With the coffee cup midway to a sip, the first text slammed into our afternoon. ‘Where are you? Lydia has hurt her ankle. Come quickly.’ And a little later, another text, ‘It may be broken.’
Our hospital journey had begun.
Three hours later, I found myself weaving our car through the dark annals of the Szent Janos medical complex. Lydia was in the back seat valiantly holding an aching, most certainly broken, ankle. Petra was by my side, confidently navigating in her Dutch tones. At night in the dark, the complex of 29 buildings seemed garishly reminiscent of a medieval England. By simply removing the the comforts of an engine and adding the rhythms of hooves, one could easily have been making this dramatic sojourn in another time.
With a cold November breeze biting and the bare branches of the surrounding forest creaking, we came to a stop at a dimly hopeful entrance with ‘children’s trauma unit’ nailed to the front. Petra went in with no Hungarian skills to find a wheel chair, a nurse, a breathing soul who could help.
Depending upon one’s perspective, hospitals in Eastern Europe can come as a surprise. From an American environment where all is sanitized with the comforting hum of calm professionalism, the uncensored reality of a Hungarian trauma hospital is unexpected. I have been both unwilling patient and helpful resource delivering medicines and food in multiple Bulgarian hospitals. Szent Janos seemed a competent replica of the emerging post-Cold War, socialist era. After meeting Dr. Attila, a 72 year old children’s trauma specialist, I had every reassurance that God was in control.
We were ushered into a six-bed room with three other patients. With no curtains for privacy, we moved through the pre-surgery preparation. A nurse brought me a pail of soapy water and asked me to wash Lydia for surgery. A pill was given to take the edge off. And then they came with a very old gurney, laid her gently on its cold surface and literally tied her to it, immobilizing her arms like a papoose on wheels. I was forbidden to follow her into the operating room where they put a catheter in her arm to begin the anesthesia.
Hospitals are almost always a terrifying place though they are meant for healing. Lydia flew through the surgery with Dr. Attila conquering by her side. After one night in the hospital, she came home and is rapidly on the road to recovery.
In the process, all of the promised posts leading up to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall were forgotten. We know that you understand. Please stay with us as we run new posts on relationship and culture in the coming week.
After the return home, Lydia began remembering bits and pieces of her sojourn in the operating room.
“I asked Dr. Attila to hold my hand because I was scared of the needle” she said. “And he did. Then he said that he had to go wash his hands again, so that he could operate on my ankle. He was nice.”
In all of our years in this part of the world, I have always had mixed feelings about the hospitals but Dr. Attila is a consistent example of the kind-hearted souls that populate the medical fields of Eastern Europe.