Flying parrots (and other animals)

My time in hospital in Tuscany, Italy

Helen Farrell
October 31, 2018 - 16:39

It’s 4:35pm and my in-laws have popped by for a visit. As they sit down beside my bed, a “parrot” flies across the room and splashes its straw-yellow contents on the freshly cleaned tiles.


Being of the hospital and not of the bird species, the “parrot” in question does not boast bright plumage, although it’s still capable of mimicking the human condition, speaking a thousand words about the octogenarian across the ward. He’s pained, discombobulated and a handful; undeterred, the medical staff persevere in their care. For me, it’s just another mystery solved. During the night, I’d overheard a bloke requesting a pappagallo; I’d put it down to my medication or his dementia. Now having landed a few metres away, the white plastic beak-handle lying forlorn on the floor, the similarities between the talking bird and the portable urinal became clear.



“She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” ―Mark Twain, "Following the Equator"
A "parrot" in a cage. Illustration by Leo Cardini for The Florentine




It turns out that the female version of the “parrot” ruffles no feathers whatsoever: it’s just a mundane translation of the trusty bedpan. A constant refrain: “I need to go to the loo.” “Well, you can’t get out of bed, so I’ll bring you the padella, ok?”


All this new vocabulary learning began with the diagnosis. Never in my sixteen years in Tuscany had there been cause to encounter the sibilant cistifellia in conversation. Having waxed lyrical, despite considerable chest pain, about Duran Duran and British synth pop, the spiky-haired A&E doctor informed me that my colecisti (who knew the tiny bile-producing organ commanded two names in the Latin language!) was the problem: “You have a gigantic calcolo in your colecisti. I popped a guess: “I have a big stone in my gallbladder?” “Sì, il gallbladder, I believe so.” Google Translate provided prompt confirmation.                                             


PS. “You’ll be safe from flying ‘parrots’ in here,” the night nurse quipped, as I was moved from the all-men ward to a female-only side room.



A heartfelt thank you...

to the medical staff at Florence’s Santa Maria Annunziata Hospital (better known as Ponte a Niccheri), from A&E Department and brand-new MRI Unit to everyone on the Medicine C and the Emergency Surgery wards for your professionalism, care and kindness.



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