This morning I was looking on webmd for advice on relieving the back pain I’m feeling right now. It is my go to place for medical advice for several reasons, not the least of them what happened to me a few years ago. Recognize I don’t live in this particular country anymore, but trauma to this extent (I still have the occasional nightmare) knows no boundaries. Webmd makes me feel better.
A friend of mine needed her gall bladder removed. She went to a local, national hospital for the procedure. The next day, I went to visit her. I entered the hospital prepared to tell the receptionist who I needed to see, only to discover that he was asleep under the desk. As I surveyed the room, I saw several giant medical devices older than I am littered throughout the cramped lobby. Upon discovering the elevator, I pressed the button, only to discover that it didn’t work. So I began my trudge up the three flights of stairs where her husband would meet me.
As I left the stairwell dripping in sweat from the high summer temperatures and no air conditioning, I was assaulted with a stench so putrid, there simply are no words to describe it. Used medical tools were strewn about every surface, including the floor. We carefully tiptoed our way to the large room that housed his beloved wife, along with a dozen other ladies, waiting a few minutes for all the ladies to be sufficiently covered before a man entered. Wide-eyed and nauseous, I walked over to my friend’s bed. There was no sheet on the stained mattress. No pillow case on the yellowed pillow. Only a fuzzy blanket covering her injured body. The oxygen tube running to her nose was crusty and full of tears and holes.
I was mortified. I was so beyond my comfort zone as it relates to hospital visits that “fight or flight” was kicking in. Right then, flight was sounding really good. But, I swallowed my fears and the bile that had risen in my throat, determined to bring comfort. We talked. We prayed together. And then she said something that I didn’t understand. My Arabic is pretty good, but there are holes. Like the names of organs. She said something I didn’t get and did what normally works for me – I nod my head and wait for my comprehension to catch up to what’s being said. It usually doesn’t take long. However, this time I just wasn’t quite getting what she was saying. Then her husband reached under the bed for a plastic grocery bag with newspaper in it and bolted out the door. Curious, I stood there waiting for some verbal cue that would help me understand what was going on. She carefully took the newspaper out of the bag and began unfolding it. Just as I realized what was happening, she pulled out a dark brown,very strange looking item that was her gall bladder. It took every ounce of energy in my body not to pass out at that moment. I stared at the afflicting body part as I shakily told her that I needed to be going. I prayed quickly and then walked out of the room before darting down to the lobby and out the door for some fresher air. (I say fresher because the air outside was just as stiflingly hot, just not as odious.)
And so I have a phobia of all things clinical.