Saturday, March 1, 2008

Escape from Bulovka

I remember all the hubbub around the fall of Communism – the collapse of the Wall, the Iron Curtain dropping, embracing glastnost, yes I remember it. Almost 20 years have passed since then, so imagine my surprise when unfortunately, I realized that the effects of communism are alive and well in the Czech Republic. Last weekend Kyler was admitted to the hospital for bronchitis and his 27 hour stay was definitely in a hold-over hospital from communism. I now know the true meaning of the phrase ‘time-warp’.

All 5 of us arrived at Bulovka Hospital with a feeling of apprehension and a twinge of adventure. When the dented, metal, paint-chipped elevator doors noisily clanged shut, that should have been our first warning that we weren’t in Kansas anymore!! When we arrived on the 4th floor I was hopeful – the walls were brightly painted and kid-friendly drawings adorned the wall; it looked promising. That sense of hope quickly dashed when the unsmiling nurse arrived, unlocked the door to the ward, quickly ushered me and Kyler inside, and kept Kevin, Jad, and Danna from entering. I had about 10 seconds to hug my family adieu before Nurse Ratched relocked the door, making Kyler and I virtual prisoners on the 4th floor, the children’s infectious respiratory diseases ward.

Locked in a dilapidated hospital room! Would they ever escape? Click here to read on!

We were taken to our room which was furnished in the 1950 style of metal and formica - a metal crib for Kyler and a metal bed for me. Not a chance the interior decorating was ‘retro’, no, it was more of the ‘hold-over from communism’ style. Bars lined the windows and the balcony door -- such an evil gesture to put a balcony yet keep it barred and locked from use!

There were 4 lights in the room, yet only the small lamp over my bed worked. I should have been thankful that there was a bathroom nearby, but it had neither electricity or toilet paper. There was no call button to call the nurses’ station, no phone, and no curtains. Ok, so no big deal; hospitals aren’t meant to be an inviting, comfy, relaxing environment. It was when the nurse came to do Kyler’s lab work that my suspicions were confirmed- yes, I was in a time-warp, welcome to 1950 Communism!

The one nurse who spoke English was assigned to Kyler – super! However, I spoke about as much Czech as she spoke English, which means about 10 words. When she scooped up Kyler in her arms, I initially thought, “How sweet! She is caring and wants to interact with him!” But then as she proceeded to walk out of the room with my baby, I realized something was amiss. To make matters worse, I wasn’t allowed to accompany them ---help!!! The communist way is to take the patient to the nurses’ station and do the lab work and give the meds without involving the parent. It was pure torture to hear Kyler crying down the hall yet not being able to hold him and comfort him. Fifteen minutes later he was brought back to the room with a splint on his arm and a tube poking out of it. Being an ‘Alias’ fan (first 2 seasons only), I had images of Kyler being injected with brain-washing serum. My poor baby!!!

Since I was locked on the ward, my only life line was my cell phone- thank you God for modern technology!! But, it was very low on battery and I had forgotten to bring my charger. Hmmm, I also needed a flashlight so I could use the bathroom. How blessed I am to have such a WONDERFUL husband! After he got Jad and Danna fed and in their pj’s, they drove over to deliver these required items. But now came the tricky part – Kevin and the kids couldn’t come up to the 4th floor since they were ready for bed yet I was being held prisoner behind locked doors. What to do?!?! Using my limited drama talent, I acted out my request: please let me out of this 4th floor jail so I can do down to the parking lot to get something from my husband who is in the car with my 2 older children who are sick and on antibiotics. Miraculously I was understood, or they just had pity on me – highly doubtful since pity isn’t a common trait in communism.

I cannot accurately describe the next 10 minutes – leaving Kyler behind locked doors on the 4th floor with Nurse Ratched while I desperately searched the darkened 1st floor for an unlocked door to the outside. Kevin was standing outside on one side of the locked glass door, with me on the inside, unable to reach him. So close yet so far!!! By the grace of God and 5 minutes later, we were reunited and I don’t know when a hug from Kevin felt so wonderful! I would have hopped in the car and run away except Kyler was still upstairs. Armed with my cell phone charger and a flashlight, I was ready to tackle the night shift in this commi jail/hospital!

The night passed like most nights in hospitals do – very little sleep and frequent interruptions from the hospital staff. By morning, the doctor was pleased with the progress Kyler had made, but said, “Maybe tomorrow he will discharged.” Ugh—another day and night in this place!! My aforementioned wonderful hubby had graciously offered to switch places with me. I took him up on that offer in a heartbeat! Kevin showed up at 2pm with real food for me (4 pieces of bread, a pat of butter and jam don’t count as a meal in my book!), and a duffle bag full of necessities to get him through an afternoon and night at Bulovka Hospital. Again, I used my acting ability to let the nurses know that Kevin was switching places with me. They replied, “Good, be back at 8pm.” HUH?! Dads can switch with the moms, but only until 8pm, and then all dads must leave the ward and only moms can stay overnight. For a brief moment I thought I was back in a segregated Muslim country, not an EU-member country. I hardly slept the night before and was emotionally and physically exhausted! At least 1 of our kids had been sick the last 10 days and a proper night’s sleep had eluded me for almost 1 ½ weeks. I knew that physically I could not go another night without rest. Again, what to do?!?

Again, thank God for modern technology! I whipped out my cell phone and called Kyler’s pediatrician – the one who had said he needed to be admitted. Within minutes she had spoken to the nurse and the on-duty doctor and worked out an agreement. Kyler could be released but he had to return at 8pm that night for medicine and then tomorrow morning at 9 for a final check-up. Hallelujah!! We were going home!! I’ve never packed so fast in all my life! I literally ran out of the children’s infectious respiratory diseases ward with my baby.

We are now all home and all 3 kids are healthy. I hope to keep it that way for the remaining 2 ½ years that we are here in Prague. Since I know that the hospitals are communist time-warps, I have no desire to travel back in time again!

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