Elvis has left the building…

Baku, Sunday 20th August 2006

As this week has mostly been full of work, work and more work I have not been outside the office enough to observe or do much that merits writing about tonight.  I will start then by borrowing someone else’s story for the week as I feel there certain elements that might raise a wry smile for readers in England and possibly elsewhere.

When I wrote last I mentioned that Ayla had sustained a “back injury” which in turn had obliged us to postpone a drive out to Mardakan beach.  It transpires that last weekend was just the tip of the iceberg and a long, joyful experience with Baku medical profession was about to commence.  By that stage she had recently been rushed to hospital in agony at three a.m. on the Friday night and diagnosed with a trapped nerve in her spine.  Treatment was a torso-sized elastic bandage, a large injection or two of unidentified medications and a collection of painkiller tablets to take home.  So far so good…?

Last Monday there was an other agony-filled rush to the hospital, the result of which was the passing of a rather large kidney stone.  Diagnosis was suitably amended and one of the numerous tests undergone during the episode was an ultra-sound which showed that there was an other, smaller stone in Ayla’s other kidney that would move its way out eventually.  A whole new set of injections and tablets were prescribed to both deal with the aftermath of the first stone and help deal with the second.  The doctor also ordered extensive dietary limitations: no alcohol (not surprising), no salt, no tomatoes, no fried food, no carrots (?) and no meat, fish or poultry apart from boiled chicken or boiled beef (?!).  The salt and tomatoes were off the menu for ever, the rest for three months.

Apparently the second stone wasn’t expected to do much for several weeks or months; so it decided to come out on Thursday.  More tests were ordered, the course of injections was extended, the tablet count went up a few notches and Ayla was told to go back to the hospital for yet more tests on Saturday.  This she obediently did, the upshot being that the diagnosis has been amended once again: it’s not the effects of the kidney stones that have been making her feel rotten all week but the fact that she has a massive kidney infection.  Cue yet more tablets, yet more injections and – the silver lining to the cloud – a near-total lifting of the dietary restrictions that were imposed previously.

The inability of these doctors to provide a decent diagnosis first-off is apparently nothing to be surprised about; in the last couple of years Ayla has been told she’s got cancer and tuberculosis amongst other things and all has been proven false.  The annoying part is that these doctors are part of a private health cover provided by the company Ayla works for.  Leaving aside the fact that this supposedly makes them some of the best available but they’re awful, it makes Ayla ‘an insurance job’ which means she’s being used to milk her company for every dollar that can be invoiced rather than being actively cared for.  Ayla has a sheaf of papers testifying to the numerous tests she has been put through this week (including one for AIDS: completely unnecessary but worth a few bucks mark-up on the invoice).  She has been invited to be hospitalised for three weeks: not because she particularly needs to be but because three weeks in a hospital bed would be an other big number on the invoice.  The bucket-load of tablets that has been prescribed includes medications that can be bought in identical doses in a different box for a third of the price but the doctor has simply chosen to prescribe the most expensive brand available.  That last point is especially annoying because the cover doesn’t include prescriptions so Ayla is footing that particular over-charge herself.  Healthcare may well be a constant source of debate and criticism back in England and in many ways justifiably so but stories like this can alter the perspective slightly.

On a brighter note, it has been a pretty good weekend.  Friday saw the final Engineering Team meeting and dinner under the current manager’s leadership before he leaves for his next assignment.  We all went out for dinner and bowling at an alley where they have a natty trick of turning off the lights over the alleys and switching to ultra-violet.  It’s then that you discover that not only the paintings on the walls but the house bowling balls are all fluorescent and the whole effect looks very striking.  There’s a definite novelty value to throwing a marbled black and grey bowling ball down the alley and having change to luminous green half way between you and the pins…!

Saturday was John the guitarist’s last day in town and a couple of us joined him for dinner in the evening.  After a bit of sushi and chicken tepanyaki I became the official recipient of ‘the guitar’ with Jimmy taking a ‘phone camera shot of John and me posing for the handshake as he passed it over.  ‘The guitar’ is an old acoustic that was given to John by an other guy on the project just before he left the country; John has now passed it on to me and no doubt I in turn will pass it on to someone else when I leave.  I very nearly denied myself the opportunity to do so: Jimmy and I carried on to the Chillout bar after dinner and after a few Long Island Iced Teas we eventually walked out of the place leaving the guitar behind by mistake.  Thankfully I went back there this evening to find that the guitar had been put to one side and I have now brought it safely to the apartment.  Perhaps I will finally learn how to play a few chords now…


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