August 30, 2010

Wards of Sickness...

Two weeks ago, I took an elderly relative of mine to the Emergency Ward, he was feeling terribly unwell and I was terribly worried...

We waited for hours before this relative was checked by a doctor, there was a long queue and he was placed in some space with temporary beds, a horizontal waiting room if you wish, filled with other patients...

My relative was given a sedative and would doze off into sleep, punctuated with whispers of pain...

Th nurse suggested that I go "home" and that the doctor will call me once he examines my relative, I categorically refused to leave him alone there, so I waited and waited...for endless hours...

During his quiet periods, I would observe those in the makeshift ward, some were screaming with pain, some were trying to breath through machines, and others were swallowing whatever that assailed them, with stoicism...

I sat there on the stiff wooden chair that left my backside numb, and observed each and every one of them...there was hardly any privacy so I was made privy to much...

One man was rushed in, with a punctured spleen, his face was a hollow white, I could tell he was internally hemorrhaging and his blood pressure was dropping fast, he was in agony...he just managed to say I fell on the pavement. Bullshit, I thought to myself, this guy was beaten up badly...

Another woman had kicked up a fuss with the police, she had advanced Alzheimer, they handcuffed her and brought her in...

Another was hallucinating about gangrene in her foot, she had swallowed over 30 tablets of tranquilizers...

One had broken a hip, the other had a foul cough and a fever, the third was way too thin and was put on IV - an anorexic woman, my guess. And here I was sitting on that stiff wooden chair that felt like a coffin, observing it all...

I did not feel like an intruder, I was part of it, I made myself a part of it, taking it all in, the blood, the mucus, the spit, the vomit, the excrements, the fever, the cough, the screams, the hallucinations, the confusion, the fear, the patience, the waiting...

After a while, I needed a short break, I went outside for a smoke...I saw a woman arriving with a bloodied face. I heard the man who was accompanying her getting angry and he tried pushing her through the revolving door towards the emergency reception desk...she pulled back, she was refusing to get any treatment for her bloodied face...

I knew that he had beaten her up, I just knew it and she was saving herself embarrassment and maybe a few lies by blaming it on a fall or something along those lines...

I walked back in, and finally our turn came. My relative was examined and was given the proper medication, it was suggested he stays a few more hours until his condition was stable and then I could take him back "home".

In the small cubicle, barely lit, eyes half opened, my relative reached out for my hand and said "thank you for being here ", he had no one, all his immediate family was back "home". Then I saw tears forming in the corners of his tired eyes and glistening like drops of fresh rain...

- Don't worry Amo (uncle in Arabic), the doctor said you will be fine, insh'Allah...

- Will I make it home alive. Will I see home again. Will I see Baghdad again ? he murmured, as if addressing Fate, Destiny, the Invisible...

I stayed silent, pretending not to hear...

He added, this time more audibly - I want to be buried there.

Amo, look, al Hamdulillah, there are doctors here, there are nurses, you received a good treatment, the ward is clean, the staff caring, we did not need to bribe anyone for you to get examined, I did not need to rush to the black market to get you an IV or a syringe or some medication, imagine had you been back "home", what would have happened !? There are no doctors left back "home", no nurses, at best you would have been examined by a junior medical student, if we ever made it to the hospital in the first place, past checkpoints and searches, past militias and ID exams, past interrogations and barracks...just imagine...your cubicle would be shared with cockroaches and there are no oxygen masks, to cover up the smell of filth...

He managed a laugh...and said -- yes ya bintee you are right...al Hamdullillah. Their situation back "home" is nothing to be envious about...but they are in their "homes".

I said nothing, I left him in his wishful thinking, addressing the Invisible and thought to myself, yes they are in their homes -- in permanent wards of sickness and death.