we can Already say that the main heroes of the era of the pandemic were the doctors who, showing incredible bravery and risking their lives to save hundreds of thousands of people from the fashion industry and not only. Writer, poet, and oncologist Alexander Stesin working in one of the large hospitals of new York. He was in the United States in eleven years and managed to get first literature, and then medical education, winning several prestigious awards in the field of literature, and his novel about the life of Dr. “new York bypass” got in long-sheet “the Big book”. A new “African book” has become one of the most striking works of modern Russian writers. Novels and essays about the Black continent are already appreciated by critics. In an interview with “MK” Stesin told about the expected second wave of the pandemic, racism, and required patient faith in a miracle.
“In the coming year we do not expect the nicest things”
How the pandemic has affected your hospital?
– Now much better than it was two or three weeks ago. It seems that the peak we passed. In our hospital, at the peak it was about five hundred hospitalized patients with middle East respiratory syndrome. Now about two hundred and fifty. Gradually beginning to open outpatient departments, which were converted for the treatment of patients with COVIDом. At the moment, all looks hopeless. Another thing that happens when all will be released from quarantine. All, of course, and I’m including – I’m afraid of the second wave. It is obvious that she is, but how strong is the impact, hard to say. I think that the situation can change when there is a vaccine, and on this account there is no consensus. Most agree that it will not happen sooner than a year and a half. Perhaps, over time, the coronavirus will weaken, but I think next year we are waiting for is not the most pleasant things.
You have not yet deployed to combat coronavirus?
not Yet. I work in a regular mode in my office with cancer patients. Of course, among our patients there are also people with the coronavirus, but we treat them not from him. Although all of my residents has moved to the forefront in COVID-chamber.
– In Russia, many are worried that because of this whole situation, cancer patients will be compromised. How are things in America?
there is a Protocol we follow. Trying to determine how urgently intervention is needed, and decides it’s the doctor. Question, where there is more risk that the patient will walk each day for treatment and thus be exposed to the risk of Contracting COVIDом, or that treatment will be delayed. We continue to treat those who urgently need radiotherapy, – those who can wait, of course, delayed. Although Sachas we are already beginning to take cancer patients from low risk group, because if we continue to pull, then there is a huge queue, and they would like to avoid.
Job oncologist suggests that you often have to speak with a patient who is doomed. Here to find words?
– In the first year of medical school I passed my first clinical practice in Oncology, at the Institute. Sloan-Kettering. The doctor with whom I worked, told me one, in General, obvious but important thing. Yes, many cancers are treated perfectly, but, of course, there are many situations where, whatever you do, the outcome is clear – and then one thing that can make doctor-oncologist, is to take man by the hand. To be with him, to comfort him, but, of course, is not to lie. I consider emotional support to the patient as part of its work, that part of my professional duties. It comes with experience and no step-by-step instructions here. I do not believe that the patient must declare the time, especially if he’ll come. Even when you ask, “Doctor, how long have I got?”, I’m not saying this because, really, nobody knows, although sometimes with quite high probability we can predict. However, I always say that we can’t say for sure, but things are not very good looks – sick of this and he understands.
But miracles, as you write in the novel, “new York round” happen?
– Yes, I have in the “Bypass” thinking about the miracle and “unrealistic five percent.” I must say that this book I wrote quite a long time. Some chapters written when I started working. Experience is accumulated, and unexplained stories of recovery contrary to all predictions becomes more and more miracles to believe. They are. These stories are very helpful, and I willingly share them with your patients. When, for example, comes with a malignant brain tumour where the average survival rate from one to two years. Thus I have patients who have lived with this diagnosis for much longer or are still alive and well. I give them an example, and it supports. The patient must be maintained, and it does not need a special talent – just empathy and experience.
“Sometimes you have to give yourself a hand”
– For examples of writers-doctors to go far not necessary. Suffice it to mention Chekhov and Bulgakov, and contemporary Russian literature a lot of them. Why, in your opinion, the doctors become writers?
– Writers-doctors, indeed, very much. Especially if you look at other literature: Gottfried Benn, William Carlos Williams, Ogai Mori. Why? I think doctors feature more humanitarian mindset. If you divide people into “physicists and lyricists” the doctors, probation speaking, can be attributed to the latter, although with the exact Sciences it is desirable to be “you”. In addition, they have always a lot of bright material. All doctors who started to write, or otherwise repelled by those with whom they had to deal with in practice. However, I did not associate with Chekhov, and Bulgakov. I love Chekhov, I love Bulgakov, was reading them in his youth, and still I enjoy reading. But the idea that I somehow continue their “line in Russian literature”, it seems to me wild. If you had to fit into a certain row, where relevant contemporary doctor-writers, of which there are many in the current Russian literature. Is Maxim Osipov, Alexei Motors, poets, doctors Irina Kotova, Andrey sen-Senkov, Elena Fanailova, Yuri Gugolev, Olga Anikin, Alexey Kashcheev, Andrew Grisman and others.
– How big is the temptation to consider the actual experience of medical practice as a potential plot?
– I try not to do it. Sometimes you have to give yourself a hand. That is why most of the stories from “new York bypass” if not completely, then partly fictional. Of course, many of the characters have real prototypes, but that’s not what I came home from work and write down what happened – and here I am. Now in connection with the pandemic is especially a lot of heartbreaking stories, and very important, I think, to resist the temptation to do this “literature”. When all this started, I gave myself a word that I won’t write any COVIDных Chronicles, at least for now. Maybe later, when everything will be over, you can attempt this experience to understand but not now.
– Among the patients that you describe in “the new York bypass”, there are criminals involved in the stabbing or shooting. How does it feel to rescue such characters?
In the stories about the South Bronx they are in the hospital after stabbings, gunshot wounds, unconscious and you carry them in OSes with a sharp wound. Generally, it’s an interesting question: how to behave when faced with something untoward. Then my mind comes to a real case. Up to a certain point I came across patients who had survived the Holocaust. Now almost no one left alive, but ten years ago they were. But once I came to the old man, a German, last war. He told me a lot about how loved sports, nature. And then I look – on his arm, in the place which is usually draped clothing, a tattoo of a swastika. That’s the question – although the answer is evident. The poet Alexander Eremenko at the time was monastic called “Sniper”: “watery Eyes, and hands do”. Something like that. Still you should be treated. The Hippocratic oath has not been canceled. Although the feeling is not very goodshade is pleasant, but remind myself that he is also a man and will also die.
“I’m Afraid that racial tensions can be exacerbated.”
– In the new novel “the African book” you talk about his work on the dark continent. To Africa usually somewhat condescending and even dismissive. The General view that there’s wildlife crime, hunger and lawlessness, which are especially striking on the background of the prosperous Western world. Is it all actually, and how, in your opinion, the pandemic will change the perception of Africa?
– If the “African book” and there is some message, it is that things are not so simple. Africa are very different and heterogeneous. The people of Western civilization represent it as a place where poverty, disease, crime. I thought so myself before I got there. However, for example, in Ghana, the crime is very low. Their murders per capita is less than in Japan. This is a very peaceful country. Yes, there are terrible part, like everywhere else, but there are things that are much better than, say, in America or in Russia. In Africa it’s extremely rare to see a man depressed, suffering from loneliness. The structure of society there is that you’re always surrounded by people, care, family ties. All responsible for all. We are living in the big cities, this relationship is not enough. Now in terms of a pandemic it becomes particularly evident, because, oddly enough, Africa has fared better than anywhere else. I keep in contact with your friends, colleagues, doctors from Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar. They write, how many cases of coronavirus. Read these numbers and think: “my God, may we so live!”. We have thousands and thousands, they have the whole hospital on the ears of ten patients. Of course, we can say that this is because there is not test, but it is not and explains nothing. If they had the situation like in new York, it would have been known without testing this influx of people needing intensive care, it is impossible to hide or ignore. In Africa, indeed less infected COVID. Before us is an important moment in history when we realize that not everything is black and white. That is, we have better, they got worse of course we will help, but they still the horror, the horror. But no, it happens and Vice versa.
What is the main impression you took away from this African trip?
– the Amazing qualities that are inherent to Africans. Over the last ten years I spent in Africa a lot of time, and still I wonder everyday, everyday manifestations of human warmth and kindness. Remember how last year I returned from Kenya. We flew with a colleague, with whom he worked in the Kenyatta hospital in Nairobi. We had a layover in Germany. We left the airport in Frankfurt, walking around the city and in one voice said, like you under a cold shower set. People are so much more reserved, closed.
– In the “African book” you refer to, including, and the problem of racism. How, in your opinion, the story of the pandemic will have an impact on racial tensions?
it is Hard to say. All these things are in the economic situation. Now conditional ghetto in America suffer a lot stronger than advantaged areas. There is a map of the boroughs of new York city, where most of cases – including deaths from COVID. It is clear that poor areas are affected disproportionately more than wealthy, and this is such a ghetto, where they live, recently arrived migrants, not very well speaking in English and those areas that have long been considered dysfunctional, like the South Bronx, about which I write in “Bypass”. The economy lately has been good, people have more wealth. I’m afraid that now it will come to naught, and already coming off due to the economic collapse around the world – including in America, and in new York, where strong unemployment. I’m afraid that racial conflicts can escalate. I really hope that I’m wrong.
– And in America, racism still exists or is still in the past?
– I Think that racism is. I’m not faced with that and I like to believe that in new York this is much less and the people here are more open and tolerant to another. To a certain extent it is. I live in a city where you can travel three stops on the metro and get into a completely different world. “New York bypass” is largely a portrait of the city, and such an enthusiastic portrait. I love that my daughter goes to school where in the classroom children from all over the world, they all look completely different, and it is natural. However, I also realize that I am a white male and are in a rather privileged position – something I don’t experience racism, does not mean that it is not. My friends are Africans of every one telling me what racism is. I hope that the generation of my daughter will have a completely different vision of the world, because they grew up in this colorful environment, but at the moment, racism, alas, is not eliminated.
– And to what extent we can say that the virus has put everyone in the same situation?
– Even such disasters, war, epidemic and so on – very interesting sinhroniziruete reality all over the world. Suddenly our life turns out exactly the same. This is amazing. Every day I talk to friends in Moscow and understand that my life is indistinguishable from their life. All catch the same “slots” and the busy catering handle all of bleach, and so on, watching the same news and the same statistics. I tof course, this is some absolutely amazing phenomenon from a sociological point of view. It is clear that it will take some time to completely it was possible to make some sense out of what happened, but I think it will have long-term implications and will fundamentally affect how life in General works on the relations between countries and peoples.
– And would not the pandemic that people will be more closed relative to one another?
this is actually very scary. I hope that when there is an effective vaccine, plus a sufficient number of people have been ill, and all will be endemic immunity is probably normal dynamics of human relationships restored. However, in the near future, people will continue to each other to shy away. What to do? In this story is the most depressing.