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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: May Day Vacation Ends In Wheezes and Bruises

I don't know how your May 1 vacation went, but I'm still recuperating from mine. It started out happily enough with the warm sunshine, budding buds and cute crocuses, but the violent change from snow to sun (have you noticed that Russian children have gone from woolly hats to sun hats in the space of a fortnight?) has brought on an epidemic of coughs and colds, which struck my three-year-old, Bobby, last Friday.

He had croup, and this being my third child, I recognized the barking cough and wheezing, and rushed around laying wet towels on the radiators, turned on the hot shower and flung open all the windows to let cool, fresh air in. According to my "Home Doctor Book," croup is exacerbated by a warm, dry atmosphere and you can't get much warmer and drier than a Moscow apartment in early spring. The book told me to call the doctor, but most Western clinics seemed to be "out for the holiday," so I called our local polyclinic which, while also "out," recommended the 03 ambulance service. The paramedic arrived quickly but was unsympathetic with foreigners, sniffingly telling me to go to one of my "paid" clinics. But she did tell me to give him honey and vodka compresses and steam his hands and feet every hour. Then she told me not to let him outside for a week, and stamped out.

I didn't actually get around to the vodka bit, and I had to take him outside the next day because that was when my six-year-old, Anna, managed to give herself a concussion by tucking her hands into her dress, climbing onto the kitchen table and toppling, nose first, onto the floor.

The horrible blood, bruising and swelling that followed convinced me she had broken her nose, and while I was taking deep breaths and applying a pack of frozen peas, Sasha, my efficient 9-year-old, got busy dialing 03 (getting to be quite a pro by this time) and within half an hour the paramedics were back. Anna's nose was luckily in one piece, but since she was sleepy and nauseous they diagnosed mild concussion and dictated hospitalization at the infamous Morozovsky Children's Hospital.

Unfortunately, our nanny's little boy happens to have been in Morozovsky for two weeks (with croup) and his mother's tales of cockroaches and cruelty meant that Anna jumped a mile and refused to go near the waiting ambulance.

I finally persuaded her to go with me by car for a checkup and took them all off to this prehistoric hospital where I waited 40 minutes in an empty emergency room before being told, as a foreigner with no insurance policy, I couldn't be seen. Luckily, 100 rubles saw us through to the X-ray department and I left with a long list of medications to reduce swelling and bruising. So daddy, who had been away for a few days, has just returned to find a son with no voice and a daughter with a new nose. But as Russians would say -- "it happens."