Monday, March 7, 2016

A Trip to the Children's Hospital

Last night, Sophia broke her collarbone.

I'm grateful for the international SOS clinic, the expensive clinic we belong to, and an English-speaking doctor arrived via ambulance within 15 minutes. The longest 15 minutes of my life, since Sophia was in acute pain and unable to move.

After examining her, the doctor administered a shot (pain killer) and then put her on a stretcher. The whole process took a long time, putting her on correctly and securely, and she needed to be secure because the trip to the hospital was rocky...

First, they had to get her in the elevator, which is insanely tiny. They had to stand her up in the stretcher and 3 men rode the elevator down while I walked. The road outside was covered in ice, so moving her form the apartment building to the ambulance was tricky.

They took her to the children's hospital, which is a good 20 - 30 minutes away (off the Karaganda highway, near Metro). Luckily it was after midnight, and very little traffic. The roads in winter are not good, so once again, it was good she was strapped in tight.
Riding in the ambulance, I thought about the first responder's job (in any country) - how important their job is, perhaps one of the most important jobs in the world. They not only need to know first aid and medical knowledge, but they also have to be able to deal with various obstacles (tiny elevators), and they have to be strong (it took 3 men to maneuver Sophia in her stretcher).
We arrived at the hospital, and the SOS doctor talked to the administration there, and they brought her in. A doctor there looked her over, and they put her in a wheelchair (quite painful to move her!)
The SOS doctor pushed her to an x-ray room, but it was closed, so we had to go find another one. There was another mother with a small child waiting by this room.
It was so hard to position her arm so she could have an x-ray taken, and the nurse said (in Russian), "Don't cry," which made me so mad, because of course she should be able to cry, she was in a lot of pain!
After the x-rays were taken, we learned that it was a fractured collar bone, and not a dislocated shoulder like the doctor had thought. Now they knew that we should not at all move her shoulder, lest it get worse.
They asked me if I'd brought a scarf or something I could use as a sling for her arm, and seemed surprised that, no, I hadn't thought of that.
We went to another room to get a cast, and the SOS doctor told me that he had to answer another call. He gave me as much information as he could, answered my questions, and said we could take a taxi home once the cast was on.
I think the SOS clinic only has one doctor on call at night, and one small ambulance. They probably don't get too many emergencies at nighttime, but imagine if they did! I'm glad no one else had an emergency while we did!
A nurse put the cast on Sophia, and Sophia had to put her hands on her hips and keep her shoulders back for this, which was incredibly painful. I've never seen a cast put on before -- basically, it was bandages with some kind of plaster or hardening substance, dipped in water, and then wrapped around both shoulders and under both arms.
Then, we asked a nurse to call us a taxi. "Do you have the number?" she said. No, I don't usually travel with taxi numbers, I usually just hail them on the street. She wasn't going to help us, but luckily another nurse had a number and called us a taxi.
But... that taxi never showed up. I've noticed that official taxis are more unreliable than non-official taxis!
The nurse said we should walk to the street and hail a gypsy cab (just any driver who is willing to take you somewhere for a fee). But it was 4 in the morning and freezing cold outside, with icy sidewalks/roads, and we weren't near a main road!
So I had my friend stay inside with Sophia while I went to get a cab. It was probably just a 3 minute walk in good conditions, but in the dark, on the ice, it took me closer to 10. Not sure how long it would've taken Sophia! I quickly found a cab (first car that saw me stopped), and the driver was willing to first go to the hospital to get Sophia and then take us across town to home.
But... he couldn't find the entrance to the hospital! I'd exited via a pedestrian gate, not a driveway. We found one entrance, but there was a "Do Not Enter" sign, and he refused to enter. So we called my friend, who put a nurse on the phone, but her directions didn't help. We drove around and around for about 10 - 20 minutes, through the neighboring hospital, before I finally convinced the driver to go through the "Do Not Enter" entrance.
We were at Sophia's entrance very quickly then, and she got in the car, and we had an uneventful ride home. I paid him 4000 tenge (double his original fee) for all his work.
She was still in a lot of pain, and could barely move, due to her cast. Just lying down was difficult, and she couldn't even scratch her nose.
It's less than 24 hours later since she broke her collarbone, and she is so much better now. She's been taking ibuprofen, and now she can walk and use her left arm (which is difficult to move because it's in a cast. Her right arm hurts, because it was her right collarbone that she broke).
I'm grateful to the SOS clinic and their prompt, efficient, and English service.
I'm grateful to the children's hospital, they seemed efficient and clean, although a bit vacant and rather difficult to leave.
Now we have 4 weeks with a cast on....


  1. I hope your daughter has been healing well!

    I've been devouring your blog with intense interest as I am trying to decide if I wish to try my hand at teaching in Kazakhstan. I taught English for three years in Korea and loved it. I came back to the States to have my son after things didn't work out with his father, but I have had no luck encountering work. And I do miss teaching. Demanding and rewarding.

    My son is only 18 months you think it would be impossible to teach there with such a young child?

  2. Not impossible, but definitely difficult. One of my co-workers did it - she's single and had her baby through IVF, and she went back to work when the baby was about 6 weeks old. Her daughter is 2 1/2 years old now, and the mom is still working and still single, and her daughter is beautiful, healthy, and happy.

    But ... I don't think I could've done what she did!

    To be successful as a single mom of a very young child here, you would need a few things - a school that accepts & respects you and doesn't force you to work crazy hours; a reliable nanny (which was VERY difficult for my friend to find, she went through many, some leaving with very short notice); and a good health care plan.

    As your child gets older, it will get easier to work abroad, esp if he can go to a local daycare and learn Russian (although many daycares are not good quality, I have heard of foreigners being happy with their child in local daycares or schools). ... Or it might get, harder, depending on where you teach - our first year here, the school was a horrible environment for my daughter, which was why we moved to a different school.