Saturday. It was a little accident, barely an accident at all. But trying to be too clever when opening our big wooden double-doors, I pinched my skin. The very fragile skin I inherited … too many years too soon … from my grandmother.

There was blood, so I immediately washed the strange injury on my forearm (hereinafter referred to as “The Boo-Boo”) in soapy warm water. I dabbed it dry, and pressed a clean paper towel … the closest “sterile” item available … to stop the bleeding.

Alcohol, external and internal. It was dinner time, don’t judge me. Lightly covered overnight, The Boo-Boo was calm.

Sunday. Mercurochrome turned it indelible sienna. Neosporin made it shiny.

The Boo-Boo occurred on the square brass lock on the door … and I wondered nervously about tetanus. My last shot was before our move … so 9, even 10, years ago. To ease these fears, I googled whether brass can rust. Much to my surprise, shock, dismay it didn’t really matter about the rust, because tetanus isn’t on, in, near rust. It’s an airborne bacteria that people assume is rust-related because injuries are usually on items that are dirty and old. I read the symptoms … incubation of 7 to 10 days … for serious injuries (which mine was not), a new shot within 48 hours if the last was more than 5 years ago … no cure. (A new set of symptoms … on top of the Covid ones we’ve obsessed about for a year.)

I wrote to my doctor in L.A., knowing that … given the time difference … I wouldn’t get a response until later Monday afternoon.

Monday. We went to the pharmacy. The pharmacist was sympathetic and understanding, but said she’d need a prescription to sell me the vaccine … her hands were tied. I called “our” clinic where we see specialists. They said only a medico di base … primary care physician … could write this prescription.

David suggested pronto soccorso … the E.R. The waiting room was empty, nobody ahead of me waiting for the nurse, so I walked to the window. I explained my problem … and she said she couldn’t help me. For a tetanus shot, I’d need to go to a private facility. My thought bubble was “Private?” I asked, Where is a private facility? She didn’t know … but asked a colleague. She didn’t know either. My thought bubble, “Really? It was your suggestion.” Without laughing, I asked, If I had come for care immediately after I hurt myself, would you have given me the shot? Sì.

Since we have American insurance, we were not required to buy into the Italian health care system … and without coverage, we cannot have a medico di base. But we do know a very nice doctor, Dr. G, who has helped us on several occasions … most recently when I needed a Medical Certificate to get my driver’s license. DRIVE, SHE SAID tells that tale. He has two offices … in our comune and in a nearby bigger town. I looked in my phone which, of course, has details about his hours, walk-in and by appointment, in each location. I call the town office, and the secretary says this studio now has specialists only. Alright then.

The office in our comune never answers the phone, so we drove over. The sign on Dr. G’s door said he no longer has walk-in hours … and to make an appointment, one has to call during a very limited period (45 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunchtime). I take note of his new office hours.

By now, I heard back from my L.A. doctor who says there is no recent record of a tetanus shot. I reply that it was with his predecessor, now retired, and before the merger with UCLA. But it really doesn’t matter.

I set my alarm.

Tuesday. I called Dr. G’s number. There’s a recorded message that all of today’s appointments are filled and there won’t be any appointments at all on Wednesday. Oioi.

I WhatsApped my friend Sandra whose brother-in-law is a doctor, Dr. M. He had helped David years ago on his driver’s license quest … maybe he’d help me now. Sandra thinks it’s worth asking him, and wishes me luck. Of course I still have his number in my phone … and called immediately. The secretary asks if I want to see him or a colleague. A colleague, I reply, since I want to see somebody soon. Friday morning. Beyond Monday, it really didn’t matter when I got the shot. I want one for future safety.

Every potential symptom was a cause for concern. How do my jaws feel? (No, just a bit of worry mixed with recurrent vertigo.) Is my heart racing? (No, the pulse oximeter shows it’s normal.) Are chills a symptom, is it really chills, or do I just need a warmer sweater? A little healthy hypochondria is ok … isn’t it?

Wednesday. The Boo-Boo is starting to heal, slowly. Dry, sensitive skin heals slowly. I baby it, gently move my sleeves to avoid irritation.

Thursday. Same old, same old.

Friday. I walk into the medical building, gel up, and wait for the doctor. Next to the door into suite 4 is a sign with the doctors’ hours. Dr. M still worked there, even though he’s a primary care physician … and Dr. G, billed as a cardiologist, has office hours by appointment on Friday afternoons. Hm …

The dottoressa called my name. I explained why I was there. I would help you if I could, she began, but it would be illegal for me. My thought bubble, “Illegal? WTF? First, do no harm.” I sat, semi-stunned. Then she said the all-purpose Italian phrase, va bene? It means “ok?” … but the person asking knows it’s ok for them, and not definitely ok for you.

When I hear va bene?, I often reply in English. Calmly, matter-of-factly … because that leaves them feeling as dazed and confused as I feel.

Friday afternoon … 1789. I go back to the medical offices to see Dr. G. It’s a few minutes before his scheduled time to see patients with appointments. I slide by the secretary, barely glancing in her direction. The Linda is on a mission. The door was slightly ajar. I knocked.

“Avanti.”

I went in, and re-introduced myself. Behind a mask, everyone seems a stranger. Still standing, I explained about The Boo-Boo and my need for a tetanus shot … which required a prescription from a medico di base. Yes, he said. And when I asked if he could help me, he said Sì. I sat down. Dr. G took out his pad of paper and wrote me the prescription. Grazie mille dottore.

I walked out, triumphant, to David who had waited in the car. We drove straight to the pharmacy to fill it. It would be in the next day, but since it had to be refrigerated, we agreed I would pick it up on Monday. The pharmacist told me where there’s a nurse who could administer the shot … ironically, in Dr. G’s office building. On the way home, I called. The nurse would be there Monday at 4.00; call then to set an appointment.

Saturday. No symptoms. The Boo-Boo is better, and my TLC of drops of alcohol or dabs of neosporin continues.

Sunday. The usual stuff … making chicken soup, cooking a batch of cannellini beans, baking tarelli with sourdough discard, using one of our lemons and two (random) apples to bake a cake.

Monday. At 4.03, I call the medical office. I’m immediately on hold. Tik-tok. After 6 minutes, we decide to drive into town … pick up the prescription and get the “jab.” I grab the cooler bag and a frozen bottle. But when I call back 10 minutes later, the line is busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy.

Busy.

I called “our” clinic. Their nurse would be there on Tuesday, so I made an appointment. I wanted an alternative.

Finally, someone answered. Seems the nurse won’t be in until 6.00, call back then. David thinks that if the E.R. is as empty as it was the other day, one of the nurses there will do it. I walk in, and the security guard asks why I am there. I told him I wanted to talk with a nurse. He asked again, and I replied again … in English. My thought bubble, “Dude, you’re a security guard. I need the nurse. Hospital, nurse.” When I got to the window, the nurse said they could only give injections of medicines they had prescribed.

The grocery store is always a good way to spend 30 minutes … and soon it was 6.00. The nurse said to come on down.

I handed him the medicine and the prescription. He hesitated, then asked for my health card … and when I said I didn’t have one, he stopped. I can’t give you the injection if you’re not in the system, he said … go to Dr. G’s office in our comune. But Dr. G has an office here, I said as I pointed down the hall. No, I can’t do it … if you have a bad reaction, they will hold me responsible. I stared at him in disbelief. My thought bubble, “Don’t even think of saying va bene.”

Back in the car, I realize this is definitely a story.

DAVID: I’ll give you the shot!
LINDA: No, that’s not gonna happen … I have a tendency to faint as it is. I love your offer and if it were an emergency, absolutely, without hesitation, no problem. But not today, thank you. Honey.

We drove to “our” clinic. Ginevra looked at the prescription and shook her head. The doctor wrote this for you to buy the medicine, but didn’t write that it should be administered to you.

My thought bubble and comment, “Excuse me.”

Is there a black market for tetanus shots?

Ginevra and Paolo were sympathetic. He called Dr. G’s office, but there was no answer. I noticed an email on the prescription, and was about to write him. Paolo said no … he would contact Dr. G, explain, get the necessary document. Don’t worry, he said. He’d call me if there were an issue, otherwise just come in at noon tomorrow.

I took a photo of the box with the meds to send to my L.A. doctor.

Tuesday. The 10-day incubation period is over. And at 12.00, I’m at “our” clinic. Ginevra smiles, and shows me the fax they received from Dr. G authorizing the injection. I go into the exam room … take off my sweater … sit down.

The jab didn’t hurt, but I did feel a bit of the meds … breathe slowly. They ask me to wait 15 minutes. I’m good to go. Ginevra hands me the official Certificate, and reminds me the shot is good for 10 years.

A shot in the arm.

WALNUT-CINNAMON BRAN MUFFINS

1-½ cup wheat bran
1 cup buttermilk
12 (pitted) prunes
⅓ cup oil
1 egg
⅓ cup honey
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1-½ tsp. cinnamon
Grated rind from 1 orange
½ cup raisins
24 walnut halves

- Preheat the oven to 350° F (170° C). Line 12 muffin cups with paper or silicone liners.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the bran and buttermilk … let soak for about 10 minutes.
- Place 1 prune in each muffin cup.
- Into the milk-bran mixture, add oil egg, honey, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and orange rind … mix well.
- Stir in raisins.
- Spoon/scoop batter into muffin cups. Top each muffin with two walnuts.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until done.
- Eat at any temperature. If you want/need embellishment, I suggest cream cheese.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.