Vascular Alarm in Santorini

Santorini Blue

The last two days in Santorini have been memorable, for sure.
Two nights ago, I had my first encounter with a medical concern while on a group trip. Being that one in the group that ends up demanding special attention from hosts for a condition of bloating legs and a potential circulation crisis is embarrassing and generally makes me very uncomfortable. It leaves me completely mortified.

It all started with the day we left Crete for Santorini. Half way across on the ferry, I noticed my legs were extraordinarily puffy. I jokingly referred to my ankles as cankles. It got a good laugh. At least out of me.



But then, as the day wore on, those cankles were getting more and more puffy and my sandals were digging into my skin. The back of my calves were aching and pulling and I began to feel nauseous.



We had a brief break in the afternoon with only an hour to refresh in our rooms before we were scheduled to head off for a tour to the archeological dig: Akrotiri. I was given advice to elevate my legs in the room. I arrived in the room, found an extra pillow and positioned it onto my headboard which was actually a half wall separating the bedroom from the living area. The bed itself faces the window to the vineyards. I position my bottom right up against the pillows on the headboard and place my legs up in the air leaning against another pillow. I begin to search for symptoms on an on-line medical site on my phone – trying to find information on swollen legs and feet, swallowing issues, light headedness… dizziness.




The next thing I know, I wake on the bed and look at my phone and see that I am ten minutes late for the group. Horrified I pull myself off the bed and go the bathroom to comb my hair. I am unsteady on my feet, dizzy. I throw on a sweater and pull out my lipstick. I sit down on the toilet to quickly take care of business. The hotel room phone rings, I am sure it is the group leader. Oh no- I have become that one agent- the one that is holding up the group. I can’t believe it. I am never that agent. I am always working on being the one that no matter what, is there before the rest have gathered. Ten to fifteen minutes early. I see that now I am going on twenty minutes late. I am truly beyond horrified. This is my worst nightmare. I hate being this person. I open the door to my room, and I am greeted by Apostolis, our hotel host. He has come to retrieve me and I am suddenly so grateful that I at least was ready to walk out the door. I try to talk to him and find that my speech is slightly slurred and that I am having trouble with a few words. My cell phone rings… It’s Lynne our group leader. I try telling her that I am with Apostolis but can’t quite come up with his name, so as we walk towards the group bus down the winding streets of the hotel village, I tell her that I am with the Greek God and as soon as that is out of my mouth, I regret it. I am being just goofy now- likely out of embarrassment.



We reach the bus and I see that everyone is onboard the bus and waiting for me. I mumble an apology as I board. I am feeling nauseous this whole time and my legs are hurting ..aching all the way up the calf into my thighs. Both legs.



The afternoon progresses, we reach the archeological site. And, as we walk through Akrotini, I start feeling just a little better. The air conditioning is helping. The site is magnificent and I am amazed by the story of this city that was buried by lava and ash. The preservation of the buildings. The possibility that this is the actual Lost City of Atlantis. We learn about this Minoan Civilization that goes back 1700 years BC. My mind is pulled in a different direction from my legs. I feel a light breeze from the AC on my body. I start to feel a little better.


After Akrotiri, we head out for a visit to Vedema Hotel’s Beach Club – a chance to see what our clients will experience if they take advantage of the shuttle that would transport them from hotel way up in the hills to the beach, complete with beautiful outdoor pool, bar, cabanas and black sand beach oceanfront chairs with the traditional straw umbrellas. Lovely. My legs are puffing up once again and I am having trouble. I can see by the sandal strap that my circulation is once again changing and my calves are aching. It is suggested that I elevate my legs and with guidance from a fellow traveler, I place myself backwards on one of the lounge chairs, with my legs up on the head rest facing the sky. My back and head towards the foot of the lounger. I sit like this for about 10-15 minutes before the group is called once again to move to the next activity- return to hotel to have our wine tasting in the hotel’s wine cave, and dinner in another wine cave.


I make it half way through dinner before my legs begin to really throb. I am having a bit of trouble with my throat again, and so uncomfortable. I attempt to move my legs under the table- swirling them around with the exercises one finds suggested for airline flights. As I eat my meal, I try to not make a fuss by I am hurting. People around me are talking. Enjoying themselves. I just don’t want to be the bother. I just want this to end. I say a prayer. Please help my legs – help this not become the problem it could be. Please.

Our group leader pops over to my side of the long table set in a wine cave and invites me to check out for the rest of the night, go get some rest, she says.  And, if you don’t feel like you can join us tomorrow, let me know by text in the morning. It will be a very long 12 hour day tomorrow with lots of steps. I marvel at the invitation. Oh, yes- that would be wise. I can’t imagine climbing the stairs of Santorini under this painful condition. I tell her I will see how I feel in the morning. Perhaps the night will make a difference.


Several fellow travelers insist on escorting me back to my room. The group has been lovely. Genuinely caring people and I don’t sense any irritation from them that I have become the problem child in the group. The delicate flower that needs special attention. Again, this whole idea makes me even more nauseous. I just can’t handle being the one in the group that either holds the group back or creates a “special consideration” environment. Can’t tolerate the idea.



And yet, here I am. Swollen legs. Throat tight. Nausea.

On my return to the room, I soak my feet in a cold spray of water from the bathtub. On the bed, I layer pillows vertically, as high as I can make it so that I can elevate my legs above my heart for awhile. I soak towels in cold water to create compresses for my legs. And, I climb into bed, and cover my legs in the cold wet towels. I watch a little CNN to catch up on the day’s news.
The next morning, my ankles and feet are still tight. I feel light headed. My lips are puffy. I text our lovely host to let her know that I am taking her up on her offer to allow myself some time to rest and heal. The day’s hotel site inspections will mean a lot of climbing of steep staircases and then descent as well … Up and Down. And then, a Catamaran Ride followed by Dinner. At least twelve hours away without rest. She agrees it is a wise choice and then suggests I call the hotel front desk to see the doctor. I had been told the night before that the doctor had been called so he is expecting my call if I should need him. I agree to see the doctor. At this point, there is a bit of fear involved as I worry about potential DVT. If it had not been for the throat and lip puffiness, or the pains that shoot up into my lower buttocks as if a sciatica reaction, I would beg off. But then, there is also the group to consider. And, if this is more serious, I need to know.


The doctor comes within an hour and listens to my description of symptoms. He does my vitals: oxygen and blood pressure. My oxygen is high, and he explains this is likely due to stress. I am taking in too much air, breathing heavy due to my anxiety over the situation. My blood pressure is high and for me this is very abnormal. I am one of those people who never has high blood pressure; it is 145/85. High for me for sure. Again, likely due to stress. What he is concerned about is my throat symptoms and nausea and dizziness. He feels the veins on the top of my ankles, pressing gently down and waiting- perhaps counting pulse. Not sure entirely but he then shares that he is checking the blood flow through my veins. He tells me that I am having a muscular reaction in my calves. And, a Neurovascular impact. He prescribes an RX of muscle relaxants and advises me to take it easy today, to elevate my legs and to use the cold compresses. The plan was to spend the day taking care of my legs. I am so grateful to have been given this break from the busy schedule to ensure my legs an chance to recover.


After a full day of rest, in the early evening, I rejoin the group with another agent who had medical concerns on this journey. Hers is associated with COPD. So, there are two of us who had to deviate for a few hours from the main itinerary planned. In the evening, we are transferred out to a hotel on the cliffs to join the larger group and have a site inspection of that property – built into a cliff. Stairs, stairs and more stairs. I don’t want to be a bother. But, I just spent the day elevating my legs and taking muscle relaxants and now I am about to climb cliff stairs for a hotel site inspection… Oy. Hard to say no to our gracious hosts. The other gal and I do receive a modified version of the inspection, with fewer rooms, and it’s all good.



During dinner, I begin to feel the swelling start again on my feel, ankles and calves. And, I worry. What will happen if this does not correct itself soon. I try to shift my mind to other thoughts. I drink my water. I avoid salt as best I can and I enjoy our hosts and conversations around the table as we gaze down the cliffs into the ocean and to the horizon before us and enjoy also the vistas of Fira Town opposite us. During dinner, a community across the bay is celebrating something special with tiny bursts of fireworks viewed from this long distance away. So small from our vantage point that a picture would be pointless. So we just enjoy them. And relax. And take in the fresh air.


At the conclusion of the dinner, we climb back to the top of the resort via one staircase after another, until we find the minibuses awaiting our return to our host resort. I worry on the bus ride back to our hotel, as I feel my feet once again swelling and aching. Upon my return to my hotel room, I repeat the steps to reduce the swelling: cold compresses and elevation.

Today, our departure day from Santorini, I am grateful to wake up with much improvement with my condition. Still slightly swollen but so much better than the day before. I actually experience hope that this may be over. And, I make a mental note to avoid the climbs as much as possible. And this is made possible because the hosts on the group tour insist I let them know if I need to sit out a site inspection or climbing here and there. Later today, another site inspection. Unless the inspection is anything like Fira Town on Santorini, I should be ok.

The group has been so gracious. I have not felt any negative repercussion to my special needs these last 48 hours. So perhaps, this time, the group is different. Compassionate. Kind. Understanding and Human. We need to give each other a break in life. One never knows the specific circumstances of another persons drama.



This was a lesson for me in tolerance of others. Grace and mercy. For other trips ahead of me, when that one agent has to beg off or special concessions are to be made, remember your time at Vedema Resort in Santorini and how gracious and kind they all were, and compassionate and accommodating. And remember the smiles and encouragement of so many on the group who expressed concern and genuine care and not resentment – nor disdain.


It’s been such a lovely trip.

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