Thursday, October 08, 2009

Jack Abboudi Shabi, between an Eggplant and a Squash

".... and he told me have you drunk Shabi before? yes it was own by them, it was their family name, such a long time... he looked sadly at his wife. She was smiling widely..."

I don't know how much my neighbour was right in his recall of Baghdad history. What I was sure of was that Jack Abboudi Shabi was very famous and known to all the elderlies that I have mentioned his name to. His mention to my neighbours tempted them to tell me more about their old Baghdad and their peacful quarters. They would argue with each other on tiny details

"... the bakery shop was next to the barber and you are the one who got dementia, not me...what was his name?....that one with that nice car..."
"... what are you talking about... barber and a car and what else?....a love story?.."

Al Mada Paper had re-published an interview with Jack Abboudi Shabi, the Iraq first psychiatrist. It was originally done in 1957. Al Mada paper published weekly a bulletin entitled "Iraqi Memory" and is given freely to any one who buys a Mada Newspaper. It is available to be downloaded freely on its site:

Thank you Al Mada, you are one of a kind.

With the doctor that lived a half century with the insane

By: Saeed Al Rubaie

I entered Doctor Jack Abboudi’s hospital (house of Al Rasheed) and I had intended to ask many questions to him, but he started to raise a question and answering it there after, the questions he raised and his answers were up to the point and as I hoped it would be.

Treating disease by a disease
Words started flowing fluently from the doctor’s mouth and I found it difficult to follow him writing everything he was saying. He talked comprehensively about history of psychiatry in Iraq and abroad especially he had had a scholarship to the UK in 1932 hence he said:
At that time there was no true treatment for mental illnesses in the world but on type of treatment of the General Paresis of the Insane which is the resut of brain infection with siphilus and that treatment was injecting the patient with the microorganisms that causes Malaria, causing malaria in the patient, increasing his temperature hence cured from his original disease, then malaria is treated thereafter, hence it is treating one disease by another.
While other treatments were concentrating on putting the aggitated patient in a small room lined by soft tissues so that he won’t hurt himself if he hit the wall, or he put in a hot bath continuously, or he is tied by the strait jacket.

Sheikhs and the water of squash
The doctor came back to Iraq in 1934, and the patients, were under the mercy of Sheikhs like Al Tuayjuri and Sheik Gumar, who were treating their patients with violent hitting, because they believed that the illness is caused by a Jenni inside the patients body, and they were using what was called as “water of cheese” and it is a big dose of milk mixed with a laxative, and there was another widely used treatment and it is the “Squash oil” which was used after the patient head is shaved totally and then oiled, and the believe was that Squash is cold and hence decreasing the heat of the head, while the eggplant is hot and it causes the mental illnesses.

Advences in treatment
In the year 1935 some medical journals started publishing articles about new treatments among which was treatment by seizure, a seizure was induced in the patient by injecting epileptogenic substance and soon there was evidence that it helps in treating acute depression, mania, and schizophrenia.

Other treatments
In the year 1936 another treatment was discovered and it was by insulin coma in which the patient is injected with insulin that is used normally to patients with diabetes. The patient is injected with huge amounts till his body contains no more carbohydrates and he would be in a vegetative state, then he would be given glucose intavenously, and this operation would be repeated 30 times, after which the patient condition improves and he regain insight.

After the appearance of these new treatments, doctor Jack thought about going to the UK to get the experience of applying these new treatments because it wasn’t a good idea that he starts applying them from merely reading journals, but with the coming of professor Hoff to Iraq in 1938 doctor Jack cancelled his idea of travelling abroad and they started together to apply the new treatments in Iraq.
There were many other advences in psychiatric treatments in Iraq since then and the doctor thought about opening a new treatment centre and it was opened in 1943, in which over 3000 patients were treated.

Cutting brain fibers
In 1964 an iraqi doctor named Najeeb Al Yakoubi had done the first operation in brain in Iraq and in all the Middle East and that was by cutting the nerve fibers that connect the emotion centre to the brain cortex hence abolishing the effects of aggitated emotions on the brain and mind and doctor Al Yakoubi is still doing this operation to the treatment resistant patients.
And lately new tranquilizing drugs were discovered in the USA and its use is widely spread these days like the spead of using Aspirin.

New association…
Doctor Jack Aboudi then opened a subject rarely opened by other doctors and that was when he started talking about the Associations and Organizations that is present in great number in Iraq and they are about many physical diseases and social problems and the doctor raises a question why don’t we in Iraq start an association of mental illness prevention? Since the Iraqi law has stated how much mental illness recognition is important to the criminal laws and the government had recruited a psychiatrist as a member in the court of the adolescents but still there are no efforts to prevent mental illness.

Faking madness..
Till now it was doctor Jack raising questions to himself and answering them thereafter. Now I have asked a question:
How can you differentiate between a really mad one and someone who is faking. The doctor smiled wide and answered:
Some fake madness when they are confronted by a crime of homicide since the patient with mental illness is not guilty. Since the person who tries to fake does not know much about the types and classification of the mental illnesses he would act different roles from different illnesses and he would exagurate things and act as if a mentally retard hence if asked what is the sum of one pluse one he would answer eight.
And that way we would know who is faking.
In rare cases we inject the person with a drug making him loosing control over his deliberation and hence his faking.

Women more affected
I asked him another question:
Who are affected more with mental illnesses men or women?
He answered: women… due to social causes related to culture and tranditions, and in many times the women is affected by a mental illness during pregnancy and delivery.

Al Usboo’a magazine

That was my translation. Forgive me for my ever lasting bad english.