IM this article to a friend!

October 29, 2003

Flash cards, interpreters help Russian

From: Peoria Journal Star, IL - Oct 29, 2003

Phil Luciano

Battered and broken, Vladimir Yarets still doesn't know how he ended up in the hospital.

But Yarets, 62, is sure about one thing: If you fall off a motorcycle, you have to get right back on. And as soon as his bones heal, the deaf and mute Russian plans to resume his ride around the world.

Visitors, interpreters and medical staff danced into and out of his room at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center on Tuesday. He's been there since a semi blasted him off his bike on Interstate 74 near LeRoy on Oct. 13.

Via the Internet, bikers nationwide have been following his progress; get-well cards cover his hospital room bulletin board. Local riding enthusiasts have been coming by to wish him well. Tuesday he sported an orange T-shirt from Midwest Choppers of Galesburg.

"He realizes he has many friends among bikers," said Dimitry Volkov, a native of Ukraine and an interpreter with Caterpillar Inc. who has been helping the hospital communicate with Yarets.

Volkov exchanges Russian notes with Yarets, who cannot read English. His mind has been foggy from a head blow and pain medication. On Tuesday afternoon, Yarets still was trying to figure out the cause of the fractures to his legs, arm and pelvis. On one of the notes, Yarets drew a cross.

"He thought he was a goner," Volkov said. "All he remembers is some good people took him to a place with a cross."

That would be St. Francis. After he was moved from the intensive-care unit to the orthopedic floor, he immediately and insistently gestured to a crucifix on the wall. Finally, nurse Missy Derham deciphered his plea.

"He wanted a cross, to hold it," she said.

Faced with such communication challenges, the nursing staff devised flash cards - one side in English, the other in Russian. The cards mostly ask simple yes-no questions, such as "Are You Hungry?" and "Do You Have Pain?"

One card, though, makes a direct order: "No Smoking."

"He was wanting to smoke at the beginning, so we had to get that across," Derham said with a smile.

Yet he's been nothing but affable.

"He's just a very happy guy," said Derham, a fellow motorcycle buff. "I can see it in his face. People come to see him, and his eyes just glow."

One of the frequent visitors has been Edwin Carrington, coordinator of the deaf-interpretation program at Illinois Central College. Because he cannot hear, Carrington has been able to understand Yarets better than other signers. He relays Yarets' messages to signers who can hear and speak, and they pass on the information to doctors and visitors.

Tuesday, Carrington tried to show Yarets the sites of the accident and the hospital on a state map spread across the hospital bed. Yarets' face scrunched up in discomfort, then his hands flew into a flurry of motions directed at Carrington.

Signer Linda Trueblood said Yarets was worried he had been beaten and drugged on the roadside. She and Carrington explained to him that the ambulance workers helped him.

"People were not trying to maliciously hurt you," Trueblood said as she signed. "They did not break your bones."

Yarets paused, then nodded and grinned.

Seconds later, he began rooting through his maps, photos and log book. In the latter, he made his last entries Oct. 13: Mattoon and Urbana.

His eyes wide with excitement, he whipped out an atlas of the world. With an index finger he traced a vague path from Illinois through Mexico and South America, then to Australia - his intended itinerary before the crash.

Yarets tells all his visitors that he still planse to complete the trip, just as soon as he gets out of the hospital. With any luck, he said, he and his repaired motorcycle will duck below the equator before winter sets up here.

For emphasis, he gave a determined thumbs-up.

©, Peoria Journal Star, Inc.