Archive for April 7, 2009

High Blood Pressure and Three Almaty Clinics

Going to three separate clinics in Almaty in one morning can create high blood pressure. My doctor’s mission from our university Medical Center was to find out, in fact, if I have hypertension by sending me off to different parts of the city. Being in gridlock traffic only encourages a type of hysteria so I brought along my textbook to feebly page through to prepare for tonight’s lessons in the back seat while my driver ably drove me to the first place. Once in the right place I gave up a urine sample in a cup and had my blood taken for diagnostic purposes. My first task, even after fasting from breakfast was easy. However, the second task of being jabbed with a needle, well, I’m never eager to submit. Since my plump childhood, some nurses have had quite a time finding my veins and pumping out the requisite red liquid, even when I was not overweight and quite trim. Fortunately, yesterday’s nurse was a professional and she extracted my sacrificed blood into little vials with colorful tops to them. Mission completed with the first clinic.

The second place, the Cardiology Hospital and clinic was not as easy to find. My driver, Renat, knew little English and I know little Russian but we got on very well, especially after the third parking spot which are prized locations for all other people converging on hospitals. Turns out the clinic to get my “echo” of my heart taken was around the back, BEHIND the hospital. Once there, (a geocache GPS would have come in handy when hunting for these prime places) there was a hallway lined with people in all stages of gloom. I looked at the driver and said “Zaftra!” which means “tomorrow.” Although tomorrow meant that it would be my full day of teaching. Monday morning I was free to be poked, prodded, pinched and humiliated in front of nurses and doctors. We agreed Renat would pick me up at the university at 8:00 a.m. to get in the first of line at 8:30 tomorrow, zaftra!

Back to the university Medical Center to report our losses and minor gains. I forgot to mention that little slips of paper in Russian actually come in handy along with my insurance card and university ID card. One little piece of paper which I handed to our university doctor, Bayan, revealed that I had not done my urine sample right. Botheration, I thought I had but why quibble over these details; Dr. Bayan took that in stride. Her bigger concern was why I had not gone to the ophthalmologist?!? I responded that I had produced all pieces of paper to those in charge behind the little glass booths and apparently he or she was out. Really, I had tried to do all that was required of me. Dr. Bayan got back on the phone to call another place that could possibly take me for the eye exam to look at my “eye bottoms” as she called it and the ultrasound to be done on my heart.

Seems she found a doctor friend in another clinic I’ve never been to. Believe me, after a year and a half in Almaty, I’ve been to about eight different locations but this next one was a new one on me. Dr. Bayan helped me flag a “gypsy” taxi since our university cars are difficult to come by on short notice. She instructed the man, who looked a little swarthy, to bring me to Dr. Tatyana on the fourth floor at a certain location. I was told to give him 300 tenge and off we went. He found this clinic no problem, brought me up to the correct office and I tipped him for his extra duty. He actually had been very helpful. Now I was at the mercy of the doctor’s receptionist and all other nurses and doctors in this building.

With the correct forms, I bravely went downstairs to the third floor to see all matter of humanity closely milling around or sitting in the chairs near the respective doors where their doctors were. Much opening and closing of doors goes on to see if they are next. All patients are forced to do this since nobody seems to be in charge except for an occasional nurse who directs traffic now and then. I had two room numbers to go to on my sheet of paper, to Room 315 for the “echo” and 322 for the ophthalmologist. Obviously, the first room was busy so I loomed by the second place. Once the patient was finished before me, I had three or four people waiting after me. God was on my side to get this task over with. I walked into a kindly old, white haired gentleman’s office. He had the white coat of a doctor and the efficiency and sweet spirit of someone who would make housecalls with his little black bag. He asked me to read the numbers on the wall he projected and I sounded them out in Russian. I was acing this test. When it got to the very smallest numbers, I’m not sure who can read them. He probably has them all memorized having listened to many patients read them every hour.

The best part of my day was to find out from him in his fluent Russian, even though he looked Kazakh to me, was that he had a daughter in Los Angeles. She is 40 years old and when he was writing up his diagnosis of my “eye bottoms” he gave me a separate paper with his phone number for me to call his daughter at home. I was confused, I thought she was in L.A.? Anyway, I did was I was told, because I try to obey all my doctor’s instructions and I called her last night. Leila and I will get together this Saturday, she was in L.A. for three years and would love to go back. More on my visit later when I finally meet the kind doctor’s daughter on Saturday.

Finally, I went to the room that had been busy in 313 instead of 315 and found two smiling ladies patiently waiting for me. Once in, I was told to take off my top and to lie down on the table with nothing to cover me. There was only a flimsy partition between me and the door which opened out to the sea of humanity waiting for their doctors to free up in each room. How awkward to be displayed to all if anyone should want to be checked next. The one lady at the desk took down notes, the other jabbed me with great deliberation with her ultrasound wand. I heard my heart gurgle and pump, however, if my heart didn’t hurt before, it did now! That lasted a LONG five minutes or so and then she said I was done. The kind lady with the wand asked if I had joint aches then if I had back aches, no to both queries. I felt like had passed this test with flying colors as well because she said I was good to go for 100 years!!! I think that is what she said, at least she kept repeating that with a smile so I knew it was her inside joke to cheer me up after being brutalized. Earlier I had told her in my flawless Russian that my blood pressure had gone up to 150 but I didn’t know the other second number. I do okay with numbers, it is just those pesky Russian words I have trouble with. Oh well, back to taking a bus to my university to “show and tell” Dr. Bayan my results.

Today someone will go fetch my diagnostics at the first clinic I went to for the blood sample. I am supposed to take my blood pressure every two hours. I can’t get the hang of that contraption and Dr. Bayan will probably chide me yet again. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t ask one of my students to drive me to the clinic. I had told her that my MBA students are very busy people and they work during the day and take my classes and other classes at night. I think I did a pretty good job of going on my own to three different clinics in Almaty with my very minimal Russian. Also, I really don’t mind taking the bus OR walking. REALLY, I’m a healthy person! I know I just “have to lose a little bit of weight” as Dr. Bayan gently instructs me.

I believe what creates high blood pressure is living on the side of a mountain with pollution that is trapped and has nowhere to go. Also, having our university go through downsizing where there are budget cuts and 25-30 western teachers are being fired. I wonder how they are doing? Plus, having just recovered from a bout with shingles and getting over jetlag and making up my classes and just generally living in a society that is either speaking Russian or Kazakh while I know only English. Talking to my teaching colleagues the balance of the day at the office, I found out that the Kazakhs and Russians are also vexed with the same maladies as I am. We are all suffering to one degree or another and our bodies are trying to tell us something.

Comments (4) »