Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Central Casting after Midnight

What a photo op, I thought, and here I am without my camera.

I was at the Central City Hospital of Rostov in what we’ll call the Department of Cast Creation. Minutes earlier, I had been in X-ray, then down the hall for a consultation with the physician on duty then back down the hall for a cast. The directress of casting had just put a form on my leg and we were waiting for it to dry.

She stepped out of the room and Gideons strode over to her work table covered with white powder started pushing it around.

Finally I get to see this with my own eyes, he exclaimed. We read all about this in our textbooks but this is the first time I’ve seen this!

He picked up a handful of the cast-making powder and let it filter through his fingers, grinning widely like a kid in a sandbox.

Glad I could contribute something to your on-going education!
I thought to myself.

The weekend before, Gideons had received his M.D. from Rostov State University, College of Medicine. The ink was barely dry on his diploma. I was one of Gideons’ guests at the ceremony honoring international medical students.

We honored 82 new physicians from 17 foreign countries. Students were grouped by their homeland and we stood for each national anthem and the awarding of diplomas from each country in turn, from Albania and Bangladesh to Zimbabwe and eventually to Sri Lanka, as per the Cyrillic alphabet.

Anyway, I had no idea how emotional the ceremony would be. But when I thought of how strong, how brave, how determined were those young people, so far from home, most of them in their twenties, when I thought of them studying Russian for a year and then studying medicine in the language and here, finally having reached such a goal, I found myself positively weepy.

I got to sit next to Gideons’ father, Dr. Gideon Nwaanze, former mayor of his city – and better yet, a minister of the gospel – who had made the trip all the way from Nigeria to celebrate the day with his namesake. The next day at church, we honored our beloved brother Gideons and after the service enjoyed ice cream with piles of fresh raspberries.

* * * * *

And so calling Gideons late Sunday evening was certainly not on my To-Do list. Nor was a midnight excursion to the hospital but there we were.

I had twisted my ankle by falling out of my bathroom. It’s a bit of a trick, admittedly, but it can be done. I had gotten up and down a stepstool without mishap to fiddle with a recalcitrant bathroom light. Back on the floor, I took one life-altering step backward and managed to fall out of the bathroom into the hallway, where the floor is two inches lower. (Welcome to Russia!) But it can result in a tumble, and tumble I did.

I tried to stand and had pain shooting from my right ankle on up.

I bet this is how a break feels, I thought. But I had to congratulate myself because no one in my immediate family has ever broken a bone or had an accident requiring a cast. Oh, I love to be a trailblazer.

But this trailblazer wanna-be needed medical help. So I called Gideons. No answer. I called other friends from church. No luck. Back to Gideons. Still no answer. Then Galina, the neighbor lady downstairs answered and came right up. I crawled to the door. She proceeded to call “Skoraya Pomish” – the local “doctor at your door service.” In minutes Gideons called and then came over. Soon my apartment was a beehive of neighbors, Gideons and medical personnel. It was almost a party. And it was all about me. But alas, all that attention was only temporary.

Still, I got my first ever ambulance ride – no siren or flashing lights though – and in 3 minutes we were at the hospital. Gideons and the Galina’s husband, Yuri, helped me hop to out to the ambulance and then into the hospital. Finally they realized it would be faster to just carry me, lightweight that I am (not hardly).

Well, it was all over by 3:00 a.m. I was back home, having had enough drama for one day. Since then, the excitement has faded, reality has set in and I’m learning how to get around on crutches. I’m learning how the value of upper body strength, or more precisely, how valuable it would be to have some. I’m learning the value of plastic baggies for toting things from one room to the next and I have plenty of those. I’m learning the value of mobility.

And there are so many tender mercies. Gideons has checked in with me regularly before he left yesterday for Moscow. The neighbors downstairs, a family, have been here day-in-and-day-out. They now have the extra keys to my apartment and 14-year-old Andrey comes up twice a day to give me a hand: water my plants, feed the birds, pick up some groceries, empty the trash.

So, what a memorable Independence Day this has been! The way I look at it, if there’s no July 4th fireworks and excitement in the city where you live, make your own! For me, I’ll always remember this holiday – my Fourth of July with an unexpected twist.

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