Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Gynacologia? Gynacologia?

I think I am finally beginning to realise that when you plan something, you really do have to take into account the possible down sides as well as the much-more-fun up sides to a potential situation. When we were sussing out moving to Kazakhstan, one of the potential downsides that we considered was the lack of good, local hospital facilities and, especially, the lack of English-speaking facilities. So imagine my delight when eight weeks into my sojourn in this fabulous republic (I do actually really like it here, but my opinion on the hospital care has not improved since moving here), I found out I would have to go to hospital for a general anaesthetic.

In Seoul where English is not widely spoken, there was a choice of several hospitals which had international clinics with English-speaking assistants who would take you around to do all the tests you needed etc. Here we have the SOS clinic which is a kind of health insurer own clinic that helps you out in a crisis, has an English-speaking expat doctor and deals with all the paperwork for a price.

Last week I had to go and get checked for something, and at the same time I told him that I had recently discovered that I was (accidentally) pregnant. So he sent me for a scan at the clinic in the photo, and sadly at the scan, the doctors saw that there was no heart beat and that the baby had stopped developing at about 7 weeks. All a total disaster, and it also meant I had to go and have an operation to get it taken out. 

On a list of 1000 things I would rather never do in my life, going to a Kazakh hospital and having a general anaesthetic would probably have been quite high, but I was in the position that I had no choice really. I was booked to fly to Thailand on Wednesday and the doctor said that without getting rid of it before flying I would risk having a full-blown miscarriage on the plane because of the change in air pressure (I am skeptical about this myself, but don't know for sure, and didn't have time to check really).  So on Tuesday I went off to another clinic to get done. there had been a miscommunication about the time for us to arrive, and so shortly after getting to the clinic we were whisked into the car park to be transferred to the clinic for the op, not into our waiting car, but into the "fast" car, in other words, the SOS Ambulance with the flashing lights and sirens blaring in order to cross town in under 10 minutes. 

What a crazy way to get to a routine operation. We had to get Baktiyar our driver to follow us as he didn't know where the clinic was, and we could see him concentrating very hard as he chased the ambulance along the roads, past the speed cameras etc. He must have thought we were proper drama queens. 

We arrived at the clinic (still not completely built - what a surprise... this is kazakhstan after all) and were shown into the lobby and went for various checks: 
"Now what is it you have come for?" asked the first doctor
"I thought you might have been told that before I came in," I replied.

Various weird questions: 
"Do you have your good feet?" asked the translating doctor
"What?" I said
"Your good foot, Gail, she means which is your primary foot, the one you always step forward with first," said my husband.
"I have absolutely no idea, I am right-handed" I said. 
"No, your good foot, your house foot," said the doctor
"Oh, you mean my slippers," I realised. 

And then it was time to be led down the hall to the operating area, have my glasses taken away so everything was completely fuzzy, hear my husband protesting to be allowed to come with me, "but she can't speak Russian...", and have my clothes removed while standing in a busy corridor and be given my operating gown. 

After a wait of a few minutes, about four blue-gown-clad people came up to me and a pair of heavily made-up eyes fuzzily came into view, speaking Russian and peering at my over their face mask. 

"I only speak a tiny bit of Russian and I really don't understand you," I said in my crap Russian, to which she replied: "Gynacologia? Gynacologia?" and I nodded, thinking, "Bloody hell, they might give me a hysterectemy for all I know." 

I was led into what was obviously an operating theatre set up for some kind of gynacological procedure, arms strapped into the crucifix position, and freezing cold. Fortunately, just before a total panic attack kicked in, it was time for the anaesthetic to be administered. "Just knock me out," I thought, "Or I am going to completely freak out here."

Anyway, I did wake up, felt a bit rough, but seem to have lived relatively intact to prove that the Motto of "It Will Probably Be Alright" which I have adopted since deciding to move here is holding true, and long may that last.