In which fave chicken place leads me to VIP hospital treatment

….with a few not so fun bits in between, but hey! that’s life.

Friend Jason, who I worked with in COB Speicher (1 km. from Tikrit, in Iraq), came for a visit, really to see his former students from Erbil graduate, but stopped by to visit here in Suli on the way.  I, of course, took him to the bazaar, my favourite place here and we ate at my favourite greasy-spoon in the bazaar.  Their massive vat of eggplant stew is the main draw for me but the grilled chicken is usually pretty good too.  I ordered us both of these and then hightailed it to the upstairs, “mezzanine” section where women go to keep as out of sight as possible.  Being a person who doesn’t like a lot of attention, this mostly works for me anyway as I’d rather be the watcher than the watched.  ‘Course, also being a person who bristles at being told what to do – even if it’s also what I want to do – there’s always that brief moment of feeling marginalized and controlled, however insignificant the specificities.

But I digress….

Within an hour of the lunch, which was delicious, I was telling Jason we needed to get off the bus we were on, waiting for it to fill up so we could journey on down Salem Street in what I knew was the general direction of home (I never have any idea if I’m on the right bus – I just hope) and get a taxi.  {Does that sentence work or is it run-on?}  Aaand got home just in time for the beginning of my poor body’s attempt to get rid of whatever nastiness it had been subjected to.  That was lunch last Wednesday; this is Sunday morning and my body is still trying to handle whatever I put into it.

Clearly some kind of food poisoning, but what kind?  When I didn’t seem to be getting better after the 48 hours all the research I’d read said to wait out, and when the atypical sharp pain I’d had from the get-go in my stomach didn’t go away (just moved down a bit) and I started to feel dehydrated, I decided to go get myself checked out.  I’d waited 72 hours and, while I didn’t want to go at all – I stay away from doctors and, in particular, from hospitals as much as possible – I wanted to rule out some of the worst possibilities my research had graphically informed me of.  But I definitely didn’t want to go alone and have to try to figure out the Kurdish/Iraqi medical system on my own in my present state of disrepair and fogginess and I got lucky; my friend and colleague Heidi offered to go with me and, it turns out, she’s not only an incredibly organized and efficient advocate (which I’d known), but an avid, amateur health care buff who knows how to read blood test results and knows whether a doctor’s examination is meaningful or not (which I hadn’t).  And major bonus of fortuitousness: two of her students were the a) Director of the Hospital Lab and b) the senior E.R. doctor on call that day!

The latter piece of serendipity had already been gleaned when Heidi called for recommendations about where to go  She was directed by said doctor’s wife (also a doctor and also Heidi’s student) to go to a particular hospital where her husband, Dr. Dara, was on call that day.  She’d told Heidi he would take care of us…and he did (she’d actually called ahead and told him to watch for us).  The result of this was that what would probably have been hours of waiting and confusion and sitting in not-so-clean corridors with legions of very sick, hurt and bleeding people (some getting treated and stitched up right there in the open), wound up being a pretty quick – all things considered – hour and a half of VIP treatment.

On our way to find out where to get my blood and urine analyzed, Heidi ran into Dr. Dara who pretty much ushered me into the examining room right away.  As he asked me all the right questions, and palpated my abdomen and belly (does this hurt? YES!), I confess, he somewhat alarmed me with his very unexpected diagnosis of what he seemed quite sure was acute appendicitis and wanted to admit me immediately.



Heidi agreed and persuaded Dr. Dara to just send me for the ultra sound and blood tests and then….see.  He reluctantly agreed and told her that, clinically, he felt there was little doubt.  I was ushered off to get my blood pressure tested….bit high, which is probably high for me since mine is usually a bit low…and then we were sent to the ultrasound department where my insides were imaged.  Off to get the blood test done which is where we ran into our other connection, Heidi’s former TOEFL student, who it seems is the Director of the hospital lab.  The blood test guy tried to send me away to wait my turn (which, really, was only fair) but our newest friend wasn’t having any of that.  “Why? You must take care of her now!”  So, feeling appreciative because I just wanted to pass out and go home and the sooner the better, but guilty for ‘jumping the line’, I sat in the chair and had blood taken from me.  (Oddly, this never bothers me which was handy because it turns out Heidi can’t stand the sight of needles and it meant she could disappear for a moment from her constant vigilance and I’d be ok.)  After that, we went and sat in above-mentioned corridor and waited.

Within a fairly short period of time, Dr. Dara was in front of us with the blood analysis results, which Heidi helpfully and expertly explained in detail to me, and the ultra-sound results (which to be best of my inaccurate memory were inconclusive) telling us he still thought I should be admitted.


I could feel my eyes get big and started shaking my head.

But, once again to the rescue, Heidi persuaded him that she would monitor me and asked him what to watch for and so, with a little shake of his own, very, very kind face, he let us go, despite his obvious reservations.

Heidi, when we were having tea in a bazaar tea shop just after we first got here in January.  Typically, we were not allowed to pay.

Heidi, when we were having tea in a bazaar tea shop just after we first got here in January. Typically, we were not allowed to pay.

I have to say, I still feel none the wiser about exactly what’s processing through my body just now but…I do feel pretty sure that whatever it is, will pass soon and all will be well again in Maureenland.

The take-away? Nothing terribly profound…. I do feel that I am an extraordinarily fortunate person who is surrounded by caring and loving people, everywhere, including here.  And I guess, really, it’s that despite the obvious and superficial differences in health care style and quality between my country and this one, I’ve once again been shown the seemingly bottomless kindness of the Kurdish people and their default to courtesy, benevolence and hospitality.  Canada has it over almost anywhere I’ve ever been in providing a clean and antiseptic environment but there are times, O truly beloved Motherland of mine, when patience, genuine solicitude, a kindly pat and a consideration of people over policies is what’s needed more than anything.  And this latter point does not refer to our being fast-tracked yesterday because of our connections, but to a myriad of small moments I’ve observed over the last 6 months of being here, including yesterday in the hospital.  Compassion and generosity of spirit, (I’ve found that anger – even annoyance – here is rare and something that puzzles them when they see it in Westerners)  permeates the culture; it’s the water one swims in.

And to my friend Jason, who was also a little sick, my humble apologies and I’m just glad you at least got a milder version!


About maurdian

I am a nomadic ESL teacher who, not surprisingly, travels and teaches English, largely at the same time.
This entry was posted in bad chicken, bazaar, Iraq Diary, Iraqi hospital, Kurdistan, tea, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to In which fave chicken place leads me to VIP hospital treatment

  1. Mary says:

    Whew, glad you survived. Will you trust your fav place to eat again? M

  2. Joan Cahill says:

    Sorry to hear you had to go through that Maureen, but happy to hear you have such a capable friend and ally as Heidi. She sounds terrific. I hope you are completely better soon, let us know how you are feeling!

    • maurdian says:

      Yes, she’s amazing; I’ve started calling her ‘Doc’ 🙂 Ok, will do…didn’t mean to alarm anyone – this was more intended for entertainment value. Thanks for your comments!

  3. moonbug76 says:

    I do hope you feel back up to 100% soon. I am glad I got a milder version as well, and even with this occurrence, I enjoyed my visit!

  4. Susan Carter says:

    I remember Stephen and I got food poisoning from either french fries or borscht, consumed in Grand Forks while en route back home to Nelson. It came on fast. We were sick for days, and it was no fun. Best to purge it out as best you can! You can see why sometimes an anti-diarrhea medication is contra-indicated, because you don’t want to interfere with the body’s efforts to expel whatever it is. And in your case, it could have been the chicken, or sadly, the eggplant. Just sayin’

    • Maureen says:

      Oh Susan, but I LOVE the eggplant 😦 I know you’re right though. Yes, been purging all right and no medication so far except some charcoal yesterday.

      • Susan Carter says:

        Best to leave the charcoal alone for now, Maureen. That’s absorbent, and the opposite of purging. But maybe you’re coming out the other side, and it is just cleaning up the last of it!

  5. Anna Bouey says:

    I agree with your point about how Canada could stand to rearrange its priorities, or at least have more of a moderate balance, and just have faith that being compassionate won’t encourage disorder.

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