Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Author's International Travel Inspires Prescription in Russian

I've met award-winning author Mona Risk at RWA National and as a member of Heartbeat, RWA’s Medical Chapter. Mona’s travels inspire her, and her writing inspires us. Please welcome Mona Risk to the Five Scribes as she shares with us some of the health problems and difficult situations she discovered in that part of the world and reported in her novel, PRESCRIPTION IN RUSSIAN.

On one of my business trips to Belarus, I visited my driver’s wife, Oxana, at the hospital after she gave birth to their baby girl, Anastasia. Upon learning that local hospitals couldn’t afford to provide substantial meals to the patients and distributed only soup, bread and sausage for lunch and dinner, I went with the new dad to buy healthy food and vitamins for the new mother. She chose me to be her daughter’s godmother.

One day, I was stunned to see her breastfeeding a different baby, and then another. During the week Oxana spent at the hospital after her delivery, the nurses brought her seven newborns to breastfeed. Yes, you read it right. Seven. She explained that these were babies abandoned by their single mothers. My heart broke at the sight of these babies who would soon be sent to overcrowded orphanages and I used that information in my novel.

While visiting Oxana at the hospital, I observed the rooms, halls, equipment and learned about the maintenance and regulations of a medical facility.

The numerous notes I took helped me create interesting scenes in my new book PRESCRIPTION IN RUSSIAN.

Come and discover a Belarusian hospital through my novel.

“I’m Jillian Burton, from the American Health Delegation,” she said, praying that she sounded like her usual self—the collected rational woman she’d been ten minutes ago. A career-oriented pediatrician and neonatologist who steered clear of charming men—unless the charming male was a newborn baby.

“Dr. Burton. Welcome to Minsk.” He greeted her in accented but fluent English. “I am Fyodor Vassilov, Director of the Minsk Solidarity Hospital.”

His smile brightened the dimly lit room. And her shadowed heart.

The Health and Safety nurses who’d injected her with a dozen vaccines had forgotten to immunize her against the mind-crippling power of his smile.


Jillian surveyed the room while he commented on the items required to modernize his hospital. She was the expert with the responsibility to determine the facility’s needs. How would she evaluate his hospital equipment?

In spite of his good sense, he wanted to impress the lovely Dr. Burton. He wanted her to think the best of his hospital...and its director.

“We can raise and lower the bed with this handle,” he added with pride.

Jillian approached the bed and rotated the handle. A metallic screech filled the silence. Damn bed. Fyodor hoped she didn’t notice his blush as she played with the handle. Why did he feel as if he must pass a test? It wouldn’t have bothered him to admit weakness in front of an older colleague.

“I’ll add automated beds to the list of equipment to be shipped to your hospital,” she said, her tone calm, revealing no arrogance or criticism. “Dr. Vassilov, I’ll do my best to modernize the place while I’m here.”


Dr. Burton, would you like to examine her? I hear the baby’s heart, but—” Fyodor’s mouth thinned in a frustrated line as he fingered his old stethoscope. Jillian assessed the medical tool hanging on Fyodor’s chest and abstained from comments.

A modern stethoscope, the most accurate brand, would now top her list. “Yes, of course.” She placed the metallic disc of her own stethoscope on the young woman’s skin and carefully listened. “Yep. I hear the baby loud and clear.”


In the pre-op room, Fyodor stopped in front of the sidewall sink, washed his hands, and dried them, while Jillian scanned the shelf, fidgeted around displacing various items, and then squatted to open a lower cabinet.

“Hurry up. What are you looking for?”

“Where do you keep the scrub kits?”

“Scrub kits?” Arching an incredulous eyebrow, he took her hand, turned it over, and dropped the soap in her open palm. “To scrub, we wash our hands carefully, and then we rub them with alcohol.” He gratified her with an amiable smile. “Simple and efficient. Now come.”

Scrub kits. Another item to add to the list for the next shipment to Belarus.


The C-section had been a relatively normal procedure without neonatal complications for the baby and hadn’t required special skills on her part. Still astounded by his one-man-band performance, Jillian smiled behind her mask. Surgeon, OBGYN, and anesthesiologist.

“Absolutely amazing.”

He removed his gown and cap and tossed them in a basket.

“You can throw yours in too.” He pointed at the basket. “The hospital orderlies will collect them and wash them in boiling water to sterilize them.”

Disposable gowns and caps. More items to add to her list.


“The patient is gone. She left her baby.” Olga twitched her mouth. “One more,” she muttered.

“What do you mean, ‘gone’?”

The nurse shrugged. “She left the hospital and abandoned her child.”

“Oh my God, that’s horrible. On the other hand—” Jillian shook her head, recalling the young woman’s desperation during their last conversation. “She’d already tried to kill herself and the baby. We can’t expect a rational explanation.” Her voice trembled with compassion.

She’d seen similar cases in Haiti where single mothers, too young and too poor, ran away from their responsibilities.

“Single mothers abandon their babies every day in Belarus.” Olga raised her hand in a fatalistic gesture. “Last month, seven women delivered and ran away the next day leaving their newborns behind. A sad situation. Very frequent here,” Olga said with a sigh.

“Okay, so what do you normally do in similar situations?” Jillian asked Fyodor, who’d remained unusually quiet, his arms crossed, a piece of paper crumpled in his fist.

“Unfortunately, the usual solution in my country. The orphanage.”

A solution that sentenced an innocent baby to a loveless childhood.


“What is the last name?” the head nurse said.

Jillian shrugged. “I have no idea. Her mother hasn’t filled in a birth certificate. We’ll call her Natasha.”

“I see. Another abandoned infant.” Galina snorted. “There are already three Natashas in the NICU and a dozen in the regular nursery. I will put O beside her name.”

“Why O?”

O for orphanage, where she will be heading soon,” the nurse stated matter-of-factly.

“No.” Like a mother hen, Jillian could not suppress her cry of outrage at the thought of someone hurting the baby now under her protection. “She’s not going to any orphanage.”


An American Pediatrician

A Russian Surgeon

A woman who lost a son and her illusions about marriage and family.

A man with four adorable sons who badly need a mother

Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?

“Mona Risk writes heroes with heart, heroines with spunk in stories and settings that are simply unforgettable!" -- Roxanne St. Claire, Killer Curves, National Bestseller.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON finalist.
Rx IN RUSSIAN just released by TWRP: http://thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=4451



Mona Risk said...

Thank you so much Donnell for hosting me at your beautiful blog. I have regularly followed the interesting articles you posted.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Mona,
All your stories are great, but this latest one, wow. Those poor little abandoned babies tug at my heart strings and the lack of what we considered basic medical facilities and equipment. And the really tragic thing is that it is true.



Mona Risk said...

Hi Margaret, glad you like my book. Seeing these difficult 'situations' made an impact on me. I couldn't not talk about them, but I tried to maintain a light tone in the novel.

Donnell said...

Mona, this is an incredible story. It's my pleasure to host. And I certainly can see why you were compelled to write it. While we get the word out, do you know if any organizations exist to lend aid? Thanks so much!

P.L. Parker said...

I love this story Mona - and hearing about your travels is so wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Edie Ramer said...

Mona, wow! This excerpt is great. I feel for those abandoned babies, and I feel for their futures. My grandparents came from Russia, and I'm so glad they left. I've never felt an inclination to go back.

Mona Risk said...

Donnell, I don't know about names of organizations, but I know many American couples who adopted babies from Belarus.

Mona Risk said...

PL I am so happy you enjoyed my book. This story was very dear to my heart as I experienced first-hand some of the scenes I described.

Mona Risk said...

Edie, in spite of the difficult conditions, I fell in love with the Belarus. The hospitality of the people is amazing. I made so many friends there who treated me like a family member.

Liz Lipperman said...

Wonderful excerpt, Mona, and what a compelling story. My niece adopted two Russian orphans and both of them had problems of some kind, probably related - at least in small part - to the fact they didn't get the bonding necessary in those first few months. Both problems are being worked out, BTW, and the children are adorable

My heart goes out to these precious babies. If anyone knows how to go about adopting them, email me at Liz@LizLipperman.com. I'll spread the word.

Mona Risk said...

Liz, I am so glad your niece is enjoying her adopted children. If you have the name of an adoption agency for Russian babies would you mind sharing it on this blog?

I hope you will enjoy my book available at amazon.com

Celia Yeary said...

Mona--I loved the excerpt...so interesting and sad, but happy, too, that the doctor could do such a good job with so little. Sometimes...do we overdo medical care a little bit? No, I don't think so. I thank God every day for modern medical procedures.
The story sound so sweet and loving--Celia

Mona Risk said...

Celia I admire how foreign doctors could do so much with so little. But then I'll always remember my granfather telling us so often: "the doctor said the surgery was successful but the patient died of complications." Going to the hospital was a death sentence in some countries. I hope you find the time to relax from your heavy schedule and enjoy my book.

Mary Marvella said...

Wonderful excerpts! We are so lucky!

Mona Risk said...

Hi Mary, God Bless Amrica is what I say after I return home from a trip overseas.

Maggie Toussaint said...

I love Jillian's spunk. She isn't going to send Natasha to an orphanage, no sirree.

Your international books are amazing, Mona. I enjoy them all.


Mona Risk said...

Hi Maggie, I am so glad you approve of my heroine. I gave her a lot of my daughter's spunk and character, and her professional career, but that's it. Jillian has her own problems and story.

Sharon Archer said...

Great blog, Mona and Donnell!

Your story about the woman in hospital feeding those poor wee babies before they went off to the orphanage is really wrenching, Mona. And the excerpts from your book are terrific. It makes me realise how very lucky we are to live in countries with social welfare programs.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mona, my niece adopted the babies about ten years ago. I'll try to get in touch with her and see if she still has the name. Since then, they also adopted a Guatemalan child.

Mona Risk said...

Sharon, thank you for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed my excerpts.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Liz, if you find the agency's name, I 'll send it to the people who requested the information. Thank you.

Mona Risk said...

Dear Donnell, thank you for a wonderful time on your blog.

Liana at livingwithpmdd.com said...

Mona, you make me feel like I am right there with them in the hospital. My heart goes out to those babies.