How to get blood and other secrets of a vampire
Interview with Andrei Mare, a medical student vampire and ghostwriter /spooky music in the background/
MARIA: Good evening, good evening, let’s open your coffin, Count Dracula… Yeah, you have quite glamorous, white teeth, but don’t bite me, please! Maybe it’s time to show everybody who lives in the land of vampires and what happens in the darkest corners of this country… Welcome, Andrei, would you like to confess who you are in your free of attacking innocent people time and what do you do in your daily life besides polishing your coffin?
ANDREI: It is actually night because I cannot get out when the sun is still shining. And that’s why I love winters: low sun exposure through day. And thank you, I have just brushed my teeth after a meal, as per dentist’s recommendation. When I am not scorching the earth as a vampire, I live undercover as a year 4 Med Student at the Uni of Arad, a western Romanian city near Timișoara. This year I was appointed as a leader of a group of 9 students. I am responsible for each of them during uni times. I also have been more active lately in my NGO after I have had the opportunity to attend a Study Session in Strasbourg. I was informally appointed as a youth leader in my association because of my communication skills (or at least that’s what I like to think). I got to organize a weekend meeting at a ski resort alongside with other members of the NGO who are parents of CI users aged 1-18 years. My team is not yet officially pinned to board, but that’s only a start. I want to run for an official seat in Directorial Committee of my NGO and then try to create a wing for adult CI and other aids users. For example they are VERY keen to meet each other again as often as possible. So I think I will continue doing this work because it helps me to learn more about people and hone my communication and organization skills. I like what I do besides polishing my coffin with olive oil and lemon juice.
OK, thank you for assuring me that you have just eaten now - I feel way safer than before! What kind of tasks do you have as a head of group? What does it mean in the medical context that you and your group are searching for fresh blood to use at night? (Oh, and do you recommend olive oil and lemon juice to preserve quality of wood?)
My duties as a head of group involve doing roll call and logging attendance, which means checking that everyone shows up for classes and internships. I am also a liaison between my group and the year chief, teachers and teacher assistants. And blood... I want to keep it secret for now (smiles with canine teeth barely visible).
(moans of disappointed vampires that won't get know this secret)
I would leave it to professionals to care for wood with full cycle of polishing. I cannot just leave the coffin outside to dry, as I have to be in it before sunrise. So that’s a perfect compromise for me: white wine vinegar, olive or menthol oil and a touch of lemongrass essence for a pleasant smell while I sleep inside.
That's magnificent solution to not let the coffin get too dry, but I suppose that's not something super popular in Romania. Jokes aside, being a Med Student sounds like a lot of responsibility. Why did you choose this field?
Yes. It is a lot of responsibility. You can't just cut anyone you want open to see the blood spurting out. Why did I choose this field? Long story short: when I was very young, my hearing was destroyed by a medical error (or malpractice as it is called), and it made my life a bit harder. I want to be able to help people understand what happens in their or their loved ones bodies.
How do you cope with obstacles of being a hard of hearing person, considering that doctors use surgical masks?
Since you mentioned surgical masks... it's pretty interesting that some doctors do not really talk during surgeries as they are focused on what they are doing and just point to their instruments. There are talkative doctors as well, but I don’t really have a problem understanding the doctor because it is not only the surgeon in the room and I can look at another member who is not wearing a mask. We mostly communicate with gestures and if we know the protocol, giving and receiving instructions is very easy.
Whoa, you broke a stereotype that a HoH person cannot assist during surgery because they cannot communicate with doctors! Are there any other things that harder, or on the contrary, easier for you?
I don’t want to be praised for breaking stereotypes. We are just humans, we can find ways to work together. Here’s a link to a video from a developed country: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwDvgFrbY5w I also heard about a surgeon who trained his deaf brother as a surgical nurse and communicates with him using signs. The most difficult part for me is when I have to use a stethoscope and cannot really get the sound through my mics, and also when I listen to people with thick accent or unclear speech (a common issue in general practice). But for me, as a visual learner, it is easier to perform thorough visual assessment.
Which specialization are you interested in most?
I am eager to become an ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon or a Psychiatrist.
It seems you are interested in two completely different specializations - one physical, one mental. When do you have to choose one of them?
True, being an ENT surgeon is more practical and I already know how to work with deaf patients and their families. I’m looking to do rounds here to better understand what it takes to be in this field. The mental health one is more challenging and, frankly, an uncharted territory and I like to explore new difficult things, talking to people with various personalities and trying to cooperate with them. I once met Jesus and Lucifer in the same saloon. Sheer joy of doing rounds in a Psych ward... I will have to choose after I finish my 6th year and take a major residency exam that scores residents and matches them with open positions throughout country’s medical system.
Was it difficult to get into med studies?
Yes. It was difficult to get admitted to Med Uni. Actually after 3-4 failed attempts to get into med studies, I got admitted with the highest score at Nutrition & Dietetics studies and in the third year of studying I said to myself... why not to start Med studies? That summer came... and I got in, again with the highest score. And I don’t regret failing before.
Well, never a failure, always a lesson, huh? We already talked about your communication skills as one of possible reasons to be appointed as a youth leader in your association. What is most important in communication?
From my point of view, an important skill is empathy and unbiased balance. Not: I know what you feel now, but: I think I can understand what you are feeling, please ask for help if you feel that you need it.
How did you find your NGO?
I was about 9 years old and one year post CI surgery when my mother got in touch with this NGO. At 13, I attended the first camp organized by them in a remote forest pension. I had good time here.
What kind of support does it provide to CI users and their parents? Suppose I am a mom of a CI user, I found your NGO and then whaaaaat?
The NGO can help you to get specialized help and guide you through the bureaucracy of utilizing your rights as a HoH user. It also gives you contacts for various CI and hearing aids and connects you with speech therapists to help HOH integrate in the society. As if you were a mother of a child with a CI, hypothetically, and you contacted us: we give your child possibility to attend summer and/or winter camps where they interact with other children. Parents can learn about their rights as parents of children with hearing impairments. Of course after applying for membership.
Did being in NGO, amongst like-minded people help you to integrate in the society?
Yes, they affected me. I think bigger role was that of my parents or grandparents and childhood friends who helped me to understand the hearing world better. Juggling both worlds unfortunately takes a toll on my mental energy as I continue being a double agent, but I still got it flowing and being a good member of the society.
Of a very special society haunted by weird creatures… Do you have other traditions except vampire cult here?
Frankly, we are mostly known outside of our country for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but we have more folk stories than that - mascatii (masked men), a tradition that can be traced back to hundreds years ago. At the beginning of every New Year they would go out and go around the village wearing scary big masks with extremely large cow bells or various banging instruments, just for the purpose of scaring old year and welcoming New Year. Ah. We are still in January, so... /puts a mask on and rings a huge cow bell/ GET AWAY YOU OLD YOU!
I’m not THAT OLD to be simply scared away!!! /splutter/ OK, it’s about time to leave this conversation due to the coming sunrise… Dear Andrei, thank you for your story, we’re looking forward to meet you when darkness falls again! May the sun never touch your pale skin…
/both disappear while sun starts gently shining through the window/