Saturday, June 30, 2007

Apnea and Heat

June 19

I’ve stopped trying to remember which procedures I saw in the OR on any given day. Today I observed an orthopedic surgeon for most of the day, he was a complete asshole. Not to me, but to literally everyone else. If his assistant didn't do something or didn't do something fast enough this guy would fly off the handle, waving the bone drill wildly around, etc. The one time he couldn't reduce someone's fractures with pins from the outside and had to open his finger he took the drill and slammed it down on the sterile instruments table, knocking several pieces of equipment to the floor.

It's not that I don't try to remember which procedures I saw because they're not interesting, it’s just that by the time I get back up to the residents’ changing room I can’t be bothered to write them down. It's so hot here now. I wake up practically naked and uncovered because it's too hot to cover yourself with anything. The downside is a set of fresh new mosquito bites. I've had a fan on me all night, but still I'm already sweating. By the time I get outside the sun has been in the sky for several hours; walking down the hill I sweat a little more. I then cram myself into a service filled with other hot sweaty people (air conditioning is an unheard of luxury here, the only place I've found it is in the operating theaters at Ahli, and they're usually off). The hospital itself is hot, but not punishing. I leave the hospital and get into another packed service. I get to the city center between 2:30 and 3:00 pm; it's hot like you expect hell to be. I walk about 100 yards and get in another service, heading for Fawwar. I get out of the service, thinking "today is different, I'll be fine, no worries." Then I start to climb the hill to Musa's house. By some cruel twist of fate, despite the many houses on this hill there is no way to walk up it in the shade, so for ten minutes I slog up this stupid incline, one step at a time, with the sun trying to kill me the whole way. I come to the same tree every day, so grateful it hasn't somehow disappeared since that morning, and wait in its shade for a minute. Then I go the rest of the way. I feel like dying when I finally get to Musa's door: I'm not out of breath so much as ready to collapse from exhaustion. When I walk into the house the sweat pours faster than it did outside. I go back to my bedroom, disrobe and spend the next ten minutes staring at the small spare fan Musa gave me. I then put my clothes back on, walk out of the room, say "har ekteer" ("it's very hot") to the first person I see, and plop down on a couch. The couch and the house are hot. Eventually the sun goes down, but the house stays hot (it's designed this way so that it stays at least a little bit warmer in the winter than the outside). I take a shower (every other day...) but the humidity only makes me sweat more. I go to bed practically naked, still sweating. There's just no respite from the heat here, which I think is what makes it so harsh.

Dr. Harb, one of the physicians in the ER (the one who told me the joke about the penis not having a bony support) gave me a ride home today. On the way we happened to see the guy who works in the cashier's office at Ahli, and so we picked him up. As soon as the guy got in the car he started talking about Hamas and Fatah, what he was saying I have no idea. Dr. Harb stopped so the guy could buy some bread; after he got out Harb looked at me and said, “He likes to talk. You know, if you watch the news, you listen to the radio, you think the world is *he gestures, trying to think of a word* on fire. Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, everywhere. But when you walk in the street, you go home, you go to work, you see that life continue.”

The guy got back in the car and we headed for Fawwar; immediately he started talking about Gaza again. We dropped him off before I got out. A few minutes after he left the car Dr. Harb told me he wants to go to work in Dubai for three or four years. “You'll make more money there,” I said, since he has repeatedly asked me how much money he would need to spend two weeks in the US as a tourist.

“Maybe,” he said, and shrugged. “But I want to go somewhere that the life isn't so difficult. I feel that the situation here gives me, yani, apnea,” meaning it stops him from breathing.