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«Приключения шведки в русской больнице» [The Adventures of a Swedish Girl in a Russian Hospital] Posted by on Nov 24, 2009 in Culture, The Russian Emotion

After publishing my last post here – over a week ago now – I promised myself that I would not blog again until I got well enough to not write about anything related to illnesses. That might have seemed like a great plan when it was still «понедельник» [Monday] and my first fever-free day since coming down with «свиной грипп» [swine flu] only a few days before. On «четверг» [Thursday] this plan turned out not to be so great anymore. On Thursday I woke up to my fourth fever-free day, but still with «тяжёлый кашель» [a heavy cough (this noun ends on a soft sign, and thus make a note of that it is masculine!)] and also «мне было трудно дышать» [it was hard for me to breathe]. Since the fever left my health had not improved at all and thus I decided that «хватит болеть уже» [enough with being sick already] and called up my friend, whose mother is «врач» [a doctor]. Her mother said that I might have «пневмония» [pneumonia] as «осложнение» [complication; sequela, condition resulting from an earlier illness or disease (medicine)] after the swine flu. I was in no condition to go outside and that’s why my friend came over to my place, picked up her phone and «вызвала врача на дом» [called a doctor to come to (my) home]. At this point it should be noted that I have suffered from enormous «страх перед больницами» [a fear of hospitals] my whole life, that «я ужасно боюсь врачей» [I’m terribly afraid of doctors] and that all of this adds up to some sort of «фобия» [phobia, strong and persistent irrational fear] that I can’t get rid of. On Thursday I tried to explain this to the two Russian doctors that turned up in my home, but – like always – they did not understand me at all. Well, perhaps I wouldn’t understand people who told me that «у них страх перед филологами» [they have a fear of philologists] and that’s why they «боятся членить предложение на части речи» [are afraid of dividing a sentence into parts of speech]… Or, which is even more likely, I would’ve thought this fear just as illogical as the doctors find my fear of hospitals.

 This ancient phone actually works! Despite looking like it was simply forgotten here in the last century… Don’t you think that it is strange that «тихий час» [quiet hour] lasts for not one hour, but two? Why isn’t it called «тихие часы» [quiet hours] instead? Maybe because the plural «часы» in Russian also means ‘clock’ and that would make it ‘quiet clock’?

Life, it turned out last Thursday, is apparently still filled with plenty of things I haven’t done yet. But one of them I got done with right then and there: «я поехала в больницу на скорой помощи» [I went to the hospital in an ambulance]. Yes, now I can say that I’ve been in a Russian ambulance! How cool is that? I think it is pretty cool – at least now afterwards! I arrived at the hospital together with my friend to find the waiting room filled with other sick people that were all «с вещами» [with things; personal belongings]. I paid little to no attention to this until I was brought to the doctor some three hours later and the first thing he said, without even really looking twice at me, was: «Итак, вы хотите здесь остаться на ночь?» [So you want to spend the night here?]. My reaction at this was to scream loudly in panic and beg him to listen to my lungs first, and only after this tell me his sentence. He smiled. He listened to my lungs for a while, nodding to himself slowly as he listened, and then sent me to get them x-rayed. I came back from the x-ray and ended up with another doctor because the whole hospital was in such a chaos that my Russian friend in the end concluded: «Это не странаэто катастрофа!» [“This is not a country – this is a catastrophe!”] The other doctor was a woman and she liked me for some reason and started to talk to me while looking at the x-ray of my lungs. She said that «нет пневмонии» [there’s no pneumonia] on the x-ray, but that this doesn’t mean that I don’t still have it. She smiled and added that this is especially possible considering my difficulties breathing and the fact that I’ve been sick for over a week now. And that’s how I came to be hospitalized in Russia!

My friend and another friend, whose father just happens to be «ректор нашего университета» [the rector of our university], got my keys and went to my home to gather together my things for me. I was not allowed to leave the hospital. About an hour later the rector himself turned up at the hospital in the middle of the night together with his daughter to hand me a big bag filled with food. They also took my coat and my shoes that I had to give away in order to be officially hospitalized. So I was led into this gloomy room with green walls and a single bed (after the first night I was moved to a double room, but remained alone in it until about two hours before I left on Monday) and placed on the bed by a nurse. She put «капельница» [a drop counter] into the vein on my right arm, but since I was not in such a great mood and really very afraid of where all of this «жидкость» [feminine: fluid] was going to go once inside my body since I’m convinced that my veins are already full with my blood and can’t hold anything more. So I got nervous that my veins would explode and started jumping around and thus the needle shifted and the fluid poured under my skin instead. This was even worse, of course, because also under my skin I didn’t have much room… So I ended up with a small ball under the skin on my arm and spending the whole first night crying and not sleeping at all because of the pain.

All things considered, «я рада, что у меня не хватает опыта для того, чтобы сказать: вот так выглядит обычная палата в русских больницах» [I’m glad that I don’t have enough experience to say: well this is what a usual ward in Russian hospitals looks like].

«В пятницу» [on Friday] many things changed for the better for me in the hospital because I found a friend. At half past six the nurse woke me up and said: «Пора сдавать кровь!» [It is time for a blood test!] Then I started (or simply continued) to cry as lingered in the line and trying to be the last one, while I kept repeating over and over again: «Я хочу домой!» [I want to go home!] I noticed how another patient, this young, tall and rather broad-shouldered man, also tried to be the last one in the line and kept looking at me strangely. Later in the day he explained to me that he was jealous of me, since he’s just afraid of hospitals as I am, but I’m allowed to cry since I’m «женщина и маленькая» [a woman and small] but the is not because he’s «мужчина и большой» [a man and big]. After we had been united in our fear of the place where we were located against our will we became close friends and wondered the long hallway together. My weekend at the hospital turned out to be a nice rest mostly thanks to him, as a matter of fact. During my first week of being sick I hardly ate anything at all, and due to this I lost a lot of weight. But during the weekend my new friend kept feeding me all sorts of good food and thus I managed to gain back some and regain a lot of energy in the process, too. He turned out to be a real gentleman! We were so inseparable during the weekend that the nurses suspected us to have become a couple even…

This is one of the views from the floor in the hospital where I was. When I took this picture my new friend told me not to and that I shouldn’t show «некрасивые стороны его родины» [the shabby sides of his native country]. But I always want to show Russia just as she is, and because this is how she looks a lot of the time I wanted to take a picture of it.

All in all I am very thankful now that I ended up in the hospital on Thursday, even though I didn’t want to go there in the first place. When I was there I got a lot of medication and a lot of rest and got to eat a lot and now I’m feeling much better. Even though the hospital was pretty much in chaos and rather crazy the whole time I was there – there’s after all «эпидемия» [an epidemic] going on right now – I think the doctors and the nurses did the best they could working under such strained circumstances. «В понедельник меня выписали» [on Monday I was discharged from the hospital] and could go home with just a small cough and breathing normally! Life is full of different experiences, and many of them aren’t really pleasant while we’re going through them, but in the end that’s really what they are and that’s why we need them – as experiences. Now I can say that I’ve been «в русской больнице» [in a Russian hospital]. What’s left for me to do in this country? Well, my «научный руководитель» [academic guidance councilor] put it this way: «Тебе осталось только побывать в русской тюрьме» [All left for you to do is spend some time in Russian prison]. Let’s hope that’s one experience I WON’T be gaining! And let’s also hope that this is the last post I’ll be writing on the subject of «болезнь» [feminine: illness, disease, sickness, malady; trouble] for some time to come!

Anyway, now you all know the reason as to why I didn’t write anything here for an entire week… I promise a soon return to posts on only grammar and literature! 

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  1. Moonyeen:

    So glad you are on your way to good health.
    In 2005 I was taken by ambulance to the American Clinic in St. Petersburg because my knee “crashed” on me. I could not walk. I was there, in excellent surroundings, for 3 days and they got me walking again. It was an interesting experience, including the MRI which was done in a Russian hospital, also taken to and from there by ambulance. And what about the nice man you met there? Will we hear more about him?

  2. Mark:


    What a horrible experience! I’m very glad that you are now feeling better and back amongst the “living.” 🙂

    I’m looking forward to your return to happier blog posts.

  3. Ed:

    Glad to hear you’re on the road to recovery! Hope you’re feeling 100% better soon. Take care. Ed

  4. Colin:

    You are not alone in your phobia of hospitals, Josefina. I try not to breathe or touch anything when in those surroundings, so can really empathise with you. I’m sure all of your faithful readers are glad you are feeling better and on the way to recovery. In the circumstances, I think the Russian hospital staff did a wonderful job. So what that the outside walls needed a bit of paint! You were right to photograph them and share them with us, because what they did for you is more important than the surface appearance. Будь злорова!

  5. Colin:

    Sorry, здорова, I hit the wrong key!

  6. Lloyd:

    I just read your blog and started to relive my own very strange and difficult experience in Chelyabinsk.
    I was invited to the Chelyabinsk theater of ballet and opera to do the lighting for a very famous Russian opera called ‘Demon’ by Rubenstein. This was my third time doing the lighting at the Chelyabinsk theater. The first two times I did big ballets. The first was a production of Romeo and Juliet and the second was a terrific production called ‘El Mundo do Goya’. It was a great experience both times and they liked me very much at the theater.
    Well, the last procuction of ‘Demon’ which was a year ago in September was a different story! I was there for two weeks while so much politics and turmoil was taking place in the theater politics. My friend who was the choreographer for the ballet company was involved and tried to translate for me so I could understand what was going on. I didn’t speak any Russian. It turned out that the director from St. Petersburgh quit and the show was ‘up in the air’. I stayed to see what the final decision was and one day I felt sick while having coffee at my favorite place. I made it to my apartment but couldn’t get back to the theater the next day. The director of the theater called me and I said I was really sick and couldn’t come in. He said he wanted to come and see me.
    Denis arrived and I couldn’t open the door for him. I was really sick. He came back with an ambulance and a key. Off I was to the hospital in Chelyabinsk.
    The minute I arrived they made me make myself throw up into a plastic pail. Next they told me I had to be in the hospital for two weeks! Seeing your picture of the bed you slept in made me feel that I was back in that hospital again.
    The theater had to hire a translator for me who came to the hospital every day so the doctor could tell me what was happening. I was all alone and pretty afraid. The chalk I had to drink was unbearable as were the blood tests every day as they sliced up my finger! What a mess. They had to extend my visa and the day I left the hospital all the nurses lined up to say goodbye, I went to my apartment to pack and left the country that night, out of Ekaterinburg.
    There is so much more to the story but I don’t want to bore you. I’m glad to hear that you are alright and back to school and blogging.
    Best, Lloyd (Denver, Colorado USA)

  7. Γλαύκος:

    I wish you to recover soon …and write shorter posts …you are very ill now ..do not forget.

  8. Gordon:

    I am glad to hear that you are feeling better. I just love your posts, no matter what you speak about. I have been in one of the clinics or hospitals in Kiev and Odessa, not for me but for a friend who was ill. And it was a very interesting situation both times, coming from an American medical background.
    Best wishes to you always!

  9. Roger:

    What a nightmare! I am so glad you servived
    such a traumatic experience. I hope it never happens again. God bless you!

  10. Jen:

    Hej Josefina! I’m glad you’re finally feeling better! I guess I’m a lot more afraid of the dentist than of the hospital. So kudos to you for being able to deal with staying at the hospital so long. Just thinking about the dentist can give me a panic attack!

  11. Roberta:

    I’m with Moondeen, I want to hear more about the tall man who made your stay in the hospital so much more pleasant than it would otherwise have been.

  12. Josefina:

    Спасибо всем! Я уже без кашля 🙂 Thank you all! I’m already without any cough these days… Life! Health! It is all so wonderful!

    Moonyeen and Roberta, I am sad to have to inform you of the regrettable fact that the nice, tall man that I met in the hospital is married and has a four month old baby… We did, however, change numbers, and you never know – maybe he’ll give me a call! But we’ll of course be nothing more than friends… And you can never have too many friends.

  13. Den Vandrande Juden:

    Wow, what an experience. The only extended time I’ve spent in a hospital is in Japan, which I’m guessing is probably different from your experience.

    By the way, in English we typically call a капельницы an”IV.” Stands for “intravenous” but I don’t know what noun that’s supposed to modify. Intravenous drug … administering .. device???

    I also like how you say that there’s no possibility of anything happening because he’s married and has a child. Unless things have really changed since the time I was in Russia, that’s practically a guarantee that something could happen if you wanted it to. 😉

  14. Charly:

    Glad to hear you’re feeling better now! 🙂
    I guess a russian hospital would be my worst nightmare… you’re a brave girl!
    And I love to read your posts every time!

  15. Robert MacDonald:

    Greetings Josephina,

    I retired with my wife to St Petersburg in 2000. Since then I have been in many hospitals in SPB and also in the backwater of Pena, Tverskoya Oblast … due to heart disease.

    I have written about my medical experiences in my blog and have gotten a lot of reaction to those posts… especially (and surprisingly) about my trips to the dentist.

    Your blog is a find for me, as few students and expats have had similar experiences… most go to an expat clinic or go past the graneetsa. I enjoy how posts are spiced with Russian, which being something of a durok I am still trying to learn to a more acceptable level.

    All the best,
    American Russia Observations

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