Healthcare and sad death in Dolomites

Your correspondent can reflect on the effectiveness of the Finnish healthcare system compared to the ones here in north Italy with a very tragic experience.

Your correspondent is hiking once again in the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy. Here the villages are small, separated by high mountains and joined by narrow roads. Dusty stone and grit roads and pathways wind through the old forests on the sides of the mountains. Near the peaks in sheltered spots are large log and stone buildings (Hütte) which house restaurants and basic hostels to sleep. They offer delicious meals and drinks for hikers all day as well as a place to dry off and rest for an hour or two.

Yesterday, after a 4 hour hike up the side of the mountain we reached on of these Hütte and ordered a lunch and waited to be served – the weather had turned rainy and the place was full of hikers. As we waited there was a commotion outside and 2 older men heaved an old lady on to the floor through the door. She was already unconscious and appeared to be seriously ill from a heart attack.

The staff called the medical services and was told that help was on the way, while 3 other guests tried to give heart massage and resuscitate the lady. She remained lifeless with closed eyes. The atmosphere inside the small restaurant was intense and it was clear that the old lady was just hanging on to her life with a thin thread. The helpers said that her pulse was weak and they continued with their efforts.

The first helpers arrived by Land Rover after driving 12 kilometres up the side of the mountains on the rough service road. They fought to resuscitate with better equipment but, by then, things looked really bad. A few minutes later a huge orange helicopter appeared and a doctor and nurse ran with mobile equipment to measure her heartbeat but declared her dead because of serious heart failure…

Her elderly husband and adult son were in tears as they covered her body and took her down the mountain…

Watching all this and the fast and kind response of the onlookers and the healthcare workers, we are reminded of our own frailty and occasional needs for urgent medical attention. In cases like the one we saw, time is of the essence, but also when nothing more can be done, it is important to know that all efforts were not spared, and that kindness is shown.

The next time you read about the death of an old person, dying alone in their apartment  and not discovered for a week as reported in the Helsinki a few months ago, then remember the above true story – a Land Rover and a helicopter came to save just one old lady who went up the mountain for the last time in her life… 

We pay our taxes for decent and appropriate healthcare and care of the poor and elderly, not for expensive and unnecessary new Counties, not for greedy politicians to hang on to their jobs, and certainly not for keeping Trump and Putin safe and secure a few days in Helsinki at our expense…

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