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Medical Emergency In Albania


When people think of Albania, they often think of movies in which Albanian gangsters are the bad guys. Albania gets a bad reputation, and in truth there are parts of the country that the U.S. government won't let its employees frequent. In my estimation, I decided that not being readily identifiable as Americans would enhance our security.



In preparation for my trip with dad, I communicated to someone who lives next to the Albanian border, to estimate the real level of danger and determined that it was worth the risk. As part of our profile, and based on the information we obtained as we were driving in from the airport, we decided that dad and I would communicate only in German in the presence of Albanians (German is rare in Albania) and that I would communicate with Albanians in Italian where possible (Italian being widely understood in Albania). When the person didn't understand Italian and English became necessary, I would translate the English into German for dad's benefit. In short, since no one spoke German and would therefore not be able to pick up our non-German accents, they would naturally assume that we were German (as opposed to American).


On a certain day, we hired a car and a driver and drove to the nearby port city of Duerres from the capital of Tirana. The driver acted as tour guide. After hiking up a long road to the former ruler’s palace, dad suddenly sat down on the sidewalk and said that he wasn’t feeling too well. After a couple of minutes, he stated that he needed to go to the hospital. I responded that I couldn’t put him into an Albanian hospital, as I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. He didn’t think he was having a heart attack and he wasn’t showing signs of stroke.


I had noticed a café about 100 yards back down the hill, so the driver and I got dad on his feet and supported him as we walked extremely slowly to the café’. At this point, he was moving more at the speed that one would associate with a patient on a walker, than healthy 69 year old man who bicycles 60 miles in one stretch.

We entered the café and he half sat/half lay on a couch, and I instructed the waiter to bring him water and Coca Cola, as I felt it was important to get him both hydrated and get his electrolytes up. I instructed the driver to get the car to go back to the hotel in Tirana (about 40 minutes away). It took him 45 minutes to return. During this time, I wasn’t sure that we hadn’t been ditched by the driver, and I was reviewing alternate options to get us back to the hotel. Meanwhile, dad kept drinking fluids.

When the driver eventually returned, we had to half-carry dad to the car and he laid down in the back. About half way back to Tirana, the water and Coca Cola kicked in and he was able to sit up. Upon return to the hotel, he was able to walk into the hotel under his own power. I got him to his room and we called a nurse friend in the U.S. to try and assess the situation. She suggested I obtain bottled water and electrolyte tablets, and to have him continue to drink fluids and rest. I was quickly able to collect these items.



Dad stayed in the hotel for the next 24 hours, but was feeling better and was back to normal the next day as we both flew safely out of the country.


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