Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Oh No, Not Again!

Getting a plaster cast on my left ankle.

Ishall start off this post with a big THANK YOU to Pat and Rafael. Without them, by my side today, I would not have survived today as well I felt I did.

Today I had a flashback to when I dislocated my left elbow on my 2007 trip to Aswan Egypt. It was exactly on the 3rd morning of my time in Aswan that I fell and injured myself. I ended up with my left arm in a plaster cast which I wore for the duration of my trip through Egypt and Jordan.

Things did not start out well for me today.  I woke up this morning feeling completely exhausted. Actually, I didn't have to wake up as I barely slept last night. My left ankle was in tremendous amount of pain. Even after elevating it on a pillow for quite some time, the pain never subsided, it actually got worse. I lay there contemplating all the things I might have to do to make it feel better - get ice on it, get and Ace bandage, etc.  I even tried to relieve the pain by very tightly wrapping up my ankle with my scarf and then putting a sock on.  That didn't work either.

At one point I went to the bathroom and it was excruciatingly painful for me to walk the short distance from my bed to the bathroom. I knew something was not right. I swear the pain was even worse than when I initially sprained it.  By the time Pat woke up, I had already decided that the pain was too great for just ice and an Ace bandage, I really needed to get it checked out.

Ankle in scarf and sock.  Not relieving the pain at all!

Pat headed up for breakfast at 8a and returned shortly thereafter with a plate of food for me. I was hungry but in much too much pain to eat. Pat and I talked it over and we decided I should call Yalchin and see if he could arrange for Rafael to take me to a nearby clinic. In the meantime, Pat went downstairs to meet up with Rafael as he was due to arrive at 9a. For some reason, I wasn't able to call Yalchin on his cell but text message worked. He soon called me back on our hotel phone. We chatted and at the same time, he was talking to someone else on another phone. I figured that was Rafael. A few minutes of discussion on the other line and Yalchin returned to me saying the Rafael would take me a clinic where they spoke English. He also told me that Rafael was stuck in traffic and would be about 20 minutes late arriving. Unfortunately, there was no way I could tell Pat so I hoped she simply returned to the room which she did a few minutes later.

The x-ray table at Medi-Club.

When Rafael arrived, we had him come up to our room and help me get downstairs. Oh....that foot was soooo painful to walk on! Pat had brought along a travel walking stick and had put it together for me to use. I really needed it to hold me up....my ankle was that weak. Slowly and carefully, I managed to hobble down several flights of stairs and walk the short distance to where Rafael had parked the care. I slid myself into the back seat. My ankle was throbbing badly; I was dying to get to the doctor.

Rafael drove out of the old city walls and just a short distance in the new city before stopping outside a place called MediClub. This was the clinic. Inside,there was a small area and a reception desk. We waited our turn to tell the receptionist that I wanted to have and X-ray and examination. The X-ray would only cost 24 manat! She handed Pat a piece of paper and instructed us to go to Room 11. With Rafael in tow, we headed to the room. The door was closed but Rafael knocked and a female technician opened the door and after a few words with Rafael, waved me in. Inside was an X-ray table which she moved into a horizontal position and had me sit on it.

She then positioned my left ankle in the center of a set of grid lines and with a few Azeri words and sign language, indicated I needed to stay still. She then went to another room from which she could see me through a glass partition and took an X-ray. With more sign language, she indicated how she wanted me to position my foot. She then emerged from the room, had me turn my ankle on its side and went back to her control room and took another shot. She then motioned for me to wait outside where Pat and Rafael were still waiting for me.

A few minutes later, the technician emerged with my X-ray.


She told Rafael who in turn told me that there was a problem and I needed to see the doctor. We went back out to the reception desk where Pat and Rafael waited once again to speak with the receptionist. When they were done, we all followed Rafael to an examination room located just a few doors down from the X-ray room. We had to wait a few minutes but soon enough we were inside.

There, we met a man who was the doctor and two women whom I presumed were the nurses. I handed him the X-rays that the technician had taken. He looked at them and immediately said that there was no break. Rafael conveyed to him what the nurse had said and the doctor then left the room to consult with the technician and to see the other digital images that she had taken of my foot. When he came back, he indicated I did not have a big problem which I interpreted to be a break but that I did have a small problem which meant a fracture. Because he spoke little English and I think Rafael was uncertain that he could properly explain what the injury was and what the course of action would be, he called Yalchin.

After speaking with the doctor, Yalchin told me that I had a slight fracture and that the doctor needed to put gyps around me. I took gyps to mean gypsum i.e., a cast. By now, it was like a party atmosphere in the room. Aside from the doctor and the one nurse, two more women soon entered....with one repeating the diagnosis and next steps to me. Another man who looked to be a doctor was also in the room. Of course, Pat and Rafael were there as well.

People were talking to each other, talking on cell phones.....there was even a bit of chuckling. It was probably the most relaxed examination room atmosphere I have ever experienced! It actually calmed me down. I was already sitting on the examination table. The doctor had me lie down on my belly and he bent my left leg at the knee.


He and the nurse began applying the bandages to create the cast.  The bandage contained the plaster and when the water was applied to it,  I could feel it getting warm as the plaster set into shape around my ankle.

I took a few selfies to capture the moment.  I rarely take selfies but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to capture myself and the experience I was having.



Pat took a shot of the nurse holding up a cellphone to the doctor's ear so he could have a phone conversation all the while working on bandaging my foot. She posted it up on Facebook (yes, she's on Facebook!)  What a funny post!


When he was done, I had to keep my foot bent so the plaster could dry. The doctor told me that I would need to have the cast on for another 3 weeks which takes me to April 26. Four days later, I will be leaving Armenia for the US so I think I'm just going to keep it on for the duration of the trip.

I was cleared to leave after the doctor had left the room so I didn't have a chance to really thank him but he really did take good care of me.....and he did it quickly too.

A man appeared with a wheelchair to wheel me back out to the reception area where Pat took care of paying the bill for me.....147 AZN (about $100 USD) which I paid with my Visa debit card. Along with the bill, I had been handed a diagnosis statement which I put inside the envelope with the X-ray. The doctor in the US will need to see it.


Once I had paid the bill, the man wheeled me outside where we waited for Rafael to arrive with the car.


My foot was still in pain but I was able to get up from the chair, gently hobble over to the car and get myself inside. I felt such relief to finally be out of the clinic.  In the car, I put on the sock.  I figured that it would help to keep the white bandage as clean as possible.  I rested my foot on the back seat and leaned back to rest.


Rafael was ready to begin our day of sightseeing. I would go along and see what I could see. Rafael drove us out of town, heading back towards the airport. Both Pat and I recognized a few of the landmarks along the way. Our first destination was the Ateshgah Fire Temple where incredibly, Rafael asked if there was a wheelchair he could use to take me around. Incredibly there was!

Looking at the courtyard and the altar that stands in the middle of it.

We turned down the offer of a local guide and headed inside the temple complex.

Ateshgah Fire Temple is a castle-like religious temple located in Surakhani, a suburb of Baku, Azerbaijan.  Ateshgah means “home of fire”. The name refers to the fact that the complex was built atop of natural gas field that produced spontaneous flame from gas seepage.

Ateshgah was built in 17th – 18th centuries and based on Persian and Hindu inscriptions, the complex was used, at different times, as a Hindu and Zoroastrian place of worship.

The complex is built in the shape of a pentagon with an inner courtyard that has cells for monks and an tetra-pillar altar in the middle.

The complex was abandoned after 1883 when the flow of natural gas to this area stopped due to heavy exploitation of the field by petroleum plants nearby. In 1975 the complex was turned into museum. Today, the fire in Ateshgah is fed by gas piped from Baku.


A raised wooden platform snaked around the courtyard. While Pat went and checked out various Temple rooms, Rafael pushed me around so I could see a few things. I always joked with Lei and recently with Ayşe that when I get old and can no longer walk around to see sights, that they will have to wheel me around. 




Thank goodness for a zoom lens.  I noticed several plaques but could only make out the lettering when I zoomed in.  Looking up close, I still can't figure out what it is.



There was a small group of school children visiting Ateshgah while we were there.  I was briefly amused watching them tip toeing their way across a glass platform.  I don't think any of them had ever walked on a completely transparent walkway before so they were being extra cautious.  So cute!


Today, I got a sense of what that it feels like to be a tourist in a wheelchair. Can't say that I enjoyed it. I could only stay on the platform which did not lead inside any of the rooms so my experience at Ateshgah was a bit limited. On the flip side, I've seen enough places like this that I really didn't feel like I was missing out on too much. Perhaps if we had hired the local guide, the experience would have been much more different.



Back in the car, Rafael took us to our next destination - an open air Ethnographic Museum located in the small village of Qala.

On the way, he stopped so we could take a quick snap of an oil field.  I don't think we were suppose to because at one point, a man came to shoo us away.  But no harm on our part.  We were just curious.

In and around Baku, oil fields are truly a common sight.  Personally, I've never seen an oil field and today, I must have seen dozens of oil drills....some seemingly popping up spots that I would describe as common areas in a in suburban neighborhood.



We reached Qala in no time.


Here, I opted to stay inside the car. I was hoping the I could catch a quick nap but it was not to be. My foot was throbbing just enough to keep me awake.

Pat and Rafael heading to the open air museum in Qala.

Next, we headed to the main train station where Pat and Rafael got our train tickets for our overnight right to Tblisi on April 12. According to Pat, she was thankful Rafael was there to help with translation. Apparently, since we were staying in Azerbaijan for more than 10 days, we were suppose to have some sort of registration paper. Obviously, we didn't have the paper but apparently the sales agent sold her the tickets anyway. Pat bought two tickets in a sleeper car which will be more comfortable, not to mention safer as you can lock the door, for our overnight journey to Tblisi.

After the train station, Rafael headed back to the old city and dropped us off at a restaurant, located at the end of the alleyway that leads to our hotel. Unfortunately, they weren't serving lunch so we headed back to the Burq Qala restaurant where we had dinner last night. Pat ordered a vegetable salad for us to share.

Our eggplant and tomato salad.

Our basket of bread.  I enjoy the lavash (on the right) the most.

That turned out to be a delicious plate of eggplant and tomato. For our entrees, Pat had the Lamb Lula which turned out to be skewers of ground lamb, grilled. She's not fond of ground lamb so that was a bit of a disappointment. I had the same stuffed grape leaves as last night and two meat qutabs which I had enjoyed munching on last night.

By now, I was really ready to get into bed. I was beyond sleepy. Back at the hotel, Pat asked the receptionist about our registration papers. A tall, lanky young man works the reception desk during the day. He's come to know us pretty well as we appear to be the only guests staying here. It's not quite yet tourist season in Baku.

While Pat was talking with the young man, an older, very well dressed woman approached me. She spoke good English. She told me that the young man had informed her of my injury and she wanted to know more. She said she was a doctor. So, I showed her my X-ray and shared with her the diagnosis information that the examining doctor had written up. She told me that recently, she had taken a tumble on the cobblestone streets, near the hotel, and had broken her ankle as well. We both exchanged grimaces as we heard each others story about our respective injuries. As Pat and I headed up to our room, she asked if we wanted to switch rooms to a lower floor. The young man had put us into a very nice room on the 3rd floor and she offered for us to move to a room on the 1st floor (one floor above ground) instead. She showed us the room and it looked fine so we took her up on her offer.

I was ready to hobble up to our previous room and pack up my bag but Pat insisted that she would take care of it. She really is in full on mother mode and taking really, really good care of me....chiding me if she thinks I'm about to do something that will exacerbate my injury.

I waited for them in our new room (#2) and in a very short while, they all returned with our luggage. According to Pat, the woman who I found out was the owner of the hotel, was incredibly fast at packing up our stuff and bringing it down. Before the young man and the owner left us to be, I thanked her for her offer to switch rooms. Pat had a concern that I would not be able to go upstairs for breakfast tomorrow but the owner replied back to not worry. The woman working the dining room could easily bring down food for us. Everyone has been so accommodating!!

After everyone left, Pat and I could finally relax a bit. I had hoped she would find the time (and energy) to visit the nearby miniature book museum but she really wasn't in the mood to go. I can understand why. I think we both needed to decompress from the whole drama of the ankle.

At this point, my eyelids were beginning to droop. I was finally ready to fall asleep. I woke up about 4 hours later and what was incredible was there was absolutely no pain in my left ankle. Pat also took a nap and when she woke up, we made a pot of tea and spent the rest of the night sitting in bed - me blogging and her reading and planning out her calendar for May.....she's one busy lady!!

Tomorrow, we venture out to Gobustan to see the famed mud volcanoes. If my left foot continues to feel as good as it does now, I should be able to hobble out to see a few.....I hope.

For now, I rest.  Thank you Pat for taking such good care of me today!

Goodnight from Baku!