Treasures Medical Mission to Russia - June 2005

Well, another one is in the memory bank. Our trip to Russia, via Amsterdam, was phenomenal, interesting, informative, and rewarding. What more can we say? Oh, yeah, and a real blast!

What’s so important in Amsterdam? Medical equipment. FREE medical equipment. Last Christmas, while we were still in Russia, Mark Nijkamp, a hospital supply person from Almelo, Netherlands, “stumbled” across Treasures’ web site. Seeing we had need of certain pieces of medical equipment, he contacted us to offer help.

Now, ain’t that something? We get a request in Texas, from a hospital in Russia, and the equipment needed is in storage in Amsterdam. Some would say, “What a coincidence!” We say, “That’s just like God. He had the answer, before the request was known.”

All we needed to do was ride the train from our fun trip in Germany, to Amsterdam. That’s all. Rather simple, huh? Ya think?

On the German trains, we were able to visit with fellow travelers. We met a couple of young guys from Florida, as well as English speakers from other countries.

Hans, Dr. Sam, and I managed to get all the “stuff” on the trains, but that was an adventure. We marveled as passengers on the trains would carry our luggage from one train to the next and rush back to their own. God softens hearts as we step out in faith. People from all over the world, including two young girls from Argentina and the Florida boys, helped us.

One particularly difficult transfer happened when the train we planned to take to Amsterdam was full. It was a national holiday in Germany and everyone was traveling. After we got on our train in Munich, the conductor told us we absolutely could not continue on this train beyond Frankfurt.

“Anyway,” she said, “you cannot take the connecting train to Amsterdam, as it is already overbooked. I don’t know how you will get there. Good luck,” she said. Yeah, well she didn’t know who she was talking to. “You talkin’ to me?”

She did research the best chance we would have to get seats to Amsterdam. We would have to run from our train to the next one in three minutes. Picture nine people, two of them not able to lift luggage, a seven year old boy, and eighteen pieces of luggage, with three minutes to depart one train, find the platform, and board the correct car…yeah, right. I see this happening.

We knew our train would be a couple of minutes late getting to the station. Can you say, “tension”? Sure enough, we were late. The other train, which happened to use the platform adjacent to ours, was nowhere in sight. Now, ain’t this great? Wait a minute… The other train was “later” than ours. This really doesn’t happen with European trains. Hmmm…

We told you about our “Train Angel” in Prague, the one that said, “First Class this way.” Small world, another one appeared from NOWHERE. “First Class?” He began running our luggage to the place we were to board our car. By the time the train arrived, he had us all ready to board. As if that wasn’t enough, he helped pass the luggage to us through the train door. Can you say, “Gooood tip”?

So, we were all saddled up and on our way to Amsterdam. No problems this time.

This is the train we wouldn’t be able to get on, remember? Turns out, this is the exact train we would have boarded in Cologne, had we been able to continue on the first one. So, we “pre-boarded” our intended train miles ahead. Guess what? This over-booked, no room at the inn train was less than half full, a-a-a-l-l-l the way to Amsterdam. Is God good, or what?

We search, plan, organize, and pray. When our searching, planning, and organizing lets us down…praying steps up to meet our needs. God is always faithful to send the instruments needed to achieve His mission.

We made it to Amsterdam where Mark donated a Neuropack MEB 5304K (EEG machine), three IVAC Volumetric infusion pumps, Auto syringe (new in the box), and a Dia-thermocoagulator (used to cut through the skin while sealing off the blood vessels as you go during surgery). Everything has an English manual and every possible spare part. Mark went the extra 125 miles to deliver it to our hotel. Whatta guy!

It is truly a small world; Mark got married while we were in Russia and honeymooned in the United States!

Trains. Some days trains are really fun, other days trains are really not fun. On a good day, making connections and getting luggage on a train is quite a task. Now, we’ve added a roller cart that will barely, or in some cases, almost, fit through the doors. At times, the connections between trains were 3 to 5 minutes from one platform to another, down the stairs, through the hall, then up more stairs.

The train from Amsterdam to Berlin was almost empty, affording our luggage and machines a private compartment to themselves. We had a huge compartment with 10 seats and 3 tables for the journey. We spent two days in Berlin, seeing the sites and visiting Check Point Charlie.

The next challenge, Dr. Sam and Gail were leaving us and returning to the USA. We were down to 2 “porters”, 4 women, and a child…PLUS 12 pieces of luggage and 200 pounds of medical equipment.

The next miracle came by way of a ramp! Out of nine train stations we passed through, this was the only one we ever encountered that had a ramp. Donna was able to push the EEG trolley to the platform.

After the train, on a 28 hour trip to Moscow, left the station, we asked a silly question, “Where is the dining car?” “Nyet,” she said, shaking her head. Oh, this will be fun. 28 hours, no dining car. Always plan ahead. Buy bags of chips and candy bars. You will be ready for anything. Actually, we ended up picking up a dining car at a later stop.

We had a terrific time as we traveled through Germany, Poland, Belarus, and into Russia.

Unlike previous experiences, this train crew was very helpful in so many ways. But, they did laugh at us as we would get off the train when we stopped in each country, just to step on the platform. That way we can say we were in the country. By touching the ground, we can add a pin to our map of travels.

In Warsaw, we had about 5 minutes before departure. I say, “An opportunity missed is…well, an opportunity missed.” I bent my eye-ball around the side of the train. Hallelujah! A kiosk! Open ! With COLD (a relatively unknown in Europe) Coke! I ran down the platform and got all the cold Cokes I could carry. It is interesting to see how tiny luxuries become “necessities”, when you travel.

I offered the man and lady conductors a Coke, as I stepped back on the train. They were too busy laughing at the crazy Americans to take one. They graciously declined.

Back onboard, I learned something. When, with a group of Americans in Europe, one has an armload of cold Cokes, one wields great and unusual powers. Did you know you can make American adults sit up and beg like a Cocker Spaniel? Ahhh, power! But, I digress…

The most interesting occurrence on the Berlin to Moscow trip came at about 2 a.m., as our train entered a barn in Poland. Kinda like those, “Well, the spaceship came from ova thar an jest lifted ma truck up off’n the ground,” they lifted the train, removed the European wheels, and replaced them with Russian gauge wheels. There was a lot of banging and clanging, but it was all done pretty smoothly. Tanya slept through the whole thing, but what’s new about that?

Donna, Stephanie, Richard, Tanya, Jean, Hans, and I arrived in Moscow on June 3, with Don, Travis, Angela, Kristen, Myra, and Karen arriving on the 4th.

The Neuropack MEB 5304K's Excellent Adventure to Moscow and
onward to the Vladimir Children's Hospital!

I think there was a Burger King downstairs.

Sorry, no photo in here.

Waiting for the train in Amsterdam Had it's own cabin Made it up the RAMP! Changing tracks in Belarus Equipment arrives in Moscow

Click to view -The mission begins>>