Thursday, August 28, 2008

NOT in Estonia, Saturday 23 August

eYesterday M was fine at breakfast, but tired. Both of us needed more sleep .. he was suddenly rushing to the bathroom, then shaking violently and in a cold sweat. We layer him with every warm thing we have, stuff him into bed and hold hands. In half an hour or so the shaking has stopped and he is not so pale. I take his temperature, not good at 37.5.

Little by little, we try a few sips of water, a cracker or two, then two disprin. After about an hour I take his temp again, and it’s gone up to 38.2. Ok, we’ll need a doctor. The women in reception give me a flyer for the American Medical Clinic, which is not far away. I call and politely refuse to go away until they give me an appointment almost immediately. They first said 7pm but I am not prepared to wait with M’s temp possibly shooting up even higher, and him maybe not even well enough to get in a cab. I shudder to think what it might take to get an ambulance, even thru the American clinic (whose staff are incredibly helpful).

Meantime I start ringing our Russian travel agents and try to see what might happen if we can’t get on the bus to Tallin, which was booked for an 11am Saturday departure. No good with the phone calls; I can’t get through. There’s no time to pursue this, we go off to the clinic in a taxi [getting a lecture from the driver when we get there - something has got up his nose about the way we asked or what we said or something. ‘There are million taxi driver in here city; only one or two I know where you are meaning’. Ok. Huh?].

We are sent to a consultation room very quickly, and in comes the doctor (whose name I have got spectacularly wrong, calling her Doctorovsky, which is the masculine form. Ooops.. ).. Her diagnosis is that M has a ‘tyoxick infyektion’ and should stay overnight to have a drip for rehydration. She’s taken blood and the initial results show a high white blood cell count - sure sign of bacteria at work.

He has a room to himself (and we think he is perhaps the only customer, it’s very quiet in the corridors). The doc comes back with a bit more news: he is to have a rehydrating drip with potassium and some antibiotic. The first bag runs through very quickly, and he has I think three of them before 10pm. I go back to the hotel to get him some clothes and such, and start to sort out the change of plans.

The hotel people are wonderful; they assure me that they have a room for Saturday night; they are very concerned for me as well as M, and offer to help in any way they can. They fluff around me a bit, giving me coffee and clean towels and we have a talk about how people are just people wherever you go; this is so true.

I get onto the travel agent and she too is very concerned for us and keen to offer help. She can’t guarantee reservations on the bus, and the very clear inference is that we aint going nowhere until Monday - it’s going to be very difficult to leave on Sunday, if that’s how it works out; no offices open on ze weekend of course... Then I try to ring the Tallinn hotel to tell them of the delay, but no dice with the phone number. But, aha!, I have a Tourist Helpline flyer, so I ring them and very quickly Zhjenny sorts out my problem - I need more dialling codes (a country code and then a city code, to add to my area code and local number). I get through after that, no worries.

The travel agent rings me back with a solemn message - we know that M can have his visa extended via a letter from the doctor. But MY visa is also expiring and I must be very careful to make sure I too am certified as having to stay longer. She says a few dire things about “pyenalties at ze border” and I see myself hauled off the bus and left whimpering in the guard house while M sails off to Estonia...

Back to the clinic with M’s supplies, and to see what administrative progress we can make. The nurse (Olga) says we’ll have to talk to the doctor in the morning. I check with their reception staff and they say ‘We do this all the time; don’t worry; can we help you with a hotel room or would you like to stay here?” etc etc. I can’t fault the generosity of everyone I’ve spoken to, if I need any assistance all I have to do is blink and I will be overwhelmed.

And now it’s 10.30 pm and I haven’t really eaten since breakfast; a quick stop at a cafe earlier was only partially helpful because all their savoury food was sold out. Except for some rather oily-looking slices of pizza sitting in an unchilled cabinet. Nyet for me. I charge down to Nevsky (a quick charge down the canal, which is looking very pretty in the night lights). Suddenly, the revolution is upon me, I can hear loud bangs and crowds roaring. What?? I never!.... but then my brain starts working again and I remember that M told me it’s Russian Federation Flag Day, and what I can hear is fireworks. Phew, though.

At Nevsky the cafe I want is closed, so I give up and go to Maccas. There is a time and place for it, I know this from life in Beijing.. sometimes you just have to know exactly what you’re going to get. The queue is long and unmoving, and it’s HOT. After about 15 minutes, a woman in the crowd yells out - seems pretty obvious to me she’s saying ‘Why isn’t anyone serving??’. It’s certainly the slowest and least efficient Macca’s I’ve ever been in... a bloke pushes through the crowd to join his mate and no-one objects - that’s because he’s nearly 7 feet tall and looks EXACTLY like a Mongolian warlord - the arched brows, the slightly Asiatic facial features, not to mention the shoulders about five feet wide! He seems a nice enough bloke for a warlord...

Eventually, eventually, after at least 30 minutes, I get served. I order enough for two people, because I find Maccas doesn’t ‘stick’ very well, and because I’m exhausted and half-dead from worry and responsibility and thinking hard about what to do. And if ever a woman DESERVED a soft serve icecream with hot chocolate fudge sauce....NOM.

Back at the hotel I deliver another report to the reception women; retrieve my tin of gin and tonic, snarf down my fabbo junk fix, and begin packing. Because, at this stage, the doctor is saying if M’s tests look alright in the morning, we can shake a leg or three and leap onto the bus to Estonia. It takes me two hours to wash out some stuff we need and pack all our stuff, going more and more slowly because I’m soooo tired. I’m helped along by having the ‘lympix on, and I see the big Aussie redhead win the men’s pole vault, yay! And I see a bit more of the diving, thank you whichever goddess sent that .. I finally fall into a cool shower at 2am, kick a towel over the puddle which forms under the wardrobe if I run the shower for more than 30 seconds, and fall into bed.

I don’t care any more if there’s a revolution.


I’m at the clinic at 8.45am on Saturday, at the very second the doctor (a different one) arrives brandishing test results for M. There’s a lot of mulling over of possibilities and explanation of what the tests show .. high white blood cell count; very low potassium; liver function all over the place. On the good side (!) M’s temp is down, and he feels ok - there’s been no cough, pain, tummy trouble or headaches. The doctor says we can go if we like, sign off here and resume medical treatment in Tallinn. Which means finding a doctor there on a Sunday. He’s not very keen on this choice; he wants to give M quite a lot more treatment, so we assure him we’re prepared to stay until Monday. We mention the visa issue again; he says ‘It’s not my chob but ze attministrayshn will hyelpp’. Okay...

M is to have another blood test to see what has changed. And while that’s cooking, he will have four more bags of rehydrating fluid, with masses of potassium added (low potassium levels are dangerous for people who have heart problems), antibiotics, and several doses of ‘a soll-yution” to clear toxins from the digestive system. [This is charcoal - he said it was disgusting, chalky grey stuff. As long as it WORKS!]

As I write, at 7pm on Saturday evening, he’s had his buckets of fluids, several light meals, and his temp and bp are steady - temp down but not all the way to normal I don’t think. He’ll be in the clinic until Monday morning, when Plan B will be formed. We hope this might be ‘leap onto the bus to Tallinn’, but the travel agency has given me a weekend contact number which isn’t connected, so I have no idea if they can sort out the tickets. We may have to stay another night, and go on Tuesday... what is it with the karmic forces keeping me away from Tallinn? Is there something I don’t know????

I just hope we get there by Wednesday, cos that’s my birthday, and that’s where I want to be! Even if Arvo (Paert) doesn’t make it to meet me at the bus station, I can cope with the rejection, but sheesh.. I just wanna have a look.

Next post I’ll tell you about Thursday, which started off kinda low, but improved to quite something. I’m at a cafe which proudly advertises “WiFi” but nyet, not working. Ditto the wireless webs at the hotel, I have passwords and stuff but the connection won’t .. well .. connect. I may trot down past the three canals which cross Nevsky, to the dear old smoky Cafe Max, to let youse know what’s happening, but first I must trot over to see my dear M for some husband therapy.

Today brought to you by ‘Enjoy’, because I need to remember to do a bit of this.

[PS For the first time in this city, I saw a cat this morning as I charged off to see M - it was a little short-haired grey with a few white splodges, including one big milky one splashed across its moosh. It didn’t speak, but gazed at me in Russian to hint mutely of depravations, denials, poor service and a general downturn in the standard of living. How come all cats say this, every time,every language, everywhere? Skivers, the lot of them AND it wouldn’t have a pat... ]

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