Sunday, January 18, 2004

On this and that

Second day at work. It doesn't look so bad after all. People here are very kind, polite, and they respect medical personnel highly. My dental facilities at the clinic are adequate enough, everything looks clean and shiny as the whole centre was lately refurbished and supplied with equipment by the ministry of health in coordination with the Save the Children organization. However amalgam fillings are all expired, so I'm sticking to scaling and pulling teeth (something which I'm very good at by the way, heh) while referring the other cases to Basrah. I'll let you in on a little secret while we're at it. This may seem weird coming from a dentist but I'm actualy horrified about visiting the dentist myself. I had a couple of traumatic experiences as a child and I only visit dentists now when it's really urgent.

Anyway it seems I'm the only male medical staff over here along with the pharmacist and the nurse. My boss and the rest of the doctors are women which reminds me of the expression 'slipping in oestrogen' which one of our senior dentists back in Baghdad used a lot about such occasions. He was a really funny guy. 'To be or not to be. That's surgery for you' , and 'Never depend on the patient for taking history' were also common expressions he showered us with daily. He used to shock us before the war by criticizing the regime and the situation, something which none of us ever dared to do.

I got about 25 pregnant patients today, some of them very young, as part of periodical examination procedures which also involve a bit of boring paperwork. I also got to sit down with the lovely doctor for a chat. She was happy with her work but concerned about the future. She wears a hijab but the rest of her clothing was classy. We talked about the issue of women being intimidated at college and at work to wear hijab and to dress prudishly. She admitted that some of that was indeed common around Basrah but that she personally wears it by her own will. She also said that her sister didn't. However she told me that she had a car which she can't drive anymore because her parents wouldn't allow it due to postwar circumstances. Overall it was a nice conversation and a relief from the somewhat hard work.

The doctor that was threatened two days ago by the Al-Sadr office turned out to be Sunni. The problem however was resolved completely yesterday and the sheikh apologized for his behaviour. How did this happen? One of the late night doctors drove to the Sadr office in an ambulance and bravely confronted the sheikh and demanded an explanation from him about the subpoena. He warned the sheikh that the rest of the doctors would stand with their colleague, close the hospital, and abandon the village after placing a large sign on the door that the office of Al-Sadr was responsible. The sheikh immediately reverted and apologized. He also offered two of his men to guard the hospital from now on but the doctor coldly said it was unneccessary. I still can't believe the courage of that doctor, it also returned some hope that people weren't easily fooled by religious figures in these areas and that they can actually make a difference.