In his own lifetime, Leo Tolstoy’s best-selling book was not War and Peace or Anna Karenina, which sold by thousands to middle-class Russians. But his book Azbuka, sold by hundreds of thousands to schools and to the poor: it was a collection of tales and instructions which transformed children’s education among the largely illiterate population of nineteenth-century Russia. It contains several hundred parables written by Tolstoy himself. Here I try to write a Tolstoy story inspired by the ORBITA trial.
In the city of Kardiograd lived a metalworker called Stentov. One day he heard that people were dying because of blocked pipes in their hearts. “I know how to unblock pipes!” said Stentov, so he went to his little workshop and made tiny tubes of mesh from special metals. These he sold in hundreds to all the hospitals in Kardiograd. People no longer died from their blocked pipes, and Stentov grew rich. He built himself several factories and a big white house and was attended by many servants.
But Stentov wanted more. So he said to the people of Kardiograd: “You are fools to wait for your heart pipes to block completely! By using my tubes—which you do me the honour of calling stents—you can keep them open and live longer.” He found that he did not need to bribe the doctors of Kardiograd to spread his message, because they all quickly got richer by putting in his tubes. And Stentov would often invite them to dine at his mansion, where they would be served caviar and oysters and the finest champagne.
Stentov built more factories and another, bigger mansion. And yet all he could think of was how to become richer. He coated his mesh tubes with magic substances and claimed that they would save even more people. However, they would cost ten times as much. The hospitals of Kardiograd rushed to buy them, but soon found that they blocked more easily than the old tubes. “That is because you are not using my magic antidote!” said Stentov, and he opened yet more factories to make the antidote. The antidote worked, and for many years Stentov grew richer and richer selling his new tubes.
But the people of Kardiograd, began to murmur among themselves. “Everybody in this city has become poor, except the doctors and Stentov, who owns more than the rest of us put together!” they said. And then someone cunningly arranged for a doctor to pretend he was putting in Stentov’s tubes when he was just puncturing the skin. The patients left rejoicing, thinking that their lives had been saved, whereas nothing at all had been put inside them. And afterwards they walked as fast and lived as long as those who had been given the Stentov tube treatment.
When the people of Kardiograd heard of this, they grew very angry. “Why have we let ourselves be led like donkeys by this metalworker who calls himself a miracle worker?” cried one. “This man would sell us the very dung of a bull to buy gold braid for his coachman!” cried another, and they began to throw turnips at Stentov.