Look, no blisters!

“There are no emergency services, so do not have an accident.” So ran the warning in the Mountains of Greece guide. That spooked me a little, so I insisted that both Alan and I did an outdoor first aid course. Most of these are weekend or one day courses, and we just looked on Google to find one near us. Following the course, I put together a minimal first aid kit, based on their recommendations, bought the Cicerone Wilderness First Aid guide for my kindle, and stocked up on vast quantities of blister plasters.

So what was most useful? Well, we didn’t get blisters, so we didn’t need the blister plasters. I think modern boots are so well-fitting that usually they don’t even need wearing in. What we used most were the rehydration sachets: you can buy more at pharmacies in the main towns.  The anti-histamine cream (for insect bites) and the tick tweezers were useful, too.

Otherwise, the main problems were pulled muscles or tendons. A rest day usually sorted them out, though it did help to use an elasticated knee or ankle support for a day or two. Towards the end of the hike, I was getting more frequent problems with my Achilles tendon. While it didn’t stop me at the time, once I got home I decided on a few months complete rest from walking long-distance to give my ankles time to recover.

So it was only when Alan launched himself to disaster down a scree slope, that we really found out what happens in an emergency. He’d taken all the skin off the back of his hand, which looked awful, dripping blood and with the tendons laid bare. The first aid was fairly simple: bind it up to stop the bleeding and get to the nearest village.

Treatment at the small local hospital was quick, effective and free, although when we went for a check-up at the larger city hospital in Kalamata, it was very busy and hard to get an appointment. In the end, we went to a private doctor – standard consultation charge fifty euros. We both had health insurance, so all costs were covered, including the cost of a taxi to hospital after the accident and our stay at a local hotel.

The only problem was that it took six hours to get to the hospital: the longer it takes, the more chance there is of infection. Another time I might think about compiling a list of taxi driver phone numbers in advance, so we could have had one waiting as soon as we reached the village.

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