Sunday, June 10, 2007

"So cute", or "Out of Palestine, into Iraq"

May 30

Left: Kareem (sleeping) and Suhail

Abu Nidal gave me the standard “enjoy life” speech that every doctor gives every medical student he comes across (he’s a nurse, but everybody treats him like a doctor, as they should). It’s funny how much doctors in the US complain about how terrible their profession is, how they don’t make enough money, how they don’t have enough respect, etc. They should see doctors here: often not even enough money to own a car, having to endure the whims of an armed 18-year-old foreign soldier on their way to and from work, and having to deal with everyone else’s frustration at the situation in Palestine.

A very old woman came into the ER for a prescription gluteal injection. She was a sweet old lady, old as in her skin felt like brown paper. After Rusmaya (the nurse who reminds me of Cyra) gave her the injection she asked who I am; Rusmaya told her I’m a medical student from the US. The old lady grabbed my hand and started telling me (in Arabic, I understood only from gestures) that she has chest pains. Rusmaya started laughing and the lady smiled, realizing something was wrong, but she couldn’t figure out what. Eventually I had to pull out my standard “asaf, bhekeesh arabi” (“sorry, I don’t speak Arabic”). She started laughing too as I helped her off the table.

The world’s most adorable little girl, I’m quite sure, came into the ER today. Her father was of African origin (quite a few Palestinians are), I’m sure they’re descended from some ancient migratory workers or slaves. Regardless, I think they’re less religious on the whole than most Palestinians, so when he came in this little girl, probably five or six years old, was wearing a little denim miniskirt and a cutesy pink t-shirt. I guess I can’t accurately describe how precious she looked. Her father brought her in because she’d thrown up after falling and hitting her head; we were worried she might have an epidural hematoma, but she was fine.

Another small child, probably around one year old, came in with a very deep forehead laceration and a skull fracture with his dura mater visible. I’m actually not sure if the exposed dura was through the anterior fontanel or through an actual fracture, I can’t remember when the fontanels close. Regardless, the CT showed a small depressed skull fracture, but on x-ray the doctor said it didn’t look serious enough to warrant surgery. We sutured half the wound shut without anesthesia, then dermabonded the rest.

In the service from the hospital to duar al-Manara the guy had a little air freshener sign handing from his rear-view mirror that said “I (a heart) (a picture of a marijuana leaf)” and a plush red heart handing next to it that said “I (a heart) (a phone number I don’t remember)”. On the radio: someone discussing Islam.

Walking between the two taxis I take to get home I met a young man named Ali who just finished studying business and economics in Cairo. He was hanging out with his friend Faris at a store that Faris either works at or owns; Faris had studied with him in Cairo. Ali speaks English quite well. He’s an ambulance driver and has an uncle who lives in Austin, TX and is in the US Army, currently in Iraq. “Shhhhh…” he said, “don’t tell anyone about that.”

Musa's daughter Marwa (not to be confused with his other daughter Arwa or his oldest son Orwa) and her husband Ahmed came over for dinner with their one-month-old named Kareem. He's a beautiful little boy. There was a swirl of chaos around him as everyone tried to get a piece of him; Ayham especially is convinced that Kareem is a toy and gets righteously upset when people tell him to leave the baby alone. Kareem’s face and eyes are perpetually curious; his eyes are a deep black. His feet still have that smooth softness of newborn skin. His picture is above: pure sweetness.