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American Embassy in Rome

The Consular Section comes to my rescue

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ABOVE: A U.S. passport was my ticket to a supply of free reading material, compliments of the American Embassy in Rome.

When I was confined to the Ospedale GB Grassi in Lido di Ostia, Italy for 18 days, my biggest hardship was finding enough reading material to fill the time when I wasn't eating, sleeping, or undergoing medical tests. I'd arrived with two paperback novels (one already half-read), and during my stay, I ended up reading both books twice--along with a detailed guide to the Amalfi coast, a small book about Capri, a catalog of Windstar Cruises shore excursions in the Mediterranean, and the phrases in my pocket-size Berlitz Italian for Travelers.

When my hospital visit got extended for the third or fourth time, my wife (who was back home in the States) called the American Embassy in Rome to ask if they knew of an English-language bookstore that made deliveries. A very nice man named Domenico T. took her call, then phoned me and offered to send an employee to the hospital with reading material.

Being of the "Oh, I don't want to bother anyone" persuasion, I declined, but he sent a colleague anyway--on a Saturday morning, no less. Barbara T.--a consular clerk--arrived at the hospital with a shopping bag containing a dozen or so copies of Time International, The Economist, and The Robb Report. (She also asked the infirmary staff about a health certificate for my return flight, just in case the airline wanted reassurance that I wasn't likely to die at 35,000 feet.)

I later learned that, if I'd become ill on the cruise ship, on a tour, or in a major hotel, the travel vendor probably would have phoned the embassy to let them know I was hospitalized. And if I'd simply needed the names of English-friendly physicians, hospitals, or pharmacies, I could have phoned the U.S. Embassy in Rome or looked for listings on its Web site.

In summary:

  • The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy came to my rescue when I needed help (even if  I was merely starved for reading material). To Signor Domenico and Signorina Barbara, I offer a heartfelt "Grazie."

  • If you become seriously ill in another country, don't hesitate to call your own consulate or embassy for advice.

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