Medical condition in foreign country offers insight
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.