Bloodshed and kisses in Kostroma

(Tribune June 2007)

There was blood on the street.

The blood was coming from me. I was lying face down on the road, wondering how I got there.

I do not remember much about the fall, except that I yelled “Oh shit!” just before colliding with the pavement. It was not my most dignified moment. Both knees hurt, along with my shoulder and right palm. My glasses were destroyed and the blood was squirting from somewhere above my left eye.

I had been walking in Kostroma, a city on the Volga River, approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Noreen and I had arrived on a bus that brought us into town from our riverboat. On arrival, we went in separate directions, planning to meet back where the busses were parked. Instead of watching where I was walking, I was looking for her when I stepped into a pothole. It was all Noreen’s fault!

Reactions were immediate. Fellow tourists helped me to my feet and identified the source of the bleeding. I quickly applied pressure with a handkerchief. Katya and Ksenia, two of our young Russian guides had seen me fall and sprinted to my side with a first aid kit.  Noreen quickly followed. All three half-carried me to the bus where the two guides took charge. Katya hustled Noreen and I into a cab, jumped into the front seat with the driver, and was on her cell phone with the ship’s doctor as we sped back to the river dock. On arrival, Katya would not allow me to take a step unless she had a firm grip on my arm. I was marched down to the ship’s doctor’s office.

A Russian doctor! What was I about to face? Cold War spy movies started to run through my mind. I had skipped the crew introduction reception earlier on the trip so I was completely in the dark.

The Russian doctor was looking stern when we arrived. She was an intimidating blond lady, almost six feet tall, dressed in a white lab coat. I would guess her to be in her midthirties.  The only decoration in her office was a framed picture of a tiger on her desk.  That was interesting … and intimidating!

The doctor did not speak English. Katya translated her questions and my replies. I was told to sit down and the doctor snapped on a rubber glove. Now, when my own doctor snaps on the glove, I know what is going to happen next. I quickly prayed that this doctor understood which end of my body needed attention.

Medical supplies and treatment were not quite the same as we are used to in Niagara.  My wounds were cleaned with alcohol and disinfected with iodine, taken from a large bottle. There were no butterfly strips but small strips were fabricated on the spot by cutting adhesive from a large roll. The cut above my eye was covered with a large gauze dressing, held in place by more of the same adhesive.

The stern look of the doctor turned into a quick smile as soon as she had completed her assessment of my problems, and her kindness and efficiency quickly put me at ease and erased my earlier fears.

During this entire adventure, our guide, Katya, had been a pillar of strength. Katya was young; she must have stood less than five feet tall and must have weighed less than ninety pounds. She had responded, organized, transported and interpreted without missing a beat.

The sight of my open cut was Katya’s undoing. She fainted! Suddenly I was no longer the centre of attention. Noreen and the doctor assisted her into an adjoining room and using kind words and smelling salts helped her recover. I felt terrible, like a grandfather who, unintentionally, had frightened his granddaughter.

Bad things sometimes have good endings. I cannot see without glasses but fortunately, my sunglasses are prescription. This meant I had to spend the rest of the trip looking like some guy with a big ego, traveling incognito. My shades, combined with facial bruises and a large bandage above one eye made me conspicuous among the 150 passengers on our riverboat.

The passengers were mostly seniors, ranging in age from late fifties to low eighties. My unfortunate face had become a “chick magnet” even though the chicks were no longer of the “Spring” variety. I received more sympathy and “kiss it better” pecks on the side of my face than I could count. I enjoyed every minute of my sudden fame.

There was jealousy among the guys on the trip. They didn’t mind their wives kissing me, but they all envied my daily prescribed visit to the Russian doctor.

I do not recommend you try to duplicate my experience to get the positive benefits.  However, if you ever drop into a pothole in Kostroma, just hope you have a tiny Katya and a stunning blond doctor to put you back together.

… And kisses always help!

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