The small team of foreigners who live at least part of the year on the island and who have banded together to help the Paros Health Centre, have got nicely into a routine.
Our initial fears of a possible Them v. Us reception were all groundless and the staff couldn't have been more welcoming or helpful. It isn't easy at first as you get asked a lot of questions, beginning with "Where will I find the...?" And not knowing the answer can be embarrassing! A short time spent listening to the official receptionist soon gives the information needed to venture out to our desk and smilingly direct the many patients and relatives to their destinations. I have great admiration for some of our number who speak very little Greek but none the less do their shifts.
At the moment we go from 10am to midday and Trudy Petridis holds the emergency contact phone for when help is needed outside these times.
It was on just such an occasion that she called volunteer Obdulia Lopez-Henriquez to help a Polish tourist who had had a motorbike accident. He had not been wearing a crash helmet and had sustained a severe head injury. His wife was waiting for him in Marathi and neither he nor the Health Centre had any way of contacting her. He was also unable to remember the name of the place where he was staying. Obdulia hastily rented a car (Paros Europa Rent-a-car not only lent her a car free of charge, but also supplied a driver to take her to Marathi and Drios) to drive to where they had arranged to meet, but by then no one was there. On returning to Paroikia, one of the staff recognised the description of the owner of their accommodation in Drios and, once again, Obdulia set off to find his wife and children. The owner of the rooms went with her around the area until he eventually spotted the woman - by now extremely worried - and drove them all back into town so that she could be by her husband's side.
The story has a happy ending as he made such a good recovery that it wasn't necessary for him to be flown out as was originally planned. The whole family were very grateful, as were the Health Centre staff.
Most, if not all, of the staff speak English as well as a few other languages, but those patients waiting to be seen take comfort from knowing that they can call us if they have any communication problems. We, the volunteers, have personally taken comfort too from seeing first-hand how professional and friendly the service is at the Centre - something that might be missed in a crisis when we find ourselves dealing with a system of medical treatment different from that found in our home countries.
We still have a few slots to fill if you have two hours available to help once a week or even once a month. I personally feel proud to have the chance to play an active role in the community and absorb the praise of the local people who ask what I am doing there.
Call Trudy on 093-7964383 for further information or to volunteer.