Med­i­cal con­di­tion in for­eign coun­try of­fers insight

Pretoria News - - METRO - VA­LERIE BOJE

A VISIT to another coun­try, no mat­ter how well ar­ranged, gives one but a glimpse of it, and not nec­es­sar­ily what life is like for its res­i­dents. But when some­thing un­ex­pected hap­pens, such as a med­i­cal emer­gency, one gains some real insight.

I was part of a me­dia group in­vited to visit Crimea when, on a trip to the an­cient Greek city of Cher­son­e­sus, I felt dizzy and ex­pe­ri­enced blurry vi­sion, and then briefly blacked out.

The first thing that hap­pened was that my col­leagues rushed to my aid, sup­port­ing and even car­ry­ing me part of the way back to the en­trance where our trans­port waited.

There I was fanned and given some­thing to drink be­fore one of the tour lead­ers made the de­ci­sion that I should be checked out by a doc­tor, as we were due to fly home the next day.

We got back into our trans­port ve­hi­cles where a sec­ond in­ci­dent oc­curred – another mem­ber of the group fell hard, hurt­ing his foot… So now we had two pa­tients in our party!

An am­bu­lance had been sum­moned. It ar­rived speed­ily and took us both in.

A para­medic took my blood pres­sure and did a mo­bile elec­tro­car­dio­gram (while another para­medic at­tended to my in­jured col­league), be­fore we were trans­ferred to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal for fur­ther check-ups.

At this point, I ner­vously asked our in­ter­preter what this was go­ing to cost me, to which she replied, “Noth­ing”, as it is a pub­lic hos­pi­tal and treat­ment is free of charge. I have to ad­mit to hav­ing vi­sions of Steve Biko Aca­demic with its no­to­ri­ous queues, and my heart sank at the thought that in a few hours we were due to fly back from Crimea to Moscow and I might be left be­hind.

How­ever, the de­ci­sion had been made and, ac­com­pa­nied by the in­ter­preter, we were trans­ported to the Pirogov gen­eral hos­pi­tal.

I filled in a form and it could not have been 10 min­utes later that I had the full at­ten­tion of a young nurse who took my blood pres­sure and a blood sam­ple. A short while later a doc­tor – also a young woman – ar­rived and asked some ques­tions be­fore do­ing some ba­sic re­flex tests.

Then, to my amaze­ment, I was sent for an MRI, and could not help think­ing, as I lay still, of the palaver it would have been to get med­i­cal aid ap­proval in South Africa.

The doc­tor, thank­fully, gave me an all-clear and pre­sented me with a disc of the test results to show my doc­tor back home.

As we left the hos­pi­tal to re­join the group, a man ap­proached us to ask how the treat­ment had been. Turns out he was the chief sur­geon who had heard of the for­eign­ers and wanted to en­sure that we were happy with the treat­ment.

When the Rus­sian lead­er­ship says that they have in­vested heav­ily in in­fra­struc­ture in Crimea, in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, my ex­pe­ri­ence cer­tainly bears this out.

■ I found out later that this hos­pi­tal is named af­ter a prom­i­nent Rus­sian sci­en­tist and sur­geon, Dr Niko­lay Pirogov who worked in Sev­astopol dur­ing the Crimean War.

He is cited as hav­ing used ether as an anaes­thetic in a field op­er­a­tion in 1847, and de­vised nu­mer­ous pro­ce­dures and a tech­nique to use plas­ter casts to treat bone frac­tures.

PRE­TO­RIA News ed­i­tor Va­lerie Boje is checked in an am­bu­lance in Sev­astopol, Crimea.

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