Time moves at a different pace in a hospital.I barely registered the past few days which blurred into each other. The hands on the clock (yes, they have analog clocks in Minnesota hospitals) seemed to move much more slowly in the waiting areas of a hospital than anywhere else.
Leslie and I have been in sync in so many ways since we began writing Jewish Luck. Leslie appeared at my door Sunday morning, coffee in one hand, computer bag in the other and usually we would laugh as we saw each other dressed like mirror images as we prepared to skype Vera and Alla. We've reached a point of synchronicity we'd rather not share—both our husbands need non life-threatening surgery and both our husbands should be better after the surgery. My husband is home now following his Wednesday morning operation and Leslie's husband awaits his surgery in a little over two weeks.
After much consideration, my husband chose to have his surgery at a St. Paul hospital. Leslie endorsed the decision enthusiastically recounting the tales of her stay there for her hip replacement surgery last summer.She remembered each nurse's name and enjoyed the care.We discovered the same friendly nurses who calmed my husband before surgery and afterwards and were attentive and caring.
Even the family waiting area has an atmosphere of extra concern. Tom, the volunteer who staffs the room, made sure to learn each of our names and "visit with us." Each staff member seems aware that no surgery is routine for a patient or the family. When my husband surrendered consciousness to anesthesia and his surgeon of choice took scalpel in hand, I felt suspended in time as well until I saw my husband wheeled past the family waiting area and saw him manage a brief wave when I called his name.
All went well until time for my husband's discharge. His soft-spoken nurse Grace told us it would be about fifteen minutes until the prescriptions arrived from the pharmacy. Slowly, my husband dressed and we placed his belongings into the green plastic bags that served as his luggage. And we waited.
Grace appeared and apologetically told us, "the tube system is clogged and your prescriptions are stuck. They have an engineer working on it."
My husband chuckled and suggested they get a heart surgeon to clear the pathway. We began our wait. I'd like to tell you that I sat with equanimity during the two hours plus wait, but patience is a work-in-progress for me. I spent the time internally fuming and wondering why a better prescription delivery system wasn't in place. I worried that we wouldn't get on the freeway before rush hour and my husband would be suffering longer than necessary along the bumpy pavement of the interstate. I tried to figure out how to get the prescriptions another way.
And then I remembered Vera in the St. Petersburg hospital exactly five years ago. More specifically, I began to think about her husband Alexei. As our readers probably recall (chapter 46), Vera went into the hospital for a "routine" procedure only to develop life-threatening complications. Aside from its lack of sterile conditions, the St. Petersburg hospital lacked gracious nurses, food for the patients, sterile conditions, and antibiotics to counter infection. Alexei was wild with anger and fear as Vera slipped into a coma from sepsis. At the time of the crisis, my focus was on Vera and I hadn't given much thought to how Alexei felt. Now I understand that seeing Vera helpless in a hospital bed was like seeing the world upside down. Alexei's solution will seem extreme to non-Russians, but he understood how the system worked—threats and bribes.While Americans undergo pre-op physicals, Russians' pre-op procedure was to bribe all the right people.Bribes were useless at this dangerous moment during Vera's coma. Only serious threats eventually produced the life-saving antibiotics. Russians don't bother threatening lawsuits—that would be akin to battling a bear with a fly swatter.
When those we love are hospitalized, we lose control and we're in the hands of strangers and an institution we'd rather avoid. May our readers avoid hospitals this year but if you do find yourself in need of medical intervention, stay away from a Russian hospital.