Sunday, April 9, 2017

Doctor! Doctor!

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is a combo of both a health update and reiteration that life in Egypt is often crazy.  If you haven't read the previous post about my problems with my ear, read Without Sujud.

Problems are like a swim out into the open water.  As long as you swam out, is how long you will have to swim back.  Health problems that took weeks, months, or years to accumulate won't be fixed in a day.  My Eustachian tube issues have been a long swim back.

The last time I wrote about what was going on, it was that I had missed a doctor's appointment.  Rather, I had been there, but he had already left.  I hadn't just missed the appointment, I had missed the entire person being there!  It's Egypt and workers on all levels do as they feel.  He had felt like leaving after 15 minutes, so he did.

For our next appointment, after another week on (unprescribed) antibiotics, I showed up plenty early.  We were shown to a dark waiting area and sat listening to the nurse on her mobile talking to her man.  I got to know her home life pretty intimately, and it was a bit embarrassing.  She had thought that if she were crouched behind the receptionist desk, I wouldn't hear her.  It's was a little like how small children cover their own face and say, "You can't see me!"

The doctor came out twice to get help.  First, he needed an examination instrument.  Next, it was a prescription pad.  Each time, Chatty had to get up, tell her beloved to wait a minute, shuffle off to find what he needed and shuffle back.  While the mobile has improved the lives of Egyptians, it hasn't exactly improved productivity.

By the third time the doctor stuck his head out of the door, and she wasn't available, he lost it.  He made a loud declaration that he couldn't work in such a place and stormed out.  I had been watching the whole show and now needed to jump into action if I wanted an ear examination.

"Doctor!  Doctor!"  I was yelling out to him as I ran after him through the small hospitals's corridor.  He either didn't hear me or was completely disregarding me.  I kept after him and now we were in the street.

"Doctor, don't you remember me?"  I was speaking in English and he was ignoring me in defiance.  He had now jumped in his car and I was standing there.

"Please, Doctor.  My ear!  You have to look at my ear!"

If I had stood in front of his car, he would have run me over.  He was that determined to get the hell out of there.  In hindsight, whatever problems the lackadaisical nurse might have been, the doctor had many more problems of his own.

Now his inability to treat his patients, meant that I had no answers on my ear.  I still had too much of a blockage that made it harder to hear than I wanted to admit.  If I didn't have a qualified doctor to diagnose me, then I was back to treating myself without a license.

I slowly walked back from the street scene to the hospital.  Upon returning, my husband, thankfully, was not mad at me, despite the fact that I, as his hijabi wife, had chased after a man.  There was another scene inside the reception area.  The rotund owner of the hospital, a friend of my husband's brother, was now involved.

I laid into him, "Do you want patients to come and pay money at this hospital?"

He answered the only way any health care administrator could ever answer, "Of course."

"Because I have money and I want to pay you money, but I can't if there's no doctor.  It is not professional here."  I looked at the crowd listening to us.  There was Chatty, so I switched to Arabic and took my frustrations out on her.

"It's her fault!  She is the one who didn't help the doctor. She was on her phone talking to her love and it was weird for us in the waiting area.  Unprofessional!  She should be fired to show everyone how to work correctly!"

The nurse was one cool customer and didn't bat an eyelash.

The hospital administrator told me that he could get me another doctor that same day to see me.  I would have to come back in a couple of hours.  Our appointment had been 4:30 and now we would return at 6:30.  There went my time correcting papers!

What was I going to do?  My husband kept laughing over my dash with the doc.  I was less enthused.  Who was this next doctor going to be, and was I ever going to get relief?

At 6:15, again we walked, just the two of us, to our local hospital.  I hate a lot of aspects to living in our neighborhood, but I love much more.  Being able to walk to the hospital is such a blessing.  I'll never forget when we had to run El Kid over to get stitches when he lost a fight with the corner of the wall.

Again, we waited.  I don't wait very well.  I always think of Mr. Roger's song, "Let's think of something to do while we're waiting."  I cleaned out my purse of all the stupid accumulations.

A woman arrived in some state of shock or spasms.  Not sure what was going on, but she looked frozen with apoplexy.  Her family was surrounding her.  If you've never seen a person in need of medical attention in Egypt, then let me tell you:  a crowd of unhelpful people gather and make the situation worse every time.  My husband kept invoking God next to me as we had a view to the whole sad situation.

Some car accident victims walked in, the walking wounded.  They were fixed up and sent back.

In the midst of all these troubles, I saw Chatty, the nurse from before.  She hadn't gotten fired.  Silly me!  We don't fire people in Egypt for incompetency, or no one would be left holding a job.  She was fine, so I sent a loud greeting of "Asalamu Alaykom" her way.  She turned and answered back.  We faced each other in a kind of détente.  Islam helps us through those awkward moments when we really have a lot of things we could say, but there isn't time or there isn't the ability.

The new doctor arrived!  Up until this point, I hadn't been 100% sure that another doctor existed.  There he was.  He was younger and, for a change, he was headed into the hospital not out.  Basically, that was all I needed.

There was more!  He was fluent in English---although all doctors are supposed to be, they are not always keeping conversational since there aren't so many English speakers here now.  He listened to me and my descriptions of a crackling in my ear.  He then showed me his laptop and his camera.  He would be taking a video of my ear.

Say what?!

Yes, I was zooming from the 20th Century with the previous doctor to the 21st Century with this doctor.  I was trading up for sure!  How incredible technology is---and how strange.  To see what's going on inside your own body?!  It's slightly miraculous.  I'm glad that I had cleaned out any wax beforehand as that would have been tantamount to having not cleaned the apartment before guests arrived.

The tricky part, as always, with wearing a hijab and seeing a doctor is that the hijab often has to be removed.  It feels as strange to me as if I were removing all my clothes.  It just does.  The saving grace is that I never am asked to remove it completely.  I simply pull up whichever side or area that needs examination.  I retain as much privacy and modesty as I can.  My husband has no problem with this.

Sure enough, there was the problem.  I could see it on the video he took.  There was water behind my ear drum.  Everything else was fine.  I simply needed to clear that water out.  It sounded simple, but it would be a barrage of medicines and chewing gum.  Chewing gum??  Yep.

"What about the antibiotics?"  I asked.

"You don't need those.  You probably never needed those, "answered the doctor.

I thought of those four rump shots from which I had only now recovered.

After thanking him, and agreeing to return in two weeks, we left the hospital.  This time, at the pharmacy, my husband had more patience.  We returned home together (instead of him walking away) and we were a little more hopeful.  We had gotten a better doctor, a more insightful diagnosis, and inshahallah better medicine.

We are told that when God takes away, we are given better.  It's absolutely true!  It really is.  I was ready to run after a man who couldn't help me.  What if he had acquiesced to my imploring?  I would have been the loser.  It was right---even though it felt wrong at the time---for him to drive off.  He didn't have the ability to help me and the other doctor did.


After two weeks, my ear is better.  It's not completely cured.  I don't know why.  We will return to the hospital another time to try to pinpoint why.  It's a problem that was left without proper treatment for too long, so inshahallah, it will get better over time, as I swim back to shore.