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Deathly Patter of the Tiny Feet

Volodymyr Miloserdov '23

They have always been lucky; you can see it. That day in the hospital, however, one may speculate that their good fortune has expired, and their life took a turn for the worse.


On July 30th, 2004, the delivery room №4 in Zagybel’s 5th Regional Hospital nearly became a burial ground for Andriy when the monotonous sanctuary of the womb refused to let him go. You know that scream babies let out when oxygen replaces their amniotic fluid? Well, Andriy didn’t scream. In fact, he didn’t even breathe.


Every second on the outside, his breathless body turned darker and darker, contrasting ever more with the immaculately white, wrinkled, worn-out medical gowns of nearby panicking nurses. Trapped in a powerful aroma of old cement and cheap hand sanitizer, Andriy’s mama was noticeably trembling on the thin piece of cloth resembling a mattress. His father, a self-proclaimed medical scholar and a software engineer by profession was attempting to instruct young and inexperienced nurses.


As his lifeless body continued to reflect less and less light by the millisecond, delivery room №4 in Zagybel’s 5th Regional Hospital split from the neighboring rooms and buildings. Not literally, of course. This is not fiction writing.


Hospitals’ aroma was no longer of reassuring nature; the standard cyclical flow of healthy and sick was disrupted by the approaching spirit of death. With more than a thousand years of experience, I can confidently say that death is scary. Not because of grief, no. Grief and heartache will pass. They will make you stronger. What is scary, however, is the overwhelming emptiness that comes with it. Allow me to make an analogy.


Let me convince you that your mind is a village. You can find houses of all types, sizes, and colors. No person is the same in the village in your mind. People always hurry somewhere. It’s a lively and unique place that belongs to you. Until it doesn’t.


In the middle of the village stands an old well that remembers grandfathers, fathers, and sons. Then, it starts to expand in size. One inch at a time, it engulfs the whole village. Some try to run away, some build an aircraft, and some jump in, wholeheartedly believing in free will. You humans never cease to amaze me. I mean, sure, you have control over your life, but at what cost? Anyway, you would think that when the village sinks, the well will stop expanding. But you’d be wrong. It continues to relentlessly grow into nothingness, pressing you from the inside. It presses you so hard that your stomach aches, and your spine bends. Soon, the pressure gets to the brain. That’s when the problems start to arise. But let’s go back to the story.


The relentless stomping of a record number of low heels almost caused a local earthquake. Crumbs of old paint were falling from cheaply built walls. There were some quietly reviewing their notes from the “Grief Counselling” lecture they received during their second year of medical school.


A loud, familiar creaking of the double door forced everyone in the room to look towards the entrance. In my soon one thousand years of experience with humans, this marks the first time when a creaking of a prehistoric door lighted a beam of hope in more than twenty people. A light summer wind could suddenly be heard swaying the windows of the delivery room №4 in Zagybel’s 5th Regional Hospital.


Holding the wooden handle of the mop in front of ragged bright pink flip-flops comes the unofficial most experienced worker of the hospital. Barely fitting through the narrow door frame enters the Titan, swiftly and commandingly shuffling her flip-flops that are a size smaller than she needs.


Praskoviya Stepanova came to work at the hospital when she was the same age as the panicking nurses in the room. But she had to deal with a lot more with a lot less.


She came to work at the hospital more than twenty years ago when domestically-made drugs were nearly poisonous, and internationally-made drugs were prohibitively expensive. Not having many resources at her disposal, she was forced to learn things that were not taught in medical schools, like how to cure stroke paralysis with chicken soup without chicken and flu with a pill of melatonin.


As she increased her pace towards the half–dead baby, everyone dispersed to the edges of the room. She took the breathless body out of mama’s shaking hands and started to analytically inspect the body with the meticulousness and comprehension of a neurosurgeon.


“He will live” – she said with a reassuring voice and a smile.


She took him under her armpit and, with the palm of her right hand, hit both his heels with command and composure. I don’t know what kind of spell she held in her right hand, but the sound of a bang was soon followed by a piercing cry so loud that the pile of paint crumbs turned into an enormous mountain.


Now, I tell you this story not purely because of my fascination with Praskoviya (even though I do possess it) but because of how many lives she actually saved that day. In another universe, where Andriy’s body remains breathless, his mother, an emotional being of nature, slits her wrists in the bathtub. His father, convinced it’s all his fault, shoots himself. Two assisting nurses who endured this unforgettable adventure on their first day quit the medical profession. They are found two months later, hugging in the freezing cold, overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine.


Why am I telling you a story of a godforsaken hospital in the middle of nowhere? I have my reasons. And you are reading this now, aren’t you? Well, if you finish it, I hope you walk away thinking about how an elderly, overweight woman in ragged pink flip-flops saved five lives by only saving one.

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