Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hospital Horror

To preface this post I want to say that I don't like scare tactics. I try to make people aware, without trying to go for the shock factor. I try to say it how it is or how I see it and if people feel inclined to help it is much appreciated. This post I want to talk about hospitals in Romania and help people know why it is important to get the orphans out of institutions and into better situations. This is linking to my little series of posts on the situation for some people in Romania. My experiences are as follows:

Trivale Forest
Romania is a beautiful place and I was blessed to see most of it.  I spent some time living in Sibiu, a city in Romania that won the European Cultural Capital award in 2007 and it is gorgeous. I love Trivale Forest in Pitesti. Castles and churches are everywhere.  Casa Poporului in Bucharest is a large monumental architectural masterpiece. The most impressive place I got to visit was on a drive along the Transfăgărășan road up in the Carpathian Mountains connecting Transylvania and Wallachia. I described it to my family as the emerald, beating, beautiful heart of a wondrous land. Romania is a magnificent place full of lovely people. I look back to my memories and it seems celestial.

Casa Poporului 

But there is opposition in all things.

Daily was my life heaven on earth. However, there were places where it seemed that if there was a hell on earth I had found it. I found it in the Romanian hospitals. I remember my first visit to one. I had been living in the country for just a few months. The teenage boy of a family we knew got sick and had to spend three days in the hospital. We were asked to visit him and bring along some groceries. This confused me. After we bought some bread and fruit we walked to the hospital. Three nurses, dressed in scrubs and sneers, were seated on the steps outside smoking. We walked inside and it was chaos. The only light in the hallways came from the windows because all the electric lighting was turned off. People were milling around and we couldn't find our way to the boy. After walking around the musty dark maze of hallways we finally found his room.

I now understood the reason for groceries; if we didn't bring food to him he wouldn't get any. The hospital didn't provide food. All they seemed to have provided was a small dingy bed in a small room with seven other beds crammed in, and seven other kids. I wondered, what would happen if there was no one to bring him food, or what if one of those kids had an infectious sickness? It would be so easy to make the other kids ill as well. Conditions were surprising and sad. I learned that the family had to bring food and sometimes they had to visit other hospitals or pharmacies to bring medicine because if the hospital didn't have it they wouldn't do anything to get it. They would wait to do their work until someone else brought what was needed. Even if the pharmacy was just across the street!

We visited, bringing food from the family, for three days, and each day the boy wore the same dirty pajamas,  which I later found out he had to bring himself because the hospital didn't provide clothing either. I felt dark and sad in that place. I didn't see how anyone could get better. The nurses were rude. Doctors were corrupt and condescending. The building was a ruin, and this was one of the better hospitals in the city.

Similar situation of overcrowded hospital room
A few months later we were working with a man who suffered from severe alcoholism  I have never seen it so bad. Romania uses this blue 80% alcohol mixture for medical disinfectant purposes, but it isn't denatured like the USA version. It was basically cheap poison and this man drank up to four liters each day. His habit was so bad his wife and child had to live in another city to be safe. To make things worse he had a heart condition. This man should have been dead.

His life was a conundrum as well. As soon as he sober up he would just as quickly relapse and take a drink. With his first sip his life was a paradox. If he stopped drinking he would have withdrawals that would cause him to convulse so severely that it would overwork his weak heart and kill him. He would have to continue to drink to stave off the withdrawals and survive. The only way to get sober again was to get muscle relaxants in order to assuage the convulsions and keep his heart from working itself to death.

He lived right next door to a hospital. Sadly they wouldn't accept him into their doors. One night he was having problems and he called an ambulance to take him. The paramedics took him to the hospital where he was turned away. He had to walk, in his drunken condition, to anther hospital, where he was turned away once more. He was told to go to the mental institution so they could treat his alcoholism, because a normal hospital didn't do that kind of thing.

The next morning we got a call from him asking for us or one of his friends to bring him food and muscle relaxants (the hospital was running out and needed us to get more for him. Yes, there was a pharmacy right across the street again). We got some friends of his together and went to visit him and see how he was doing.

You know how in scary movies or video games they have hospitals will dark long corridors, flickering florescent lights, and patients in tattered hospital gowns wandering around with blank stares. That is what the mental institution was like. It felt like straight out of a horror movie and I hated it. I felt dark and frightened.

We entered the doors (above which a sign should have hung saying "Abandon all hope ye who enter in") and to our left was the nurses break room  It was full of doctors and nurses smoking and watching a soap opera on a little television. We interrupted their TV show and asked where our friend was. Once they finished killing us with their eyes for being so presumptuous and inconveniencing they told us to go find him ourselves and gave rough directions to where he was and turned back to their show. Thanking them we walked towards the back of the hospital.

A long corridor with locked doors lining it. A man in a contorted position sat in a wheelchair. A patient paced anxiously, scratching his head and talking angrily to himself as he smoked a cigarette  A lady shuffled past us, eyes staring straight ahead, oblivious to the drool running from her mouth down her neck and soaking her gown. It may have been my terrified imagination or reality but I swear I heard groans and moans coming from the locked doors.

We found our friend and asked how he was doing. Candidly the environment was great because he wanted to do anything he could to get out, even sober up for once. He was becoming depressed and just wanted to leave. The other patient in the room, a very old man, noticed my missionary name-tag I had on. He assumed I was a hospital worked and began to plead to be let out. "I don't belong here" he said, "I'm well, let me go, please. I'm better, I hate it here, please won't you let me go?" His begging started out pathetic, then became angry, and turned hysterical. It echoed loudly through the dingy hallways of the hospital. After 20 long minutes of it two orderlies burst through the door. The patient's supplications became screams as the orderlies roughly strapped him to his bed, pulled out a needle and poured a sedative into him. A few seconds later the man lay still and the orderlies left. We all looked at each other and decided we should leave too. We finished talking, set a time to meet the next day and left that awful place.

The next day we brought more food and some books for our friend to read. The other bed in his room was now empty. We asked where he was and our friend shuddered. The old man was dead. A mistake had been made and he was given too much sedative and it had killed him. I still don't know if the man had another outburst later on which required a second sedative or if he died when we were sitting three feet from him. I didn't ask, I didn't want to know. My friend was now even more anxious to leave.

I visited many more hospitals in my time in Romania, thankfully never as a patient. I saw better places, and I saw some just as bad or worse. The fact that these exist at all is tragic. The reason I share a few of my experiences is to illustrate how bad the institutions can be there. Orphanages can be just as bad as the hospitals. I hate to read articles about the conditions these children can be in. It is evident that these children need to be somewhere better. That's why Bridge of Love is there. That's why I'm happy to be helping. I hope I didn't frighten, but I want to show what its like, and that a change needs to be made.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

This is so sad. A hospital should be a place of recovery and hope, not sickness and despair.