April the 9th was a day full of gusty, head winds as I cycled North from Novi Sad to Sombor. After cycling at a pitiful 6 miles per hour against my old enemy for a few hours, I pulled into a small cafe / bar in a lovely Serbian village called Silbas to warm up, rest and replenish my caffeine levels. Inside there was a mix of local people and young travellers chatting the day away or sheltering from the bad weather. Non of the inhabitance spoke English, but all were typically Serbian i.e. Very friendly, open and incredibly enthuestic about attempting breaking the language barrier with a game of “what would you like you drink” charades.
After “I would like a large expresso with milk and a glass water” was conveyed through the medium of sweeping hand gestures and clearing throat noises, two of the patrons (who looked rather like permeant fixtures) spoke to me in Serbian. I opened my coat and pulled out my iPhone and though the magic of google translate we entered conversation.
They where really nice chaps, who where on a day off from working on the Serbian railways, we had lots to talk about when we found a common ground – food. The conversation progressed and I just happened to mentioned that I was a pharmacist – at once, one of the duo asked if I could look at his “problem”. With some intrepidation I agreed – hoping that in Serbia, unlike the UK, that it would be a good idea to take a look at a strange man’s “problem” in some bar you’ve never been to!
No sooner as I agreed to have a look, then the man started to loosen his belt, and take off his jumper. With some relief I am glad to say his undressing stopped there! Once he had liberated his right arm from his jumper, he pointed with his thumb to a large lump in the centre of his back. Now, I have to admit, I work in a hospital, and I have never attend a general medicinal clinic so my practical knowledge of diagnostics is relatively poor – but what the man was pointing to was what looked like a large, non-infected, serbasious cyst. It was cold to touch, he had no history of weight loss, heamoptysis, pain and hadn’t coughed once in the hours conversation we had just had. I told him that I strongly believed that it was just a serbasious cyst, but he should visit his doctor (someone in a far better position to identify a cyst then me) to asses it. My ulterior motive for my topless friend was, in view of his heavy smoking, for him to get a general health check up. I said that I was pretty sure it was cyst and, if it was, the doctor would make a small cut in the lump and remove the fluid inside. My friend asked would it hurt – I said he wouldn’t feel anything as it would be done with some local anaesthetic.
He turned to his friend, with a nervous look on his face, he explained, with wide sweeping action of his hand – their going to cut me open with a sward at the doctors surgery! At this point I realised that this consaltation wasn’t going perticulty well! So, to try to allay his fear of “the sward wielding doctor” I showed him the procedure on YouTube (for those of you with a strong constitution click here). He saw that it was a small incision and quick procedure. He intensely watched the video twice, then started typing a response into the translation software. His allayed finger typed, corrected and retyped a message, then he handed the device to me with a message simply reading “can you please do it” – while pointing at the bar (which I assumed he was proposing to be a make shift operating table!).
Not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings, or let my profession down, I typed back a message to his explaining that I was a pharmacist not qualified to do a procedure like this and that anyway it would have to be done using anaesthetic. I handed my iPhone back to my “patient” and he pushed his lips together and nodded, said “no problem” in English and started to type a reply on my phone. Just before he returned the phone to me he said something in Serbian to his friend and the bar lady, who both laughed. He gave me my iPhone with the words “no problem – we have Serbian anesthetic!” – I looked up from the LCD display to be presented to an unlabelled, clear bottle of home brewed Serbian whisky and three large crystal glasses.
Before this descended into farce I decided that I really should make sure this chap went to his doctor, as there was no way I was going to cut open his cyst, on a bar in the middle of no where! So with my message back to my patient, I politely, but flatly refused to do it, but not before I tried a large glass of the local “anaesthetic” of course…..
If fact my patient was the sweetest man, as he explained said he though he had pneumonia and was really worried about his “problem”. In fact judging by the look on his face I think he thought his life was in danger. He explained that he didn’t want to go to the doctor because he was scared of what he would be told. Both of the chaps, where great company, and we shared food and insisted on buying me my coffees – a great memory of lovely people.
Thanks guys for reading