Sunday, October 29, 2017

Update on Ukraine

I expect Ukraine doesn't make the North american news much these days.  Too much going on in both Canada and USA.  Besides, on a daily basis, not much changes.  Yesterday's news is as good as today's.

On the Donetsk front Russian backed troops attack Ukrainian positions many times per day resulting in 1 to 5 deaths of Ukrainian soldiers and 1 to 10 wounded.  These are the official counts.  The attacks are always driven off; no accounting of Russian deaths or wounded.  Rinse, repeat. Occasionally, the Ukrainian side will retake a few meters of ground in driving back an attack but they must be careful or they will be accused of "breaking the Minsk Accord".

However the Ukrainian government has passed two laws regarding the war in Donbas that essentially lay out the Ukrainian understanding of the Minsk Agreements in black and white regardless of how Putin would like it understood.  The first law "establishes that a special procedure for local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions comes into force only after all the conditions set forth in Article 10 of the law have been fulfilled, in particular, with regard to the withdrawal of all illegal armed formations and their military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, from the territory of Ukraine." 

The second law "defines the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as: the land territory and its internal waters within the limits of separate districts, cities, towns and villages, where the military forces of the Russian Federation and Russian occupational administration have established and carry out the occupying government and general control; internal sea waters and the territorial sea of Ukraine adjacent to the same land territory; airspace over these territories.

In other words it is no longer an anti-terrorist operation.  Russia has been named as the invading and occupying force in Donbas.

There have been a number of kidnappings of Ukrainian citizens who are taken to Russia and imprisoned on made-up charges.  Recently a young man was lured to Belarus by a girl who had been coerced by the FSB.  The young man is now in Russia, charged with plotting to blow up a school.  His actual crime was blogging something the Russians didn't like.  Two young men in the Russian controlled area of Donetsk have been arrested and sentenced to several years in jail for spying for the Ukrainians.  Their actual crime was waving a Ukrainian flag. In Russian occupied Crimea, Tatars are specifically targeted by the Russians for extremism or terrorism.

A number of people have been assassinated in broad daylight in Kyiv.  Bullets or bombs.  By whom is never certain even when the trigger men are caught.  Could be both sides or even third parties. Two ammunition dumps were blown up this year.  Sabotage.  The most recent in Vinnitsa Oblast was a main  arsenal of the Ukrainian army and fortunately 70% of the ammunition survived the blast.

The real war is in the Ukrainian parliament with the old guard fighting tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to preserve the corruption that has made them or their allies rich.  Progress is made slowly, mainly forced on them by outside pressure. (You need eg IMF money?  Clean up your act). Reforms have been quickest in areas that do not affect the lawmakers.  The price of gas and electricity have gone up dramatically, as an example.

The attempt to reform the health care system is a good example of the difficulties faced by reformers.  The Minister in charge has submitted a bill to parliament to reduce the corruption levels and provide more money for actual health care.  The bill was not initially passed in July as it did not get support.

“The state has spent about 300 million UAH [$11.5 million] to build the new facilities for that hospital; 60 million UAH [$2.3 million] was spent on equipment—which disappeared,” Suprun explained. . .
In many countries the hugely expensive equipment in hospitals is leased. But in Ukraine, that’s forbidden by law. Why? Because kickbacks are built in to the sales, generating enormous income every year for everybody in the corrupt chain. “The pharmo-mafia and some hospitals make billions of dollars, while we want the purchasing to be done by international organizations including the UNDP, UNICEF, through tenders,” Suprun explained. . .
“There is a tiny piece left to fix the poor infrastructure of hospitals and pay extremely low salaries for the workers,” Suprun said. The average salary of a Ukrainian doctor is about $200 a month. “That’s what makes medical workers charge payments for their services, then kick back up to their head doctors and higher,” she said.

The bill was finally passed in October.  The following article provides an overview of the reforms.  It will give you an idea of the situation I faced in the best hospital in Dnipro. And of course how or even if it is implemented is another question.

The hardest fought battles are in the area of reforming the courts, judges and prosecutors.  This is the root of corruption in Ukraine.  Attempts to establish an independent anti-corruption court has not gone anywhere and may never if President Poroshenko has his way.  The powers that be dare not allow such a court because they know they will all go down. Again, such a court is being forced on Ukraine by outside pressure but there are many ways to sabotage it.

Optimists such as Alexander Motyl that Ukraine is reforming slowly but surely. As my father once said about me, "You have to put a stake in the ground and use a tape measure to discern any movement at all." OK, maybe it isn't as bad as I think but I am not optimistic until they fix the roads.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Back Home Again

Where is home?  Many answers to that, all correct.  Where I hang my hat.  Where I can get internet.  Where i was born and raised.  Where I spent most of my life.  Where I now live. My permanent residence.

So the farm is home, Ukraine is now home but Regina will always be home. Our family spent 24 years in this city.  My oldest still lives here. As of September 1, it is home for Tanya and I for one year until I am healthy again.  We have a small 1 bedroom flat found and furnished by my eldest. Five minutes from hospital, doctors office and bus stops.  And affordable, sort of.

It is also across the street from Regina Exhibition Grounds, home of Canadian Western Agribition, the world's largest indoor cattle show.  Haven't been for 10 years.

I had a specialist lined up a month before we left Ukraine. My ostomy bag was giving no end of trouble - it would not adhere to my skin any length of time. My oldest was friends with a nurse who worked at the Enterostomy Clinic and would message her for information and assistance in trying to solve the problem.  The nurse mentioned this to a surgeon she works with who up until 4 years ago had been a surgeon in the hospital in Dnipro where I was a patient.  He got all excited and phoned Tanya a couple of times to discuss the issue.  I had an appointment with him before I had a letter of referral from a General Practitioner.

So the morning after we arrived I had an appointment with a GP or in this case a Nurse Practitioner to get a letter of referral to the specialist with whom I had an appointment the following morning.  The nurse practitioner turned out to have lived in the house behind us when we first moved to Regina in 1983. She and her brothers went to school with my kids.

I can't travel as we have no car and our government killed the provincial bus service, so friends are coming to see us.  People I haven't seen in years.  Averaging 3 to 4 per week.  It is wonderful to catch up, I can tell you.

Last night, Tanya and I went with friends to the Bushwakker Brew Pub to listen to live jazz from 'round midnight, a local band  where a long time friend plays bass. Food there is great.  I have never tried their beer as they have a wide variety of good Scotch.  Which I can't drink anymore.  Especially at $8 to $22 for a 30 gram ounce.  At least in Europe a shot is 50 grams.

Tomorrow I am going to an anti-provincial government rally just for fun.  Saskatchewan has a conservative government which like all conservative governments has cut taxes for the rich and made up the difference by cutting services to the rest of us.  They have already been forced to back pedal on several of their cuts.  Tomorrow is about forcing more back pedaling.

A CT scan and colonoscopy will tell me doctor how much more of my poor colon needs to be removed.  I will then be a semicolon. This will happen in January if all goes well. Then in February they will reconnect my stoma or as I told my children, reconnect my mouth and my a$$. My youngest suggested that when they were doing that, could they remove my feet from the one and my head from the other.  I get no respect.

By the way, did you know that when people kiss they just make a long tube connecting one butthole to another.  But I digress.

I am glad to be home.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Top 10 signs you are too old to be trick or treating

10. You get winded from knocking on the door
9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.
8. You ask for high fibre candy only.
7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag you lose your balance.
6. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you aren't wearing a mask.
5. When the door opens, you yell, "Trick or . . ." and can't remember the rest.
4. By the end of the night you have a bag full of restraining orders.
3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.
2. You are the only Power Ranger in your neighbourhood with a walker.
1. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live.

Friday, October 20, 2017

How I spent my summer vacation

June 30, the next day being July 1st, Canada Day, I took Tanya, Lina and Sveta to The Egoist Restaurant for supper. Trying to imitate the eating habits of Henry VIII, I over did it and was very uncomfortable, not for the first time in my life, sad to say.

At 1:30 am July 1st, severe abdominal pain hit and by 3:30 I was dry heaving and my belly was swollen like a poisoned pup. By 6:00 am I was in an ambulance headed for the hospital.  The ride was so rough, I had to get out and go in Andrei's car.  At the hospital in Zhovti Vody, a doctor examined me and concluded I had peritonitis and possibly pancreatitis and needed immediate surgery and should go to Dnipro as they could no longer do surgery in Zhovti Vody.  Andrei had to go to the Mayor's office to get him to instruct the hospital to send me as they were NOT going to send their good ambulance out of town. Pain killers made the ride bearable

By 6:00 pm I was in the best hospital in Dnipro, which was also crowded with wounded soldiers from the Donbas front. they wired me up with IV antibiotics and morphine and I don't know what else.  Several doctors poked and prodded causing me great pain and July 4 they finally operated on me. I am guessing they plugged the hole in my colon and the words "diverticulosis" and sepsis were mentioned.  I had a temporary iliostomy c/w bag and several drainage tubes in my abdomen. I was so weak, I could do nothing for myself, not even turn or feed myself, nothing. The doctors were worried I was not going to make it.  So was everyone else.  No one told me so I didn't know until late August why everyone was so scared for me.

July 7th, my three daughters arrived in Dnipro to help Tanya look after me.  Two stayed for three weeks until I was moved back to Zhovti Vody. The youngest stayed for a week as she could not get more time off work. My son was frantic to come also but the girls talked him out of it.  Given his health problems (Crohn's Disease) they did not want two Hingstons in hospital in Ukraine. My oldest daughter's description of their time and why it was critical they were there in Ukraine can be found below.

I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 1 
I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 2 
Lessons I learned in Ukraine 
Adventures in Ukraine: Part 3 -- Wherein we learned to ask for help
July 26th, Tanya rented a private ambulance to move me back to Zhovti Vody Hospital where I spent a further two weeks. Having developed a hernia along my incision, I needed to be bandaged up tight before I could get out of bed.  Walking the length of the room using a hump and clump walker I named Texas Ranger was hard work.  Gradually I got it up to 5 round trips, then 10, then out in the hallway where I could boogie.  

After a couple weeks, I was reluctantly moved to our house. It worked out far better than I imagined  It was easier on Tanya and with help from Lina and Sveta she managed quite well.  She would have to get up every 2-4 hours in the night to attend to me but she did it. And I had more places to walk.  Outside even.  Though the day I tried to climb the front three steps without notifying anyone and fell on my face did not endear me to anyone.

Basically, I would not be alive without Tanya.  She nursed me 24/7 from when I was first sick.  Argued with the doctors and nurses to make sure I was well looked after by them and that she knew what to do if they weren't around.  Cooked and fed me until I could feed myself, tended to my natural functions until I could myself, changed the ostomy bag several times a day, bathed me, did laundry, administered meds, encouraged me, bullied me when I needed it, was patient with my outbursts, and worried constantly.  She is an amazing wonderful woman and I love her so much.

My youngest came back for a week after I had moved home.  We managed only one game of crib so you can see how weak and tired I still was. She helped us get started packing to come back to Canada. I needed further operations once I was strong enough and was determined to have them in Canada. Getting to Regina was going to be one horrible ordeal.  First I had to get to Kyiv.  No way could I take the train so we hired the private ambulance again and drove. Andrei had all our bags and medical parafinalia (wheelchair, walker, monkey bar) in his car. 

My oldest flew to Kyiv to meet us at the airport and help Tanya deal with me on the trip home.  We were well looked after in the airports at Kyiv and Frankfurt.  Toronto is another story.  NEVER fly via Toronto Airport.  We were left on our own and missed our connection to Regina.  A later flight put us in at 12:30 am instead of 10:00 pm. For our adventures on the way home see my daughter's blog post: 

The day my father pooped my pants

My daughter had found a flat for us five minutes from the hospital, my doctor's office and two bus stops and furnished it in early Canadian attic with help from her friends, Dollarama, Varage Sale, and I don't know what else.  It lacked for nothing.  This was how she spent her August.  It is safe to say I would not be alive without her either.  While Tanya organized everything in Ukraine, she organized everything in Canada, taking a semester off her Masters in Social Work degree to do it. She also organized the Go Fund Me or whatever it is called that payed our bills.  I also owe my life to generous donors whose names I do not know as she looked after that detail too. As my daughter sais "It takes a village to raise an Allen". Thanks, Village.

We have been in Regina 6 weeks now.  More on that in the next blog post.

For those of you who are still following me, in spite of my long absence, greatly appreciate your loyalty.  And I will get back to my favourite blogs too. Never fear