YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER

The heart of the matter was that she'd never heard the saying "Beware of Greeks bearing indigestion tablets". By M McDonough

IT WAS THE first day of my holiday in Greece and I was sitting on the beach admiring the sunset when I felt something in my chest burst, followed by a terrible pain. I told my husband: "I have just had a heart attack". He was shocked and offered to get an ambulance. "No, I just want to go back to the hotel for now and go to bed."

At the hotel, I took aspirins to kill the pain. During the night, it radiated down my arms and up my neck. I felt very ill indeed but eventually fell asleep. The next morning I felt normal, except that when I tried to walk, the pain came back with a vengeance. I decided to see a doctor.

At the clinic, the receptionist took my details, perused my insurance certificate, and charged me the drachma equivalent of pounds 30. Eventually, the consulting-room door opened and the doctor beckoned me in.

"How can I help you?"

I explained about my heart attack: the popping sensation in my chest and subsequent awful pain. His diagnosis came swift and terrible. "You have a bad attack of indigestion. Take indigestion tablets and you will feel better." I was angry and remonstrated with him. He smiled indulgently as one would to a difficult child. "Take indigestion tablets and you will soon feel better."

I resisted the temptation to enquire about his medical qualifications or to question his competence. My husband, when he heard the news, wanted to get me on to a flight to anywhere in Europe and then on to London. But I was feeling so ill that flying did not appeal at all. So we decided instead to spend a restful holiday beside the hotel pool, hoping that the proposed inactivity would reduce my chest pains.

A restful holiday it was not. By day three I felt quite well, the only drawback being the terrible pain which welled up when I attempted to walk. But I had studied philosophy at university and could speak a smattering of Greek. The ancient sites were out there and I had to see them. This meant walking, with the possibility of expiring for ever. Still, it would be a momentous end, gasping my last clutching the Ionian column of a Greek temple.

We visited castles, ruined cities, museums, and sometimes we visited Orthodox churches to light candles and pray to the icons for my deliverance. We spent the evenings singing in tavernas until the small hours. It was hard going at times but, by the end of our holiday, my chest pains had lessened considerably.

We flew home and I returned to work as a teacher. Eight weeks later I was chatting to a doctor friend about my experience on holiday. He said: "You have had a heart attack. See your GP at once."

I took his advice and he drove me from the surgery to the hospital. The consultant gave me the results of the test: "You had a severe heart attack and you walked through angina. We do not recommend this. But you have recovered well. If you have any more problems, come and see me."

That was it. I still love Greece and go every year, staying up all night with my Greek friends in tavernas. But now, I take a supply of indigestion tablets with me. Just in case.

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