Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 2

As part of dealing with the stress of this summer, I have decided to write about it.  

Part 1 of the story is here and the story of how I locked myself and my sister in the bathroom is here

View from the top floor of the hospital in Dnipro

I had to start this post with a beautiful picture to remind myself that Ukraine is a lovely country with some really good people.  Many of the people I adore are in Ukraine, from Ukraine, and fight for Ukraine.  But this month in Ukraine, for me, was very difficult and so I found it hard to separate the stressful from the good at times. 

When we made it to the hospital to see Dad for the first time, I was instantly transported to the last month of my mother's life.  My big ol' lumbering Dad did not look the same.  He had hoses and pic lines and monitors all over the place.  He breathed the rattling sound of the very, very ill.  He was lucid-ish when he was awake but slept at the drop of a hat for hours and hours.  He was uncomfortable and ill. 

The hospital ward (ICU for sepsis patients) reminded me of an old building from the 40s.  At our church camp, we have old airforce barracks made of concrete with ad hoc wiring and cracking walls, so in some ways, the building was reassuring and yet not so much because I know what mould and scary things live in them.  Most of the nurses were kind, but spoke no English, and were very busy with the other urgent care patients (most of whom were Ukrainian soldiers from the front line). 

It was days before we knew if Dad was going to survive. We had connected my brother by phone so he could talk to Dad (my brother has health issues himself, so we refused to let him travel because one of our family members in Ukrainian hospital at a time was enough).  When my youngest sister left to go back to London, we wondered if she would get to see Dad again.  

Until then, we settled into helping provide care for Dad.

Ukrainian hospital is very different from Canadian hospital.  While I thought I understood, there was no way I could until I was there.  I thank God for Tanya who helped us learn the system and walked us through so much.  She explained that all supplies had to be provided by the family.  The nurses were there to deal with the wounds and the medication, but family did all the rest. 

Each day, we had lists of items to purchase including: gloves, syringes, bandages, medications, etc.  These items were often written on a scrap piece of paper we would take to the pharmacy (Apteka in Ukraine).  We would trundle off to collect things, going from store to store in order to get everything on the list.  It never ceased to amaze me that I could get multiple bottles of morphine by just handing a scrap piece of paper to a technician.  

Tanya spent each morning with Dad and then left the hospital to run errands around the city and buy things Dad would need.  She worked from 6 a.m. every morning until well after 9 p.m. every night. My sisters and I spent the afternoon with Dad.  One of us running errands while the other two visited with him, fed him yogurt, held his water cup, and held his hand.  The only thing that helped any of us get some sleep was that, while Dad was in ICU, we were not allowed in the building after 8pm. 

After 5 days, Dad was moved to the surgical unit.  He had to have another operation in the days to come, so he would wait on the unit to free up an ICU bed as he had improved enough. 

The ward upstairs was quite nice in a lot of ways.  The common spaces had beautiful marble (or what looked like it to me) tiles on the walls and floors and dark wood accents.  There were more nurses, but there were also many more patients.  In fact, there were 4 patients to a room.  The beds were tucked up end to end so that two were along each wall with a narrow path up the middle.  There was no air conditioner, no fan, and it was 30+ degrees Celcius many days. 

It was also at the top of 5 very long flights of stairs with no elevator for anyone who wasn't old, needing extra help, or in a wheelchair.  

For me, that might have been the worst part.  I often had to count the stairs in units of 10 with a "you can do it" in between.

Me and exercise are not good friends.  Me and stairs?? We aren't even on speaking terms. 

But let me tell you, we spent a lot of time together.

*** to be continued ***


  1. Bronwyn you are a very special lady. When you write you make us feel the journey with you. Not everyone can do that. Sharon

  2. Thank you, Sharon. That means a lot.


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