for me with a pilot and a doctor. I went on the plane with my wife and we left the island.
The new doctor examined me on the plane and told the pilot that my situation was not that urgent, therefore we would be better to fly to Thessaloniki and not Alexandroupoli that was a few minutes closer to Samothraki.
Of course I would immediately get to the operating room. It took us one hour and 10 minutes to take off from Samothraki and land at Thessaloniki airport. An ambulance was waiting there and in a few more minutes I was taken to AHEPA General Hospital, where I had a CT scan that shows a recently ruptured appendix, and so I then went to surgery.
Everything ended up well I suppose, besides the fact that I lost most of my holidays last summer. The people in Samothraki where very kind and helpful. I even got a telephone from the local doctor to ask me how I was a couple of days later and of course I thanked him for his valuable help. I also got a “get well soon” card from my hotel in Samothraki, wishing me the best and informing me that they invite me next summer to their hotel free of charge to spend the vacations I didn’t have the chance to finish last summer.
Now besides the natural beauty of the island I have more motivation to visit Samothraki again: all those wonderful people that all did their best to help me get to the hospital. I feel very lucky indeed. Not only because I managed to overcome a difficult situation that could be possibly dangerous for my life but because living in a big city like Athens and Thessaloniki you have such conveniences that are mostly taken for granted.
These conveniences in fact are more like a luxury to people living in small islands in Greece, like Samothraki, especially in such emergency situations where every minute can be vital for the life of an adult or a small child.
I extended my holiday and just enjoyed Thessaloniki, especially the military diet, which is awesome, I just had to try throughout my whole trip, as well as visiting places I hadn’t seen before. It too, is a wonderful city.