No, Robert is NOT Foaming at the Mouth

No, I didn't take this picture.  It's one I found on-line of a similar creature.  They're so cute, when they're not hanging off the end of your hand by their teeth! No, I didn't take this picture. It's one I found on-line of a similar creature. They're so cute, when they're not hanging off the end of your hand by their teeth!

Robert ? September 2005

On Saturday morning, September 17th, I was bitten by, what was apparently a wild Russian weasel. It was in our apartment parking lot being chased by a little girl. Ann and I saw her chasing the little creature and our hearts really went out to her, as we assumed she was trying to retrieve her lost pet. Well, I went down stairs as Ann maintained her crows nest position in our 10th floor kitchen window, advising me by cell phone of the weasel?s location while the little girl and I corralled the little varmint. It eventually darted my direction. I instinctively (foolishly) reached down and grabbed it, as it instinctively clamped it?s jaw down on my little finger, burying it?s teeth into my skin and just hanging on for dear life. I eventually pried it loose, only to see it scurry away with several cats in hot pursuit. It was at that point that I learned the weasel was NOT the little girl?s pet at all. But, rather she was just hoping to turn it into one. She seemed a bit horrified by the blood running down my hand and offered a very sheepish ?Thank You? in broken English, surrounded by a bunch of Russian words I didn?t recognize.

We were pretty confident from the outset that the weasel wasn?t rabid. It bit me out of self-defense rather than aggression or madness. But, according to our ?Where There Is No Doctor? book, a resultant infection could be fatal if untreated. It was Sunday before our research convinced us to take action. We called the director of our school who handles all the students? medical issues and she said we would go to the clinic on Monday. Apparently, Monday morning she discovered the clinic we usually use for student medical needs doesn?t handle rabies treatments. So early afternoon on Monday I arrived at Krasnodar?s Trauma Clinic #1 to pursue treatment with an interpreter sent from our school.

We proceeded to wait in line for about 45 minutes at the registration window. While weeping older women, known as babushkas, would ?weasel? their way into the window in front of us, to the dismay of my interpreter. Amazingly enough, I wasn?t the least bit frustrated by it myself, as I just considered myself at the mercy of the system and considered that to be part of the system. I think more to the point, I saw myself at the mercy of The Great Physician at that point, and knew that if He were in that line, He would have ushered the babushkas into the line ahead of Him anyway.

The troubling thing about this line was the knowledge that this was just the first step to earn the right to move into the hallway outside where hosts of people lined the benches on both sides of the hallway, awaiting treatment for a variety of wounds and ailments. Even more troubling however, was the treatment I received once they saw my US passport. As I later learned, this city trauma clinic had no way of charging a foreigner for treatment, but a US passport represented an opportunity for these medical professionals to pick up a little extra cash to supplement their very meager salaries.

So suddenly, at the end of our 45 minute wait, the registration clerk leaves her post and the line of people waiting at her window, and holding my passport in her hand like a battle standard, she parted the sea of the waiting wounded in the hallway, and led me and my interpreter into the treatment room at the end of the hall.

There, after a brief interview with the help of my interpreter, the head nurse stated that I would be admitted to the hospital for two days to begin a course of treatment for rabies. While she wrote up my admittance papers, my interpreter informed me that she must leave for another assignment.

The hospital where I began my rabies treatment has the front entrance bricked over and a The hospital where I began my rabies treatment has the front entrance bricked over and a "bankomat" installed there. We used the rear entrance off the alley.

The next hour would find me taken into a side room by one of the medical professionals where an attempt was made to explain the need for me to pay a couple hundred rubles to someone. (Still not sure to whom, when, or how.) I was then taken by the head nurse out the back door across an alleyway to the hospital. As we approached, we had to slow to allow a couple of orderlies to roll a lifeless patient past us on a gurney headed to the morgue. I suppose a common occurrence at hospitals, but not what I wanted to see as I was admitted for my first stay in a Russian hospital.

I was then ushered into a waiting room that I shared for the next half-hour with several patients, more obviously wounded than me. Me, with four almost microscopic puncture wounds in my pinky. Though they were a bit infected by now and swollen, how obvious is a swollen pinky finger? Especially next to a man with a bloody bandage around his head and a bleeding babushka lying on a gurney. I asked one of the nurses if the dog lying under the gurney belonged to the woman, to which she answered, ?No?. I later figured out that I had asked if it was ?she dog?, instead of ?her dog?, so perhaps I was not understood, but I took away from the interchange that the dog was simply the hospital waiting room dog.

I?ve never been a big fan of the WWJD bracelets, but as babushka on the gurney began to beg for a drink, I could not help but ask myself, ?What would Jesus do?? I really didn?t have to ask. I knew. The woman must have been at least 95 years old. The dog lying under her gurney reminded me of my mother-in-law Romayne?s dog, Sadie, who laid by her side during her last days, and I remembered what a sweet treat it was for Romayne to suck on ice cubes during those last days as it seemed her thirst just couldn?t be quenched. I remembered what precious moments Ann and I shared with Romayne that last week of her life, two years ago. Yet, as I sat in this waiting room, watching this dying babushka, I felt so helpless. I knew what Jesus would do, yet my hands seemed tied. I watched as she forced the word ?peet? from her parched lips, a word I had just learned meant, ?drink?. I knew what Jesus would do. But, what could I do? I had no water to give her, at least not the bottled kind. Though I have the Water of Life, my handicapped tongue won?t allow me to pour it out, without the aid of an interpreter.

By now, it was just the two of us there in the room, and the dog of course. I sat and struggled with my helpless feelings, and soon the doctor came in to get me. As I got up, I asked him if we could give the woman some water to which he answered, ?Nyet?. (No.)

The doctor took me into an examining room and began to interview me, in Russian of course. I later learned he was trying to find out if I had already had a rabies inoculation before hand, along with other important questions regarding my last tetanus shot, etc. You can imagine his frustration about trying to treat someone for whom he can attain no adequate history. He eventually sent me home in frustration, and said to return at 6pm with an interpreter.

On my ride home on the trolley-bus, Ann calls me to say she is locked out of the house. She was to meet with her language helper at our flat and one of the four locks was not working. When I arrived home, I found Ann and Larisa doing their Russian lesson on the bench in our courtyard. My key wouldn?t work either. It seemed that the big lock that required our skeleton key had broken. To make matters worse, we had begun dog sitting for friends who had gone to the Ukraine to renew their visas, and the dog, due to have been walked hours earlier was still howling in her kennel, locked in the house. Someone from the BLTC, our pastor training center here, was able to arrange for a locksmith to come out. So, while waiting on the locksmith I am trying without success to line up an interpreter to return with me to the hospital.

By the time we finally got into our apartment, it was almost 6pm and I still had not lined up an interpreter. The director of our school was tied up in class, so once she got out of class, she returned my call and suggested I not return to the hospital that evening but wait until the following morning and she would accompany me. In the meantime, she fielded the calls from the irate doctor, when I didn?t show up at 6pm.

Ann and I, sitting in my semi-private room, right after I finished my lunch.  They brought me a bowl of soup, but explained that most people bring their own spoons.  A few minutes later they returned with one anyway.  I felt so special. Ann and I, sitting in my semi-private room, right after I finished my lunch. They brought me a bowl of soup, but explained that most people bring their own spoons. A few minutes later they returned with one anyway. I felt so special.

The next day, Ann and I and Tanya ventured back to the hospital, where with Tanya?s help we completed the necessary medical history interview and got me admitted to begin the treatment. They simply wanted to keep me in the hospital to observe me during the course of the first 5 shots, in case I had a negative reaction to the treatment. As we entered the wing of the hospital where I would be admitted, I saw that most of the patients were placed in large bull pens with about a dozen beds per room.

For some reason I was ushered to the end of the hall to a semi-private room that I shared with Mikhail. I wondered how he had rated a semi-private room, until I learned more about how he was injured. Mikhail was laid up in traction with multiple compound fractures in his left leg and arm. It seems he was painting his roof when his ladder collapsed and sent him crashing to the ground. Once I learned that the roof of his house was three stories high, I realized how he ended up in this room. Anyone who owns a three story house in Krasnodar can also afford to ?arrange? for special treatment in the medical care system. Our room came complete with it?s own toilet. The fact that it didn?t work, didn?t seem to matter much to Mikhail however, since he was in traction anyway.

Well, as you?ve probably figured out by now, I survived not only the weasel bite, but also an afternoon of ?turning the other cheek? for needle wielding nurse Natasha. I got five shots that day in the hospital and am now one shot away from completing my out-patient regimen of five more. My last shot will be an early Christmas present on December 20th.

I?m not sure why such a bizarre event occurred early in our stay here. It has certainly given me insight into aspects of the Russian culture that I didn?t expect to experience this soon. For that I?m grateful. It?s also opened up relationships to me that I expect I haven?t seen the end of yet. God?s ways are not our ways.

I am deeply grateful for all the prayers offered up on my behalf during this ordeal. I?m grateful for being delivered from contracting any dread diseases from the weasel. I?m grateful for a system, not designed to care for me, accommodating me none-the-less. I?m grateful for knowing that God?s great hand of provision and care is ever present, regardless of the circumstances. Thank you for the vital role you play as intercessors in His great system of health care.