As evidenced by the picture I posted, I made a visit to the doctor’s office. I was not a patient but an invite. My new roommate Eugen is a general practitioner and offered to let me job shadow him for a few hours after lunch. He dressed me in a laboratory jacket and gave me his stethoscope. It was all fun and games until he began walking me door to door to check on his patients. Stuffed in rooms and placed on rusty metal bed frames with thin wool blankets the majority of patients were over the age of 70 and had an assortment of health problems: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain damage, herniated discs, etc.
One patient I witnessed was a man who was paralyzed on the right side of his face and body from a brutal car accident which not only affected his ability to move but to think. Eugen began checking his reflexes by tapping his leg with a reflex hammer but the man did not flinch. He tapped his upper lip and his left eyebrow began to twitch, but his right one remained inert. He then lifted the patient’s right arm in the air to check for body strength. When he released it it fell like a sack of potatoes. Eugen began giving the patient simple orders but the man did not respond. He could not follow the flashlight or take directions to stick out his tongue. It was terrible. For one long moment I put my head down and gazed at the floor. What made the situation even more eery was that after 5 minutes of aid Eughen moved on to the next patient. It would seem that the severity of the injury would require more attention, however with more than 30 patients to oversee time was of the essence. It is not like Eugen or the patient have any other choice in the matter, which speaks volumes about the resources and conditions Moldovans are forced to accept. I wish I had some comparative statistics to demonstrate the problem or firm reasons as to why this is but I do not. The types of things that Moldovans continually deal with are irrational, criminal, and unjust.
After work Eugen asked me if his work seems tough to me. I just looked at him and said yes. He followed by telling me that he likes his profession but wishes his salary was higher. He earns 3,600 lei per month ($300USD). A doctor making $300USD per month?! Even line cooks at the worst restaurants in the United States make the same amount as Eughen in one week than he does in one month. Think about that. When gas costs 1,500 lei in the winter, food at 1,000 lei per month, electricity at 400 lei, phone at 200 lei, what is left to save, invest, enjoy? Not much. It is not living, it is survival.
Touring the hospital, from a doctor’s perspective, was more educational and eye-opening than entertaining. It was another harsh example of Moldovan livelihood from the point of view of those who are sick and most helpless. Day-to-day I am introduced to different forms of struggle. One day it is starting and operating a business, the next it is living conditions at home, and today it is how people cope with poor health. All of the experiences humble and educate me yet in the same sense they make me walk home most days sick to my stomach. All of these experiences create this heaviness lodged in my chest that is difficult to remove. I get home in the evenings, eat dinner, and just want to lay down and relax. I lose motivation to write, to read or to socialize. I want lose myself in my headphones and drown out the severity of these problems. I realize that this is happening and think what can I do about this? I am already trying as hard and as often as I can with one part of the population. I cannot afford to put new equipment in the hospital, offer trainings, pay for more medicine, recruit specialists from around the world, etc. I realize that this is not just a problem in Moldova but in many underdeveloped nations.
Another dosage of reality taken and yet another bitter pill to swallow.