Seven Days in a Greek Hospital by Carol P. Christ

I was released from a national hospital in Crete on Friday afternoon after a seven day stay. During that time, I had over fifteen tests, including several ultrasounds, two CTs, a colonoscopy, a gastroscopy, and an excruciating forty-five minute MRI.

The cost: nothing. As a Greek citizen, I am fully covered under the national health, due to a change in the laws initiated by the SYRIZA government a few years ago.

I had not been feeling well for a few weeks. I had little appetite, no energy, and my tummy was sore. I chalked it all up to the stress of moving from Lesbos to Crete, not to mention the stress of quarantine that preceded the move. When I was taken to the emergency room by friends, I expected to be given a few pills and sent home.

Instead, after two ultrasounds and an x-ray, I was told I would be admitted for further tests. My case turned out to be a difficult one. Clearly something was wrong with me, but the tests were negative. Because nothing happens in the hospital over the weekend, I was released after a week and told to return in five days for an update after the doctors had reviewed the full results of all the tests.

As I was wheeled around and poked and prodded during my stay, I could not help but wonder how much all of this would have cost me if I were living in America. Not to mention how much it would cost someone with no insurance or a high deductible.

That everything was covered by the national health is the good news.

The bad news is that I was admitted to a hospital system with minimal nursing care aside from taking your temperature and blood pressure and drawing blood several times a day. The nurses visited our room at 12 midnight and 5 am, turning on all the lights and waking everyone up. There were 8 beds in the room. The toilets were down the hall and used by so many that they were not always clean.

In Greece it is expected that a family member will be by your side in the hospital day and night, sleeping (or not) in a plastic chair. Food is provided, but as I came to discover, water is not. Your carer is expected to supply it. You are expected to bring your own changes of clothing, towels, paper towels, diapers, etc. As I had not anticipated being admitted, I had no water, no pyjamas, no clean clothes, and not even a hairbrush or a toothbrush. I also had no telephone as mine had been broken for a few weeks, and I had not had the energy to take it to be fixed.

The couple who brought me to the hospital—whom I hardly knew but whom I view as my guardian angels—came to the hospital to visit and bring necessaries, but as I was not sure where everything was in my new home, I didn’t have a hairbrush or a toothbrush for four days.

I felt very alone in a very strange land.

In one of the beds across from me was a ninety-three year old woman who could not even moan or flail her arms. She had dementia and was being fed through a tube in her stomach because she could not remember how to chew or swallow. Her face looked like a mummy. She had two loving children, both over fifty and unmarried, who were devoted to her and absolutely unwilling to let her go. The son said it made him feel good to know his mother was still with him.

In the bed next to me a woman, who may or may not have had dementia, cried at the top of her lungs for much of the day and most of the night: “I can’t take it anymore. I am in pain. Take me God. Help me Mary.” When she was finally given a sedative after 5 days, another woman with dementia was admitted who sounded like a four year-old when she cried: “Leave me alone” and “No” whenever she was disturbed. Then there was the old granny from the mountains who sent everyone to the devil when they woke her up at 5 am.

Needless to say, sleep was almost impossible.

Add to that, it was very hot and with Irish blood, I cannot bear the heat. Most Greeks are indifferent to heat, but cannot bear the cold. One day I cried for 4 hours because I could not find a cool place in the hallway, the veranda, or the room. Finally, the head doctor directed that the air-conditioning would be turned low. One of the other patients began to complain loudly that she was cold, while making disparaging remarks about the foreigner who insisted on air-conditioning.

On the other hand, in a situation like that everyone starts to feel like family. I made friends with several women who were caring for their mothers, and after that had someone to talk to. The veranda attached to our room looked over pine trees. I found solace watching crows, collared doves, and pigeons.

The architect who was still working on the renovations of my new apartment also visited, took my phone to be repaired, and called a mutual friend who came to visit several times after that. She berated me for not reaching out to her or anyone else. My excuse that I have difficulty asking for help was summarily dismissed

Though it often felt like I was in a trellokomio (crazy house), I had faith in my doctors and am very grateful that I live in a country with a national health system.

Health care is a human right. The health care situation in the United States should be categorized as a violation of human rights.

“Say a little prayer for me.”


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women.

42 thoughts on “Seven Days in a Greek Hospital by Carol P. Christ”

  1. Dear Carol,
    Sending prayers for a complete recovery! It has been a trying time for many these past few weeks — I know several others who have been hospitalized, including my own mother.
    <3 <3 <3
    Barbara Daughter


  2. As someone who spent a week in a Norwegian hospital as a foreigner under (also free but) much better conditions, your post brought tears to my eyes. Yes, healthcare should be a human right everywhere. I had a friend who spent a week in a US hospital without insurance and the $100,000 stay forced her into bankruptcy.

    That said, I am sorry your stay was so rough. Sending you love and healing thoughts. I hope you feel better soon dear Carol.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wish you good health and energy. Some years ago, I wanted to pay a friend who attached a door stop to a metal door that banged shut in the wind. His reply was that I needed to learn to receive and not only to give.


  4. I send you love Carol. May cosmic energy flow to your body.

    Gratitude for the people who have helped you.

    Stress is so damaging. You managed to reach your new place, which will offer you shelter, especially, as you found out , once you will have invested it with personal energetic material.


  5. Carol, I was surprised to read this post – the last thing I knew was that you were about to move into your new place! I’ve never met you but I’ve read so many of your posts on here that when I read this one, it was like hearing that something bad had happened to a friend. Oh dear, sorry to read what has been going on and that you are in that limbo place of waiting to hear about tests and not really knowing what is wrong.

    Free health care should be a basic human right and our UK government is fast trying to erode that…

    I send you every good wish for renewed health and happiness.


  6. dear Carol, I have some inkling of what you have been through, having been in a hospital public ward for 4 days last year, but really nothing like what you have had to endure. My experience was here in Australia, where really things are run very well, AND it cost me nothing. However even in my relatively good circumstance, it is always advisable to have a carer at hand when going to hospital: that is commonly understood in my family and circles. This is not only for getting your hairbrush, toothbrush and change of clothing, etc but also for help with decisions about procedures sometimes. I had to correct dosages on injections on occasion, when records weren’t right: attention needs to be paid. The whole experience was an education at least.

    wishing you well Carol


  7. Carol, it goes without saying that prayers are coming your way… healthcare or not you have been through a terrible ordeal – and are in liminal space awaiting results.

    It is hot here – muggy too – and like you I can’t take the heat – so I am incarcerated in the house – people who can tolerate heat have no idea…

    I loved the way you spoke of making friends under these circumstances

    But I am distressed that you couldn’t have asked for help… I wouldn’t have been able to either…learning self – sufficiency at the cost of being able to ask for help is a kind of crazy maker and so typical of the way most of us were brought up – talk about dysfunctional – I could go on here but won’t.

    May whatever the problem (s) is not be serious, and may you be feeling well again soon….

    A multitude of blessings and love


  8. Sending healing vibes in your direction. May your diagnosis be simple and clear, your treatment competent, and your healing complete. I admire your ability to find beauty, in the midst of, and without denying the adversity. Yes, health care is a human right. I am continually grateful for the care that my late husband received over the years in Canada without cost to us.


  9. Little prayers, big prayers, prayers and love surrounding you. Thank Goddess for the kindnesses big and small and for your own kindness, which shows in your keen and compassionate observations of the people around you. Wishing you well, dear Carol!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sending light to surround you with the Mother’s love. Hope you get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment soon.
    Linda Barufaldi

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, Carol, I am so sorry you had to go through that, but with your shining spirit you were able not only to endure and survive, you even made friends! I hope to Goddess the medical staff find out what was wrong. In the meantime, sending you rosy clouds of love and healing white light.

    Like senlowes, over the years as I’ve read and admired your work, I’ve come to regard you as a friend. May you soon be happily at home, creating your new space. And Goddess bless the Greek health care system!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So sorry to hear you haven’t been well!
    Had you been in the states sadly in addition to a big bill you likely would have come home with a case of covid 19!!
    Sending prayers.


  13. Holding space for you beauty and healing, sister goddess. Thank you for being a teacher to us all even during your most vulnerable moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Carol, what a horror story you tell! But at the same time, what a blessing that you’re still with us. And the Goddess is obviously with you. Brightest blessings!


  15. Wherever we are we need an ally in the hospital! So sorry this happened, Thank goddess for the animals and the kindness of strangers. Blessed be dear woman may you be well, with energy to spare.


  16. Carol, healing light , thoughts and prayers I send to you. Thank you for sharing so openly with those who look forward to your messages every week.
    Am so happy that you connected with other women who were there as caregivers. That in itself helps the healing process within you.!
    Blessings and a speedy recovery to you.
    Much love and a virtual hug.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sounds like quite an adventure! One has to wonder what was the lesson in all of that? What did it call forth from you?
    I can see myself crying for ours too!
    How beautiful in the end to know you have such precious people in your life who could offer food, and such care and concern. What a blessing!

    Be well. Easy does it.
    Sending healing light!


  18. Dear Carol,

    What a terrible week! Not being able to sleep when you’re sick seems like a torture scenario. I’m glad you’ve left the hospital, and can sleep back to health. I, like everyone else here, am praying that your diagnosis is simply stress (You can unlearn the behaviors that lead to that problem). I’m sending you Reiki (healing energy) to help you on your path to recovery.

    Love, light, and healing,


  19. Carol, what a trying, miserable week!!! And tears are an appropriate and likely response from anyone!! But how lovely that you could connect with the women carers and were able to appreciate the animals outside. Now that you are home-thankfully-let’s trust that competent professionals will be able to identify & treat you soon. And the last thing you would need is a huge bill such as we get in the US! That is a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Carol, you are in my thoughts. I am hopeful that they soon discover what is wrong and are able to treat it quickly and completely.

    I am very fortunate myself in terms of health care. Due to my retirement with CalPERS, myself and my spouse have full medical coverage and we choose a nonprofit insurance, Kaiser, which costs us almost nothing for medication and nothing for tests, and a very small copay for surgery. I feel both extremely fortunate and a bit guilty knowing how many in this country are not covered and are getting huge medical bills that they cannot pay. I try to pay it forward when I can.

    Due to the pandemic, I have read that many people suffer alone in hospital rooms. Without the pandemic, I don’t think anyone here gets a hospital room of 8 people. That factor and the others you described make the non financial aspects very different from ours.

    One consequence of the expectation of having someone to care for you must be that people are brought together instead of being pushed apart when there is illness. Going forward into the uncertain future of our civilization, this seems like a worthy goal.

    Thank you for this interesting description, and know that many of us care for you, if from a distance.


    1. I may be the only person other than you and your editors who has read every page of your 2 vol Women in World Religions encyclopedia. It was what I had been reading and finished it in the hospital! Loved so much of it.


  21. Carol aka Dr.Christ,
    Sending you healing energy, positive thoughts and prayers.
    Love from your former SJSU student,


  22. Carol, So sorry to hear that you are feeling ill. Sending you healing prayers, light and love. Hospitals are very difficult places, especially in poorer country. But thank Goddess you didn’t and don’t have to also worry about being driven into bankruptcy and perhaps homelessness due to medical costs like here in the very disfunctional U.S. I hope you find the source of you illness soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Oh, Carol. What a nightmare. I too find it hard to ask for help. I am sending you healing nerdy and strength from Canada where we also have free health care, nurses, and other necessities while in the hospital.
    Sarah Macha with love


  24. What a terrible, trying, and exhausting experience you had! I too can’t take heat and now that I have erythromelalgia, also known as Burning Feet Syndrome, it is much worse. I completely agree with Sara that those who can take heat have no idea how much the rest of us suffer. I can’t imagine being in a hospital and having to deal with heat, on top of pain and noisy roommates. I’m glad your friends came through for you and that you had the other patients’ family members for companionship. Thank Goddess you don’t have to pay for the care and I hope and pray that your problem will be minor and you will feel fine soon!


  25. Hi Carol. We do not know each other personally but I wish you well soon. I am replying because your comment on the gratitude you feel for a free health service hit me hard. In the UK, our wonderful NHS is now up for grabs in the post brexit neo-lib nightmare that is now developing. Our MPs voted not to protect the NHS in any trade deals with the US and spent a small fortune to weedle out the people receiving long term expensive NHS care – those who will be uninsurable if that is what this is about.They have lied about protecting our health care system and are hell bent on commoditising it as a profit generating system. Enjoy free health care while you have it and get well soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What a difficult time! And, what a blessing to not have to worry about the crippling debt that something like this could cost! I send my prayers and affirmations that you be held in the arms of Spirit – and that your body heal in the best way possible. May you always have community; may you recognize your blessings; may the beauty of the earth renew you; and may you stand whole as you enter the mysteries of change, impermanence, and illness of the body. Deep love and care from my heart to yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hello Carol, thank you for sharing with us your challenges. I truly hope you are feeling better soon! The world needs you and your sisters across the globe care about you!
    Eva Luchin

    Liked by 1 person

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