Thursday, July 12, 2007


Okay, I promised my Russian hospital experience. Read at your own risk.

First of all, let me tell you that Russian hospitals look a lot different from American hospitals, at first glance. Here are a few differences:

Hallways: U.S.-bright florescent lighting/Russia: dim lighting or lights off to preserve electricity

Main entrance: U.S.-receptionist/Russia-security guard and turnstile

What patients wear: U.S.-hospital gown/Russian-regular/indoor clothes

Footwear: U.S.-??? normal shoes/Russian-slippers or other change of shoes

Anyway, I was at the hospital to have my throat looked at. It had been sore for about 3 weeks. Russians like to scold you for being sick, as if it is your fault. They also scold you for not trying hard enough to get better. Now, I had suffered from a head-cold which I allowed to run its course, thus receiving scolding. The head-cold only lasted about a week, as expected but the sore throat continued. Any time I mentioned it to someone, they asked, “And how are you treating it?” Ummm…? Tea? Cough drops?

So I finally went to get it checked out. Part of not paying attention to illness is not wanting to take the time. And part of it is a phobia of anything medical-related. Doctors are wonderful people, but I really do not like visiting them. I cry when my teeth are cleaned. I hyperventilate when blood is drawn. And here I was, ready to get my nose and throat checked out. I think nose and throat have to be worst of all. Maybe even worse than getting a shot in the you-know-what.

When the doctors learned about my meager attempts to get better, they stared at me and then at each other and shook their heads disapprovingly. At their prompting, I opened my mouth to expose my throat. I had tried to look at it myself at home, and even googled "throat" images, but it grossed me out too much.

The doctor looking at my throat asked how long ago I’d had a stuffy nose, and I said “Two weeks ago. But it’s not stuffy now.”

“Yes it is.” Ummm, okay, the doctor is contradicting me. I started laughing from the amusement of a doctor scolding me.

“No smiling.” Yeah, that helped a lot. A Russian doctor just told me not to smile. I kept smiling.

“I said, NO smiling.” Fine. I managed to make the corners of my mouth turn down.

The doctors continued to look at my throat and discuss their findings. I could understand some of the words such as “chronic” and “flowing.” Ewwwwww….

So apparently they didn’t find anything scary like tonsillitis, but some after-effects of the cold were causing the sore throat, so I had to have my nose flushed out. I probably would have bolted from the room if one of the doctors hadn’t been a close friend. The walls lined with glass jars...the chair in the middle of the room...

“Do you have a handkerchief?” she asked, as she began the procedure. I didn’t. She handed me a paper napkin, leftover from a local restaurant. There were no paper towels or tissues in the room.

When I went back the next day for more treatment, I had saved some paper napkins from lunch.

“Good job!” said the doctor. I had done something right. I’m turning into a good little Russian patient. :)


  1. Oh you poor girl! I don't think I could handle having my nose flushed out in the most comfortable of doctors offices, let alone a scary hospital! I hope your treatments are done soon!

  2. Your difference list makes it easy to understand why russians don't like to visit doctors. But why americans don't...

  3. Well, there's the "association" factor and the "fear of the unknown" factor. Americans associate bright white hallways and people in white coats or gowns with unpleasant medical procedures. If a room has a bright white interior, we say that it looks like a hospital. Maybe there's a comfort in the sterile environment and in the competency of doctors, but that doesn't do much to improve unpleasant conditions. If a nurse messes up your IV one time, you're scarred for life.


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