Well tomorrow I’m leaving on holiday for two weeks in the UK with two Russian friends. As I woke up and prepared to pack my suitcases, my roommate came to my room looking for the phone number of one of our administrators because she wanted them to book her a doctor’s appointment. Apparently she’d been having a lot of abdominal pain and thought she might have kidney stones. On this morning, she woke up with blood in her urine and a lot of pain. Because it’s a Saturday we found out that she can’t go to the doctor that she would usually go to in Moscow. So we were directed to the local hospital and, because she was unable to reach her boyfriend, I went along to help out.
Of course I didn’t mind doing this at all. I would do anything to help her out and was hoping that she didn’t have anything serious. But on the way there I felt somewhat scared that I wouldn’t be able to adequately help because my Russian isn’t perfect. The whole time I racked my brain for the vocabulary I might need, trying to recall what little I’d learned in my courses.
When we arrived we entered and it wasn’t at all what I’d expected. The entrance was vacant and there were two directions you could go in. To the right, there was a door open and sitting beside the door was a guard at a small wooden table. The opposite direction looked like a dead-end. So we headed toward the open door and were quickly reprimanded by the guard for not wearing shoe covers (бахилы). So we turned back and tried to find out where to get them. By the door were two plastic buckets with dirty, already used shoe covers. But that was it. Finally we saw a woman who was leaving and I asked her where to get them. She motioned to the opposite direction and said we could buy them there. Another woman came by and, upon hearing the conversation, asked us if the guard had told us off for not wearing them. She seemed to think the guard was out of line, or at least that’s the impression I got from what I could understand.
So we went in search of shoe covers and happened upon a small dispenser for them, not unlike a typical gumball dispenser. It only accepted rubles of a certain denomination so we began furiously trying to find them in our wallets. Luckily my roommate had her last two on her and we were able to purchase two pairs. Then we entered through the small door and came out near a stair case and a massive freight elevator. But the most shocking thing was the quality of the hospital. It was very dark, very old and seemed to be in terrible conditions. The paint was peeling from the walls, the stairs were crumbling, the metal was rusty. Everything looked dreary. We could see nurses wheeling stretchers that looked like they were 30 years old, nothing like the modern ones we use in our hospitals.
But we persevered and, armed with the name of the department we needed thanks to our friend, I stopped and asked where the department was. We were directed to the seventh floor and climbed the steps up there. It wouldn’t have been so bad had my roommate not been in so much pain. When we got there, we didn’t see signs for this department at all. There were other signs but none for what we were searching. We walked down a dimly lit hallway and came upon a doctor. I asked him where this department was and he said that they only work on Mondays.
So we were left wondering what to do. We went outside and called one of our mutual friends whose mother works at this hospital. She arranged for one of her friends to meet us at another part of the hospital. Then we ran another friend of ours to come immediately and help us out. Finally we found ourselves in what I can only assume was something like an emergency room. You entered and waited until they called you through. Then you went into another room and they took down your name, date of birth and address into a small notebook. I did all the translating as best I could but, when our Russian friend showed up, the staff weren’t shy at showing their relief that someone who “spoke Russian” was there. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have a little bit of a better bedside manner. They blatantly expressed their impatience with my lack of knowledge of Russian and my roommate’s inability to speak Russian.
Later, after my roommate had been examined and diagnosed, we were surprised to learn that they thought her problem was a result of sitting on something cold. Our Russian friend went on to explain that you shouldn’t eat ice cream, for fear that you’ll become ill, and other ideas that seemed archaic to us. But nonetheless, these were diagnoses given by doctors. It seemed to us that they couldn’t possibly be basing this on scientific fact and I found it a bit difficult to believe. But, having just witnessed it first hand, it couldn’t be denied.
Thankfully though, my roommate got the help she needed and prescriptions for the necessary medication. Thanks to our friend, everything was explained and her calmness over the situation helped us realize that there was nothing to worry about. Of course, I know that this experience was only one time and, perhaps is isolated, but, after that, I couldn’t help but resolve to stay healthy and never step foot in a Russian hospital again.