Today, in the U.S., we celebrate Mother’s Day! We salute the ultimate caregiver. I am going to take this opportunity to address a vexing and all-to-real dilemma/decision that each person who considers having HSCT will have to face when they decide when and where they will be treated. I will concentrate solely on Piragov Hospital in Moscow, Russia. I’m going to warn you ahead of time. On the whole, I am very black and white in my own decision-making. Problem, solution, done! So, what may come across as blunt is my personal voice of reason. I’m here in Moscow, now, and I’m going to help you decide whether or not you need to have a companion with you during your stay.
Questions We Ask Ourselves & My Answers to Those Questions:
Q. Do I have a family member/friend who is able to sacrifice approximately six weeks of their time/income/own family to accompany you to a foreign country, and, can you afford to feed, house and transport them for that period of time?
A. It’s going to cost you anywhere from $6,000-8,000 to house that companion, and that is at the very reasonably priced Best Western Vega Ru that is 3ish miles from the hospital and convenient to all transportation (metro to Red Square and points beyond), malls, delis, grocery stores, etc.). TIP: The AARP discount is generous and could save you a lot of $$$. AAA may also offer similar discounts. It’s going to cost that companion between $13-18 each way, via taxi, from the hospital to the hotel for 20-25 of those days, if you feel the need to have them there that often (get the calculator out!). Dr. Fedorenko or his staff do arrange for the cab to take your guest back to the hotel (your cost). The airfare almost slipped my mind. Our tickets (Delta) were about $900 each from JFK (R/T) = $1,800. Are your eyes rolling like a slot machine, yet? How much to feed the companion? For some crazy reason, the hotel room service is incredibly cheap, unless you’re ordering breakfast. You can easily get a roast beef sandwich, fries and coleslaw for $6 sent right to your room. You must pay, on the spot, in Rubles…no charging to the room. The ample morning breakfast buffet is $15-18 and offers a plethora of American-style goodies. So, if your guest is afraid to venture out to see this fabulous city (shame on them), they could essentially eat at the hotel the entire time (boring!). Ok, that’s my summary on that. You’ll have to run the totals. I’m on my 4th day of chemo and mathematics is not really high on the priority list for today. Ha ha
Q. Do I NEED to have someone here with me during this treatment? In particular, checking in/looking after me at the hospital?
A. HELL, TO THE NO!! Once you are admitted into the hospital, you are 100% completely looked after, fed, rooms cleaned, linens changed, and if you need physical assistance of any kind at any time, the nurses are one ring and just steps away. Forget the language barrier. I think the hand gestures for “I’m going to toss my cookies” are universal. Let’s not forget, during the length of your stay, every day (including weekends) there will be multiple visits from Dr. Fedorenko who checks in to see how you are doing and to keep you abreast of your test results and the next course of action. He even supplies you with his e-mail and phone in case of emergency (like, taking a double dose of your pills…oops!)
The second portion of my answer is where the “blunt” begins. Do you already know that you are not the type of person who could handle going to a foreign country by yourself, navigating to the hotel/hospital from the airport by yourself, being satisfied with spending hours alone by yourself? If the answer is “Yes”, then you better get to fundraising, cashing out the 401Ks, IRAs, home equity loans and pay to have someone accompany you. You’ll never make it out of the airport without blowing a cerebral gasket. Just sayin’. My point is, if the cost of bringing someone with you is a point of contention, or could possibly lead to you not coming at all, then you really need to do whatever necessary to meet your financial goals to make it happen. But, if you’re like me, and you don’t care who, what, where you have to hurdle to rid yourself of MS, you could definitely take this trip solo, with no fear AT ALL! BOTTOM LINE…DO YOU WANT TO GET RID OF YOUR MS OR NOT??!!!
At this point you might be thinking “Wait a minute, isn’t her mom there with her?” Yes, she is. By the grace of God and a community that is generous beyond words, she was able to come with me. She is 72 years old and continues to work part-time at an art gallery (workaholic!). IF you do have the means to bring someone with you, I can only hope that they will embrace this city and its culture as my mother has. She has marveled at their work ethic, their artistry, their customs, and the grandness that this city offers. She’s already navigated her way to Red Square via the Metro. One of her favorite sites was the elaborately painted porta-potties, that you have to pay to use (go figure). The attendants at the grocery stores know her. I think they’re already calling her “Con” (her name is Connie). ha ha She has already befriended all of the cabbies at the hotel, the concierge, the bellhop and one fabulous attendant, Ana, who speaks English well and is always ready to help. She already had a cabbie try to scare the bejeezes out of her with his crazy driving, and went so far as to make her sit in the front seat so that she’ll really feel it when her head hits the windshield. What does she do? She doesn’t grab the door handle and taps her fingers to the Russian music he’s playing on his radio. PSYCHE! Mr. Russian cabbie!! Suddenly, he slows down (she passed the test), and they’re BFFs. As far as the things that mom has done for me while visiting me in the hospital, that have been great, but, if you’re on your own, you would survive, are the following: tucked my blanket under my toes when they got cold during my stem cell collection; bring me food from the outside; reach for things for me if I was immobilized; take pictures of events. Today, she’s bringing me pizza to celebrate Mother’s Day. This trip is her gift. Next year, she’s getting a potted plant. 🙂
So, on this Mother’s Day, I say kudos to all of our moms and/or companions, whether you need them or not. I hope my take on the situation, at least here in Moscow, can help you to make some tough decisions. But, seriously, can they be tougher than your MS?
🙂 Oh, and a shout out to my beautiful daughter, Carson, today. Next Mother’s Day, I promise a marathon shopping day together!