All right, one thing at a time. Long, long time ago in another galaxy I was a young, silly single mother of a boy of four. It was summer, and I was imprisoned in the country because it was the duty of a good parent to give their children three months of summer holiday in the country. I let him play in the daytime while I tried to work (I was a free-lance translator at the time). I would take him for swims, but not let him make mud pies at the beach because he had a very bad eczema. I read bedtime stories for him. I cooked his meals over a little petrol stove, again very carefully because he was allergic to more or less everything. There was no grocery store in the village, and I had to take him on long walks to another village. There were no pushchairs so I had to be patient or carry him. I had enough to carry from the store. This is just to paint a pale background.
One Saturday morning he had fever, and half of his face was swollen. There were several options of getting to Moscow where the closest children's clinic was, but most were not operating on Saturdays. We had to walk for about forty minutes to the nearest bus stop, take an hour ride by bus, then another bus to the surgery. I didn't have enough money for a taxi. We had to wait for quite a long time, and when it was our turn, they said we were in the wrong place, we had to go to A&E. Another bus, another wait, and then they took him away, saying: “You are lucky you brought him now, two hours more, and it would have been too late... Good bye, we have phone inquiries on Thursdays between two and three, you can ask about his temperature”. “Wait!”, I cried, “He is just four years old, he has never been away from his family! He is allergic to everything! He has eczema and must have treatment every night!”
Well, Russia is a country where everything is prohibited and everything is possible. Within a couple of hours I found a friend of a friend of a friend who knew the nurse who knew the doctor, and at least I had first-hand information, although I still wasn't allowed to see my child, and the fruit I sent him, bought for my very last money, was most probably stolen by the nurses. Since he could not read it was pointless sending letters. Just as pointless sending toys. When I got him back after a week he wasn't much worse for it and told me with awe that the boys in the ward used bad words.
I couldn't help recalling this episode when my youngest son had to be operated for hernia at the age of two, in a Swedish hospital. I had to hold him while they fixed the tubes; I was allowed to follow in the ante-surgery room. They warned me that he would go to sleep much quicker than I expected, and I am glad they did, because he just went limp in my arms. Then they took him in and told me to go and get a cup of coffee. When they brought him out, still asleep, they said: “You must not leave him for a second, because when he wakes up, the first thing he sees must be your face”.