The Callousness of Russian Intensive Care Units

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I don’t normally hype the translations I’ve been doing on side for Meduza’s English portal. I feel I don’t need to promote everything.

But I wanted to draw readers to this recent translation I did of Katerina Gordeeva’s article “The business of breathing How Vladimir Putin tried and failed to help Russia’s sickest children” on terminally ill children and how their parents can’t visit them in ICU and Russian charities’ struggle to provide families with respirators so they can have their kids at home. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have a 5 year-old daughter the thought of being in a situation like this truly frightens me. I really feel for these children and their parents. I just can’t imagine what it’s like for them. I just can’t.

It was really emotionally hard for me to translate this article. But it’s something I’m honored Meduza asked me to do. More non-Russian readers interested in the country need to be aware of these issues, issues many, many Russians with family members in ICU must deal with. I wasn’t until I started reading this incredible journalism.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

For the first three hours, Lydia (a pseudonym) sat on a chair staring at a crack between the tiles on the opposite wall. Then she started to gasp. Suddenly all the unshed tears for her sick daughter flowed and it was impossible to hold them back. Lydia’s legs turned to rubber bands, and she could no longer get up. She no longer had the strength to go find a doctor, and look him in the eye and ask him to let her into the intensive care unit for at least a minute.

She thought to herself, “If they let me in, I’ll find a way to stay.”

Technically speaking, there were 100 feet between Lydia and her daughter Nastya (a pseudonym). Lydia sat in the hallway, and Nastya was lying in intensive care. This was at a children’s hospital in a Moscow suburb. It was the weekend, and the doctor on duty said he couldn’t authorize Lydia’s access to her own daughter. And he refused to call the head doctor and bother him on his day off.

Lydia returned home around nighttime. She took her brother’s hunting rifle and wrapped it in rags. She got into a taxi and drove to the hospital. With the rifle at her hip, she advanced in the direction of the intensive care unit.

At this point, everything became a blur: Lydia screams, someone wrings her arms, someone else calls the police, doctors and nurses are running around, and there’s the smell of ammonia. And from somewhere above, the voice of the doctor on duty rings out: “Do what you want! She’s dead! She’s dead! She’s gone!”