ANCHORAGE, Alaska Never underestimate the power of a mother who wants to talk to her wounded son but keeps getting stonewalled by bureaucrats at a Russian hospital half a world away.
Like Girdwood, Alaska, resident Christine Bean, whose 22-year-old war-correspondent son, Winston Featherly-Bean, was among four journalists shot by Georgian separatists in South Ossetia on Sunday. Two were killed.
Working on a free-lance assignment in the embattled regional capital of Tskhinvali, Featherly-Bean was fired upon at a roadblock as he and the other journalists drove near. He suffered a bullet wound to his lower leg that shattered two bones and landed him in a hospital in the southern Russia republic of North Ossetia.
That much she'd learned through the Internet, Bean said. But her multiple calls to the hospital to either talk to her son directly, or to a doctor who could tell her more about his condition were continually frustrated Sunday and Monday. Then early in the morning on Tuesday, she finally found a way.
Bean called one of her son's Anchorage friends who is currently living in Asia (the family doesn't want to say exactly where). He called a nurse who works in the hospital where Featherly-Bean is being treated. The nurse walked down the hospital hall and handed her cell phone to the wounded Alaskan in his bed and told him to call home.
Bean's phone in Girdwood rang at about 2 in the morning.
Her son's first concern, she said, was the status of the other surviving journalist, a Georgian named Temuri Kiguradze, who works with him at The Messenger, a small English-language newspaper in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. He was shot in the arm. Their captors separated them, and Featherly-Bean now fears for his colleague's safety.
"He said, 'Mom, listen to me. I need to know if Temuri is OK. And if he isn't out of the country, you need to get him out."'
She promised she would try, Bean said, but she also fears for her son's health. He told her he has no feeling in his lower leg, and it's badly swollen. His doctor doesn't speak English, so he's not sure about his condition.
"He sounded good, but he's been feeling weaker," she said. "He doesn't know what's going on."
The separatists who shot him who may be Russian loyalists took his passport and his cell phone. But they also took him to the hospital.
"The bizarre thing is, the guy who shot Winston he came to the hospital to see him," Bean said.
She's hoping her son can be transferred to a hospital in western Europe, where a specialist can treat his leg. She's worried that he might lose his foot.
But the U.S. embassy in Moscow which contacted the North Ossetian hospital on Monday has told the family her son will probably have to remain in Russia for a couple of weeks.
"They won't let Winston leave the country without his passport ... and they've either lost it or they won't give it back," she said. "He might have to be transported to Moscow."
His cell phone has been returned, she said, but the batteries are dead and he doesn't have a charger. So the family is trying to get him one.
He'd planned to begin attending Bristol University in England this fall to study political science, Bean said. Now those plans might be in jeopardy, along with her son's health.