Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Navigating the Iraqi-Kurdistan Medical System: A Day at the Hospital, Suleimania, Iraqi-Kurdistan

Today I went to the Kurdish pediatric hospital in Suleymania. For the past two days I had a bad stomach ache and this had been going on since March, so I thought it was time to check with a specialist. The doctor I met was a pediatrician and he was going to put me in touch with a doctor who specializes in gastric issues for children. When we arrived to the hospital, we asked for Dr. Jamal who kindly came for me into the reception. He took me upstairs and I was surprised to see the huge amount of people waiting, mostly mothers with their children. We passed the crowd and I waited in another room for Dr. Adnan, the second doctor. In Kurdistan is not like in the west, when you arrive to the hospital there is not a big reception. Usually there is a guy or two in the entrance and they just put your name in a notebook. There is no need to fill a lot of registration paperwork, insurance or the like in order to be seen by the doctor, and let alone have an appointment; you just show up, wait and talk to the doctor.

While I was waiting, I was offered tea and water and shortly Dr. Adnan arrived. He asked how I was feeling and I explained that my stomach was hurting, and that I had a history of acid reflux, so after 2 minutes, he agreed to do the endoscopy next morning, (no appointment- no anything) but he advised that I do some testing first. And of course, I didn’t need any referral for the laboratory. Later in the morning, I got the [stool] sample and took it to the laboratory to be analyzed. Showed up at the lab., paid 2500 IQD ($2.00) and voila, my sample was analyzed in my presence. I had to open the flask while the technician pulled some of the “shit-sample”. After the analysis, the lab technician instructed me to see the doctor, and I was thinking, oh-oh, there’s something wrong with my results, so I went to see the doctor. He checked me and again asked me what was wrong with my stomach, after which he proceeded with a litany of medications, most of them I had been taking before. The doctor didn’t mention anything about the results, but he gave me the prescription. When I asked what was E. Histolityc, something that was positive on the results, the doctor said: “Yes, that’s a parasite, but I gave you something for it.” The fact is that if I didn’t ask, he was not going to tell me. That’s how well the doctors inform their patients about the test results and diagnosis. His initial diagnosis was irritable bowel syndrome, but he was treating my bug, without letting me know. I would have been angrier if when I came home and I looked up what was E. Histolityc was, found out that I was not told about the fact that I had a parasite on my s**t!!!!Welcome to Kurdistan’s medical system…..

Today, I went in to my endoscopy “appointment” at 8:00 am. It was in the Teaching Hospital, kind of like the Medical School. Dr. Adnan was there and introduced me to the doctor that was going to perform the study. It took 2 hours of waiting until I got into the room, young boys passing in front of us with buckets and hoses, I was already scared from the size and length of the hoses (for the endoscopy). When I finally made it into the room, I wish you could imagine the setting: 5 medical students staring at me, a young boy who was the technician giving me the instructions on how to get ready in Kurdish, the doctor asking my name, age and other information on the other side of the curtain. My friend Juliana who had come with me was called into the room with the duty of holding my hand, she said ”Breathe like in Yoga” then I realized that there was no anesthesia. The doctor came to the other side of the curtain and the 5 students made themselves comfortable, as if they were going to watch something important. Then the technician placed the mouthpiece –on my mouth- and the doctor started to push the hose in……then he said breathe, but I couldn’t figure out if to breathe from my mouth or from my nose, the hose was a big resistance to my breathing. He said, “Look at the TV”, which was displaying my stomach, while saying: “This looks ok”, as he kept pushing the hose in. When I did concentrate in breathing, I felt my body relaxing, but I could not keep it for long. The whole thing lasted 1 minute, but it felt like 1 hour.

After the process was finished, one of the assistants told me to bring a paper downstairs to reception. The whole study was 20,000 Iraqi Dinars, or $17.00. I even got a CD with my stomach’s 1 minute of Iraqi fame. That was it, the thing that surprises me the most is how complicated we make things in the west. The appointment has to be several weeks in advance, anesthesia and all the effects that come with it. When I finished I was able to go out of the room walking on my own. Recovery time was less than 5 minutes, and I was ready to go back to work!

So this is how I survived the Kurdish endoscopy, I’m not saying they are better, but at least more practical. The best thing is that my stomach is ok. I just have to treat that bug for 10 days and hopes it gets killed by the Syrian manufactured medication. Wish me luck!!!!

1 comment:

  1. hahaha I know i should not laugh but what you are describing is almost crminal here in the west!!

    I will more worried about getting more bugs from the hose !! there are no proper steralisation of hose!!

    I hope u ok and got proper immunity from the dirty hose !!