The entry way to the hospital was worn and looked more like Cairo airport than a sterile medical environment. I was a bit scared. Is Lebanon a developing or first world country? Are doctors here held to the same strict standards as in America? “Don’t worry- you’ll get seen right away since you’re foreign,” Phillipa assured me as we made our way into the American University of Beirut’s medical center. The refrain about better treatment of foreigners is one I would hear often in Lebanon.
I had returned to my hotel the night before, only to spend an hour hunched over the toilet experiencing traveler’s diarrhoea. I woke up again at 8:00 am. Half an hour later, as I was fighting off nausea and feeling a prickly heat all over, the phone rang. It was Phillipa Mishlawi, the wife of Tewfik, who runs MER. “We’ve found you a place to live!” she told me. I tried to sound excited as I fought off waves of pain.
I opened my eyes. I was folded over the arm of the chair, the phone on the floor beside me. I had passed out. Before I knew it, I was at the AUB hospital, thinking about needle pricks and sterilization. As I waited for a bed, I peeked into the X-ray room. It looked as if it had never recovered from the war. I looked at the cracked walls, the shabby floors and walls that contrasted with the neat, pressed uniforms of the medical staff. The familiar blue scrubs and open white doctor coats at least were comforting. I thought of Kate in Nepal and Jocelyn in Uganda and counted my blessings.
Dr. Khashab was great, and even gave me his phone number in case anything happened or I had any questions. “That’s unusual,” Phillipa told me, again attributing this uncommon gesture to the fact that I’m foreign, and an American. It’s odd that in a land of tourists being an American gets you better treatment- it’s an observation made rather often in Beirut.
Dr. M. Khashab reminded me of a friend that I had met briefly in Cairo on my journey here. He told me that he would be spending six years in Indiana doing his residency, so I figured that I was probably in safe hands. I knew that I was being Americentric, but with the risk of contracting diseases like AIDS or hepatitis from needles, I allowed myself the luxury of trying to find familiarity in my foreign environment as I received hydration and pain killers through an IV stuck in my hand. As I lay in bed I realized that the worldliness I pride myself on was being tested as I found myself in a vulnerable position, realizing my bias. I vowed to work on this. It turns out AUB hospital has more advanced machinery than the U.S., where insurance companies often refuse to pay for the latest technology.
Posted By Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)
Posted Apr 9th, 2007