Saturday, May 10, 2008
As a child at primary school I was amazed by those simple, easy going, spontaneous, highly energized students in my class who were all relatives. There were about 8 of them. We were about 40 students in my class. Those 8 relatives, 4 male and 4 female, were the poorest ones. It was evident for me from their bags, and clothes. They were so happy. Maybe the happiest among us. It was clear for me that other students avoided them. Every two of us shared one desk. I was sitting with my friend A on the first desk near the blackboard. Behind us sat three sisters on the same desk. Those three were part of that avoided group. I still remember one of them who was playing with me a game. She used to knock on my back when the lesson started. When I turn around at her she was always just smiling. I liked her. All those avoided relatives were poor, I guest at that time. That was evident from their clothes and bags. They have more dark skin than most of us. My friend told me not to play with them. I asked him why. He said they are people living near the small river (a small canal of water came from the main river Tigris), and their job is to serve other rich people by caring for their animals. He said to me something like: they live with animals, don’t play with them. As a child in my first year I followed cautiously my friend’s advice. He used to give me video tape of Bruce Lee, and some rare cartoons. And I never knew from where he brought them. I think it is because of those video tapes he used to give me I was looking at this guy as someone with greater knowledge than me. He was also the one who taught me the slang names of the genitalia in Iraqi language, and that was much appreciated by me at that time. So I followed his advice. But deep inside my heart I loved them. I was more eager to be close to them. But at the time I tried to make that into action it was clear for them that they were avoided, so they closed the door, not so tied, against my approaches. The three sisters behind me all avoided me. I was just a kid. I didn’t have the capability to open those doors again.
During my teenage years I started having ambivalent feeling to those who lives on earth, as I like today to call them. Those who can walk bare foot. Those who can know what the whether will be the coming day just by looking to the sky. Those who know the stars and their places and names. Those who know about trees, insects, animals, & agriculture in their special way. They learn by observing nature. The got a heritage from ancient times of their special knowledge. You can rarely find a book talking about their knowledge, cause unfortunately most of them don’t have time to learn read or write.
I remember that elderly male cleaner in the that hospital in which I was working in 2003. he was so proud of his self. Actually he was arrogant. He got a policy that says: I know my job, I don’t want anybody to talk to me! I asked about his family, and his background. They told me that they are very poor, living in houses made of mud on the city borders, and that his family take care of animals of the rich people. He used to sit in my room, on my chair. He was old. I was so young. When I enter my room in the ward, found him sitting on my chair, behind my table, I usually get confused what to do. I greet him then act as if there is something to do around the room. Either looking into the plants, counting the files, act as if reading from a paper, or at least looking through the window. That malingering is just to give him time to leave my chair and table. My room door was always open and I never thought of locking it. But his behavior was really making me tense a little.
The war of 2003 started. Nobody was forced to come to work. Most of workers went to their homes and never came back till the war ended. Me and three other doctors volunteered to work. I was working every night from 10 pm till 8 am. That arrogant worker was coming almost daily to his work. He sometimes sleep in the hospital. I was spending the nights in the ward and the nearby emergency room for pediatrics. Sometimes he spend the night with me. He never talked to me.
One night I was exhausted. I was supposed to do an exchange blood transfusion to 2 babies having jaundice. In the operation you got to take 20 ml of blood from the baby, through it in a waste bag, then take 20 ml of fresh blood from the blood pint and inject it in the baby. And you repeat that for about 25 times. I called a colleague so that he works in the emergency unit while I do the exchange. There was no nurse to help. I asked one of the babies relatives to help me and he did well. It took us about 1 and a half hour and it was ok. The second’s family members were so emotional. They could no offer help I thought. No one to help, I decided to do it alone (my first dangerous mistake). I started. Took 20 ml of blood from the baby and injected it into the waste blood bag. I forgot to give him the 20 ml fresh blood. I took another 20 ml of blood from the baby and through it in the waste bag again. Do that for another 3 times. In total I took 100 ml of blood from the baby and through it away. Then. Oops. My God. The baby was ok but I was about to die from fear and shame. I started sweating. Little shivering. I hold the syringe and started taking fresh blood and injecting it into the baby slowly. I monitored his vital signs. It was ok. I gave him the 100 ml of blood. Then called that arrogant cleaner and asked him to call the doctor working in the emergency room. He did. I told the colleague doctor about what I did. To my surprise, that colleague became so angry at me and shouted at me something then pushed me toward the door and told me to go to sleep.
The arrogant cleaner saw all that. I sat speechless in the nearby emergency room. There were maybe 2 patients receiving treatment. No patient came till my colleague finished the operation. The arrogant cleaner was passing every now and then next to me looking into my face. I did not give him eye contact as I remember. The colleague came back. Told me that everything is ok. He added that he was sorry for what he did and that he wanted me to go to sleep. I nodded my head and go walking slow to my nearby room. Next to the door of my room I saw that arrogant cleaner sitting on a chair, not mine. He stood up. I passed. Sat in my room. He sat on his place. I wondered why he stood up. Was that to show me respect? I asked my self. I stood up, drag my chair outside the room and put it next to him. and this dialogue run between us:
- How are things? (I said)
- Do you have a cigarette?
- Um…ahh…a bad one.
- I mean a cheap one.
- Sumer? (Sumer is an Iraqi cigarette trade mark)
- Sumer Abu Il Chees (means those one that sold not in a packet but in a paper container).
- I like them give me one please.
- Here it is doctor.
He smiled wide. Gave me one. Took one for his self. With his lighter he approach me to lighten my cigarette. Then his. We took deep breaths. Outside were some sounds of explosions. And from that moment we became close friends.