How did they react when you told them you had been granted political asylum in England?
“They nodded understandingly, but that didn’t mean they were automatically bound to test for toxins. Why should they suppose that the patient had been poisoned by someone? At some point we ceased to understand why, if the doctors couldn’t find a complete explanation, they didn’t carry out some additional tests. And we turned to a toxicology specialist in America who wanted to take a look at the results of the blood tests. But all this took time – and the process was taking no time at all… He started to have an inflammation of the larynx, at first he complained of a sore throat. I had a look at his throat – and it wasn’t an ordinary inflammation, the kind you get with angina. I told the medical staff, and they said – well, it’s the antibiotics, they kill off all the healthy flora… When I came to see him on the Sunday, he could already hardly swallow or speak. I’d brought him some tea in a thermos – he couldn’t drink it, but it was important that it was there, because he believed he was getting a little better and would be able to drink it. It was a constant, terrifying struggle for life. Because he believed he was getting over it.
“On the Sunday they gave him some sort of throat medication for removing the process of inflammation after taking antibiotics. I said: ‘Will that be enough?’ By then he was already on a feeding tube, he couldn’t eat anything. On the Monday – this was already the second week now – he was no longer able to talk at all. And when he simply couldn’t move his tongue at all, that was so terrible that I just couldn’t control myself, I ran out to reception and started to yell: ‘What are you doing? When I left yesterday my husband could at least speak!’ At that moment all the doctors came running, they started to explain to me that it might a side effect of the antibiotic, though one of the indications didn’t fit, and it might be the wrong treatment. And then they said: ‘You know, we’ll have to test for hepatitis and Aids.’ They said that in cases of that illness the organism could react in a completely unpredictable way. Their approach was a traditional one, they went by the textbooks, and there was no one who could have kept an eye on the situation from the side. Of course the tests and analyses yielded nothing. When they left that day… My poor Sasha – this was horrible, it was very dreadful – when I passed my hand along his hair, the hair remained on my hand, or more precisely, on the glove, because all along they’d made us wear gloves and aprons so we wouldn’t get infected, if it was an infection. I stroked his head again – and this time it wasn’t just a hair or two, but whole strands. I felt really ill. Then I looked at his hospital pyjamas, at the pillow – there was hair everywhere. And then I started to say – why is his hair falling out? And again they weren’t able to give me an explanation. It might be a result of his weakened immunity. A day later I had my first meeting with the haematology specialist who was in charge of the cancer patients’ ward. He was the first person to tell me: ‘You know, he looks like a cancer patient after chemotherapy.’ And suddenly he said to me: ‘On the twelfth day the hair starts to fall out.’ I said it was twelve days since the day his vomiting had begun. Only then did they start to test his blood for the presence of toxins.'”
(to be continued)
See also: Conversation