As U.S. Advisor to Central Clinical Hospital of the President of the Russian Federation (CCH), I worked with my U.S. hospital partners and Russian colleagues to create a state-of-the-art International Patient Department (IPD). As a contractor, I also taught contingency planning, negotiation skills, and leadership to a cadre of future healthcare leaders.

I rented a small apartment (43 meters) not far from Red Square, at 8 Ulitsa Malaya Polyanka, and like they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.” Adjacent to the French Embassy, and the local Dannon Store, it was in a ‘safe’ area and within walking distance of two metro stations.

The Central Clinical Hospital of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation  (Центральная клиническая больница c поликлиникой Управления делами Президента Российской Федерации) (also called “Kremlin Hospital”) is a heavily guarded, 10-Corpus (building) facility in an exclusive, wooded suburban area known as Kuntsevo. Many consider CCH to be the best hospital in Russia, and my colleagues on both sides of the ocean worked diligently to make it so. Forget HIPAA…patients included Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, multiple Ambassadors, and of course, President Boris Yeltsin.

For U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, political violence was to be expected. Yet no one expected the turmoil that occurred in October of 1993 when the Russian White House burned. While Embassy staff were protected in the underground gymnasium within the compound, those of us less privileged professionals were subject to a firsthand view of the resistance.  Deadly street-fighting ensued, and the streets were cleared of as many civilians as possible.

My friends at CCH were concerned for my safety, and their goal was to ‘place me in hiding for 24 hours’ and then escort me to Sheremetyevo II Airport for a swift departure to Western Europe or the U.S. They decided that the safest place to hide would be at Michurinsky Hospital, and that while I was ‘in hiding,’ I could also provide nursing care to the wounded. Among the wounded was a reporter from The New York Post, and I gladly provided care for the young man, contacted his mother in NYC by phone, and arranged for follow-up for him once he arrived home.

Although I was accustomed to working in the NIS/CEE countries for two weeks out of every month for over 10 years, and although I had worked in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Tirana, and beyond, I did not expect to be a part of an evacuation procedure.  Although I had taught contingency planning in the International Nursing Leadership Institute (INLI), I did not anticipate practicing those contingencies myself. Forty-eight hours later, I was on a plane bound for the U.S. through Stockholm…and happy to be heading home!

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