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Karpenko Alexander
My Hospital Journal

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  • Аннотация:
    English variant of My Hospital Journal differs a little bit from the Russian original,because it was made together with my American friends long ago. Since that time I have made in my Russian text a lot of corrections. Alexander Karpenko.

   My Hospital Journal by Sasha KARPENKO
   May 1. We watched TV, all of the members of my hospital chamber. Annual May demonstrations were happening in different countries around the world. Suddenly a demonstration in Kabul was shown/ Something responded in my heart: familiar, usual faces.
   What have I done really great? Nothing. No houses built. No trees planted. Only translations from one language to another. Not much. But this is only from the first view. An interpreter is a bridge between two nations. We expected it should have been a friendship bridge. How silly we were!
   May 2. I marked the holiday by getting out of the chamber for a short walk in the fresh air. Keep moving for inches. Rest upon the crutches, but move by my own legs. Broken.
   May 10. A delicate question - what`s further? Who needs me in such a poor condition? Perhaps, only mother. I an always a child for my mother, even as an adult. Mother left me for her work. Her bosses said she was irreplaceable. They must know better. As for me I am nearly fine now. A fracture between two bones on my right leg has grown together, although a new bone is still very fragile. So I have to stick around for about a month more.
   My doctor, Igor Alexandrovich, says I am keeping both oars in the water. If he knew how uneasy it would be for me! I should not have wished it even for those rebels who destroyed my health. But in this case I would have to continue my treatment in the best possible way.
   May 12. I wonder if people think of us passing by hospital windows? Probably, they do, because most of them at least once were in the same position - felt helplessness, separation from the feal world. But who says it is bad, our "small" world? Nobody here feels indifference to people`s fates. The best remedy for pain is to laugh. For example, Anrew jokes, shaking air by his gypsum hand: "Why are you so despondent, guys? Let`s fence a little bit. Gypsum seems perfect for it." Andrew is a joker. Having just entered our chamber for the first time, he shouted: "Hey guys, may I go sailing together with you?"
   May 13. I received a letter from the Afghan capital of Kabul. Combat friends write that it is hot there like in summer and they are getting sunburned. Beach boys! Health resorters! But why can I not "relax" with them in the same way? I wish a beautiful sunburn upon myself! Must I stay here up to the end of the century? Never mind!
   I will be treated for between two and four weeks and then return to the guys. But it is necessary to redouble my healing efforts.
   May 20. Andrew has a favourite word - big brother. So we gave him a nickname: Andrew the Big Brother. "What I`m saying, big brother, - he addresses me, - Let`s play chess. I`d like very to give you a checkmate. For me Karpenko sounds similar to Karpov!" And finally the battle for the chamber`s championship begins. The guys can not remain aside. Someone is coming up in the wheelchair, another under his own power. They yell, judging every move, promoting their advice... Even those who have never before played!
   Some times I am unable to read because of sharp pain. Instead I play chess. Tonight I could not even think owing to the terrible ache in my leg. Yesterday my doctor removed the spokes in my leg. He needs to lengthen the bone in my left leg which came out of the battle several inches shorter than the right one.
   May 21. I have to stay in bed again. Yesterday blood leaked near the spoke, and Igor Alexandrovich gave me a strict command: "Please lie down quietly! Don`t get out. If you disturb your wound you will have lots of trouble. Be patient and everything will be OK."
   Every day begins from the doctor`s examination/ Each doctor has his own manner of talking with his patients. For example, Igor Alexandrovich would ask in detail about your health, than check to see if your bandage was wet, then tell you what he was planning to do further, and, finally, he would examine your general mood before the operation. It is remarkable if a surgeon also has a kind heart.
   May 22. My mother returned. She was home for more than two weeks, missing me. Or, maybe, she felt through a thousand of miles that I was worse.
   When mother enters my room she is always smiling. I tried to imagine her face when she is alone. Had she ever expected before that she would see her son so badly wounded that she would recognize him only by voice?
   How much she has suffered during these long months! She had a heart attack and did not even notice it, so much her thoughts were with me and my condition. Later my uncle told me about it. Now my mother is together with me again. She treats me as a little child, wipes my back with alcohol. Recently I was greately surprised by her words: Son, if I were told that jumping from the fifth floor would save your life, I would have jumped unhesitatingly".
   May 24. Bandage dressing is a painful procedure, but I admire dressings so much! The next dressing always seems to be one more stepto a complete recovery. Your soul is inspired, as if somebody gave you new forces. And as for those who can not move it may be another possibility to leave their hot chambers, to ride in wheelchairs through the corridors.
   As for me, all we need is a belief in better results I have many people to rely on - doctors, relatives, friends, and finally, myself.
   May 25. Today my wounds and I slowly walked to the window. It is a great blessing - just to move! Too many people take walking for granted. Poor fellows! A joy of this kind can appear only after being motionless. I can hardly wish this upon even an enemy. Sometimes you must suffer before you can feel the smallest joy. No pain, no gain!
   May 29. A part of me remained in Afghanistan. Igor Alexandrovich specified according to his x-rays that a piece of my small shin-bone remained there after we were hit by that damned mine. He says that it is a trifle indeed, and that like an appendix, it is useless. I understand that he is trying to calm me. Indeed, I have left in Afghanistan considerably more - part of my blood, part of my heart. It is not a foreign country for me now. It seems to me that if all of thishad never happened to me, I should have been an ordinary naughty boy, good-for-nothing, who never asks himself: "Who am I?" or "Why do I live?" Such an unexpected turn for me.
   May 30. Every day after the quiet hour we wait for parents, wives, and girl-friends. All of them bring home-made dishes. They bring also their joys and troubles, news from home or work. They worry about you, support you, and feel sorry for you. They talk about the future. But do they have enough tact either not to rush their forecasts, or to not show off their anxiety? Every day Volodya`s comes to the seventh chamber to see him. Tvery day we hear her lamentations: "What should I do with an invalid?" Volodya feels seek besides this - his wound is not healing well. It festers, and here in addition his wife makes him nervous instead of helping him. Sergei has another problem. Knowing about his poor condition, his wife decided to leave him. She found a new boy-friend, but then changed her mind, and now repents of her act. She implores him to forgive her, but Sergei will not even see her. When she comes, he drives out in his wheelchair to the smoking room. Nevertheless she waits for him.
   "Listen, big brother, forgive her. This will be better for both of you." - Andrew advised. "I can`t." - Sergei is wildly repeating again and again.
   June 1. How many people give their hearts to me! It would be terrible of me not to support their efforts. I am a rich man. I realized I have much time which was not of particular value for me before. During my treatment I began to read quite a bit. Of course, instead of reading you can play, for instance, domino with the same passion. But then you will see different results. Recently I started reading a book by Voinich, "The Gadfly" and was so escited that I even refused anesthetization in order to prolong my waking pleasure.
   June 5. Today was the first time I thought seriously about the nurses. You can often hear of a doctor`s success. All honor goes to him while nurses remain in a shade. Quiet, ordinary, irreplaceable.
   For example, Leeda. Born in a distant Siberian village. She delivers medicine to her patients, makes injections easily and skilfully, doing simple, one would think secondary, things. She has enough sensitivity, tenderness, and kindness for all patients. Her appearance is a great pleasure. She is like a newcomer from another world, presentle unaccessible to us. She spends sleepless hours near hard patients. Nobody knows how much she works after we have been operated upon. Probably, she does not remember either. Among the nurses this is a common kind of charity.
   June 7. Tomorrow I will have my next operation. I even forgot to count which one is to be held. Perhaps the twentieth or twenty-fifth? I don`t know. Strangely enough I am completely unworried about it.
   June 9. Yesterday`s operation happened to be, probably, one of the most unpleasant in my long patient`s career. One would think - nothing terrible, just a local anesthesia. After you are given this kind of anesthesia you can talk freely with your doctorsfrom the operation table. You can even give them some advice - perhaps where and how to cut!
   Another kind of anesthesia is a general one. You swim as if in a thick fog, tossing and turning in a violent sea of unconsciousness. You wake up with a burning thirst, but you know you must not drink. Then you sleep again with a dry throat and wake up with a wooden head. The anesthesia does not want to leave your body. Nay! It desires residence!
   I heard everything that Igor Alexandrovich and his assistant were doing. How they made some incisions, how they implanted an artificial cartilage, and how they finally sowed everything together. The knife`s sound made a creaking response in my head. My teeth clenched. I was thinking only of how to keep myself from crying, not to frighten my doctors. Their knife might have slipped from my body! When the operation was finally over, I was sweating all over and greately exhausted. I hardly found enough of my voice to thank the doctors.
   "The same to you," Igor Alexandrovich said. "It`s nice to work with a patient who lies quietly and doesn`t complain."
   June 10. Friends came, inquiring about my health, wishing me recover as soon as possible. Then I received a surprise visitor. I was attended by Arcady who was a patient in a neighboring medical derartment. He knew me from words of my friend Tolik. We talked to our hearts content and then parted. Arcady hurried to have his dressing changed.
   June 13. People are so different from each other. Each suffers misfortune differently but are unanimous in a single point. They do not accept pity for themselves. For example, I feel uncomfortable when someone is asking me straightforwardly, pointing at my face: "What happened to you? Were you in a fire?" I know how to answer, but I am tired of giving special explanations all the time. People seem to sympathize with me, but I find it difficult to respond to such a sympathy. In a week I will go to the Crimea resort to prolong my treatment. Never before have I had the possibility to breath the ocean air.
   June 15. Today we said good-bye to Andrew the Big Brother, also leaving for the Crimea. Our rallied lines are growing thin, but I am not bitter. I remember so many faces, gone forever. When you are living a hospital it is usually a sign of improvement. Of cource there are some exceptions when medicine is powerless. A young boy, Vitaly was with us in our chamber. How greately he suffered his disability! He found no place for himself. Suddenly he shouted, "I don`t want to go home! I have nothing to do there anymore. I don`t want to be a burden." Vitaly was, perhaps, one of the most handsome young men in the country, and the girls were crazy about him. He was a tractor operator and a good farmer. Now he failed in our eyes to be a real man. He was ashamed of his artificial limbs.
   "Where would you go then?" we asked him.
   "Be sure that I`ll find a proper place to stay."
   As we knew him we were much convinced that he would do this. We had to tell the doctors of his intentions. In their turn the doctors told his parents. Vitaly did not even tell then\m what has happened to him. When his parents came to take him home Vitaly was terribly angry at us.
   "You are a funny man," Andrew said. "We should have much joy at your future wedding. Take care of yourself, big brother. It`s hard to struggle misfortune alone."
   June 17. Three days remain before I am to leave the hospital. Well, now I am counting days instead of months. I do not, however, want to leave at this moment, nowthat I have found Marina. I feel awfully sorry that she will remain here after my departure. Sometimes it seems to me that we were acquainted long, long ago, but only now came to each other. I have never felt this way before. I was astonished by her words: "Sasha, I don`t know how it is possible not to love you." Absorbed with thoughts of my present condition, I could not believe that these words were said about me. Soon I will leave, and Marina will have a iifficult operation in a week. I must be near. I asked my doctors to postpone my planned visit to the Crimea for another week, but they did not pay any attention to my request. Mother calms me in all possible ways: "Son, Partings sometimes can be useful. You can see at a distance if it is a real feeling. At the present you both have much to face alone. Please write to each other and time will tell."
   June 20. All of my bags are packed. I said good-bye to my friends, doctors, and nurses. I presented a notebook of my poems to Marina. She assures me that I have a talent. I joked that "A lover always has talent!"
   Frankly speaking I am more than a little bit anxious about my future. My life will be very different now. It is impossible for me to return to my previous work as a military translator. I am, however, confident of my personal resources. I have many friends I can rely upon in hard times. Now, for me, it is a time for work. I must return to the goals of my life without discount or indulgence. Can I? I must! If not, then, what is the reward for my pain? I welcome the road ahead. Good-bye, my hospital!

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