An SMS from an exiled woman

Published on 25 February 2017 in Essays
Salwa Yehia Aleryani (author)

Salwa Yehia Aleryani


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I was going up the stairs to my bones specialist. His clinic was on the third floor. I have been his patient since a year and a half now. My knees were killing me when ever I went up the stairs! I still remember my doctor’s history, when he only had 3 patients waiting for their turn to enter and compared to now, his clinic is full.

Patients are also waiting outside the waiting room, at the door of the apartment aggressively elbowing to enter. In the past he shared the apartment with a gynecologist and the apartment was in an old area full of noise and trash.

The doctor was lucky, however, because he had graduated from a European country and this meant a lot to people here. It was a guarantee that he is an ideal doctor.

As soon as the number of his patients increased he immediately raised the price of the medical examination from 1500 to 3000 Yemeni riyal, double the price. Who cares if the majority can’t afford it?? Who does? Not him!

In the past this doctor used to listen to his patients carefully. He used to explain the medicine and the dose clearly. He used to ask about the family medical history to avoid any possible conflict with the medicine he just prescribed. He used to joke and had caring eyes.

I used to pray to Allah to bless him with success and health. I also used to praise him anywhere I went. It seemed like God had made true my prayers and in a year he moved to a more modern flat, which he didn’t share with anyone. It was clean, full of light and smelt good.

He raised his fee from 3000 - 3500. As a result of that, patients had to calculate the visit, the transportation to reach the clinic before deciding to go. This was in a country where it is not how sick you are which decides whether you should visit a doctor or not, but it is how much money you are actually willing to give for this process. The doctor has changed negatively.

He started to finish the visit quickly so he can call on the next patient and gain more money daily. He no longer explained, nor asked any questions. He didn’t even listen to the patient’s complaint properly. In less than 8 minutes I found my self leaving and the next patient entering.

I stood there in the hall, sad and disappointed. The doctor has neither told me for how long I should use this medicine, nor written another medicine instead, if I don’t find the first one and this was a very familiar incident! Also he didn’t tell me if this medicine was acceptable or not for high blood pressure patients, as I was one of them!! The man didn’t say a thing!

I went down the stairs and my knees were killing me. I went to the pharmacy and bought all the medicines and ointments. At home I read the prescriptions. I read in the prescription of the medicine for the roughness, friction of knees that people suffering high blood pressure shouldn’t use this medicine as some cases of heart failures were recorded as a result of using this medicine.

I was shocked! Why did the man write this medicine for me? Did the doctor forget? Was he careless? Was what was written simply medical exaggeration? Now, what should I do?

Finally, to stop myself from drowning in that flood of question, I decided to call and ask him to be on the safe side. I looked at my watch, the time was suitable. I took the number from the back of the card. I called and there was no reply. I decided I would send him a text message which he can’t deny receiving. I typed,” I am your HBP patient (High Blood Pressure). You wrote me a medicine for my knee. I read in its note that HBP patients shouldn’t take it because heart failure cases were recorded as a result of this medicine so, should I use it? Thank you.”

I also added my name to remind him of myself. He carelessly didn’t answer. I was in a hurry to receive the answer. I knew the quicker my knee would function properly the quicker I would go back to work in the factory and capture my regular life before it streamlines from me. I decided to give it another try and call the young man at the front desk.

I explained to him the issue. He told me that I had to call again tomorrow because the doctor had already left to his house. The next day, I counted the hours until I called the doctor. He was supposed to be in his clinic, he didn’t answer! I typed the text message,” Doctor, I am your patient for a year and a half. I suffer as you know from HBP and I read in the medicine you wrote me yesterday, that HBPs shouldn’t use it. So should I?”

Unfortunately I received no answer. I called the clinic. The young gentleman answered me quickly. He shouted, “The rain is pouring outside, I can’t hear you. Call later.” He ended the call rudely.

It was raining in my neighborhood too but I heard him clearly. I sent him a text message. He doesn’t need his ears to read. I typed, “(I am the patient who came yesterday. The doctor wrote me a medicine which high blood pressure shouldn’t take. Can you-kindly- remind him of me and ask him whether I should take it or not?)” I waited for the reply. I didn’t receive one.

My knee was beating like pulse. I felt that pain was hitting my knee with an iron hammer. I felt like I was a camel in the middle of a huge dessert waiting NOT for a drop of water but for an answer!!

My knee was a must to treat and cure. I have no support –after Allah’s aid- except my knee. It was my knight in life’s battle especially after my husband’s death. With my knees I stand, I work in my factory, I feed my kids, I receive my salary, I take care of my kids and house and I get all my duties done.

My knee is honestly the engine which keeps me functioning! Especially because I have been a widow for a year and two months now so, my kids have no one in life to look after them except me. I have no one to rely on except my knee.

Honestly it was the mountain I lean on. I decided to call again. The doctor didn’t answer. I called the clinic and the young man answered, I pleaded, “Please, ask the doctor. What did he say? Should I take the medicine d….)” he interrupted me, “(Said what about who?? Who are you anyway?” There we go again!!

I explained to him after taking a pill of patience, “I am an HBP patient and the doctor wrote me a medicine which HBP patients shouldn’t take, can you ask him if it is ok for me to take it?)”

He answered, “(Well, if the doctor wrote it for you then he definitely meant that you should take it. What else did you expect, to take photos with it or what?)”

I ignored his skilled mockery and said, “(No, I didn’t take any photos, however, it is written inside the box that HBP patients shouldn’t take it. It is risky and may cause heart failures! So, should I take it?)”

He reduced his rudeness, I guess because he heard signs of weeping in my voice, which I myself hadn’t noticed. He said, “OK. Then take a pill for a day or two then come and see the doctor.”

I asked him, “A day or two, won’t harm me?” He replied quickly, “NO!!!” He ended the conversation.

We all stood up very obediently, we walked out of the clinic without mentioning a word of objection. The face which has got used to being slapped, extra slaps don’t hurt it anymore. The young man closed the door with the key and rushed down. All patients went down like a spilt gelatin. We were only coins inside a piggybank.

I started suing my self! Who is this young man to tell me what to do and what not to do? He hasn’t probably even finished school yet. Possibly he left school because of poverty and came to work in this clinic to earn a living. So, why on earth should I believe his advice or even listen to him?

I was convinced that this doctor was no lesser than a criminal except that he doesn’t wear a mask, nor a striped t-shirt! I took the decision! I am not going to take one single pill in a country where doctors kill their patients either due to carelessness, ignorance or by mistake!!

I don’t know why I felt that a shower of insult poured on my head I looked at my clothes sticking onto my body. I was wet. I examined my straight legs nervously shaking of pain. Is it acceptable to tolerate all this insult + pain when your demand is only to receive an answer! I thought of a pharmacy it is a good source of information.

I called and explained the point. The pharmacist said with noticeable surprise, “Ohh! The note says heart failure? Ok ask your doctor then, heart failures are serious.”
Although it was no joke, but, I laughed loudly. Heart attacks are serious? As if this was the information I was searching for now, this is funny! Hahaha.

The next day, I couldn’t go to work. I called the doctor, he didn’t answer. I sent a text message he didn’t reply.

I called the young man at the reception, he told me, “Listen, why don’t you come and take the answer yourself? Your calls and SMSs are killing me!”

Killing?? I sighed. I thought if I am killing with the SMS, then what does he call what he and his doctor are doing, burying people alive? I immediately stood up and headed towards the clinic.

I arrived at the stairs. The stairs were empty. I was relieved. I sat down on the first step and started to go up the stairs by sitting on each stair backwards. Going up the stairs and lifting my knee was a very painful thing to do now.

While I was going up, I saw a small black and shiny bug going up the stairs with me. It was running very fast. We were in the same speed. Every time I went up one step and sat down, I would see it peeping from the step beneath and reaching the one I was sitting on.

A lady went down the stairs. The woman stepped on the miserable bug. She went down and I looked at its place, she crushed it. I felt sorrow and sympathy. Stamped, huh?? Well, dear, that’s what you get when you are satisfied with low grounds! Why didn’t you choose the walls or ceiling as your environment, many of your species have??

I took a rip of torn paper and pushed the bug aside. At that moment a line of ants came and carried the dead bug away. I looked at it. Going to get buried, or going to be the food for next winter? How sad when you die and you are not hundred percent sure that you are going to get buried. I guess insects and human beings have a lot in common.

I then reached the third floor where the clinic was I stood up and cleaned the dust from my back. As soon as I looked at the clinic’s door I was shocked. The patients were a lot, they filled the clinic and were waiting even at the door.

I felt my opportunity to see the doctor was no longer existing!!! However, I will try. So, I entered. I went to the young man at the front desk. He was hidden behind a high pile of folders. I told him that I wanted to see the doctor only to ask him a question. He didn’t bother to answer, looking very busy with his papers and files.

So I came closer to him and whispered, “You know, the one who was killing you with all those SMS, It’s me!! I came now please allow me to see the doctor.” He raised his eyes and hit his forehead. He then said, “oh, yeah. Ok, go and wait in the ladies’ waiting room, I will call you.”

So, I did. I sat there for about an hour and 40 minutes, then a bottle of perfume entered the room. I don’t know the name of the perfume but it is certainly not a cheap one. We all examined her. Her sandals looked like they were originally chandeliers, the man making them went through a bad mood so he turned them out as sandals.

We examined her scarf. We stared at her bag. It was patches of leather, or maybe skin. According to me, I saw skin of beggars, skin of jobless, skin of poor people, skin of homeless. Their skin were stitched together and made up the bag.

She sat down looking around like a cat in a cage. After two or three minutes the young gentleman stood at the door and announced her name. He looked so proud to mention her name, as if her name would touch him with a blessing. She stood up and left the room. A waterfall of gossip rushed down from all directions.

- How come she entered? I’ve been waiting for more than four hours and I haven’t entered.

- Did you see her bag? I saw a similar one in Sayidaty magazine.

- Why did he call her anyways if the doctor hasn’t arrived yet. Is she going to take off her clothes until he arrives?

- Maybe she’s a relative of the doctor. He wants her to feel that he has treated her differently than other patients.

- Doctor’s relatives don’t get sick, idiot.

- Yeah, idiot! And if they do he would go and see them at HOME.

I closed my sore eyes. The gossip continued twirling like a dilemma. I tasted a warm salty liquid in my throat. I expected they were fleeing tears. My lips were sealed. I stood up, hardly pulling my feet to walk.

I went to the young gentleman at the reception. I told him with a strong despair voice,” listen you don’t understand, I don’t go to work these days because of my knee. I can’t walk. It hurts. I need to go back to my job because I am a widow, and it is me who earns a living. My kids have no one to feed them except me. Please allow me to enter. It won’t take a minute. Just an answer, then I’ll leave. Please. Please.”

I felt bitter. Exactly, like I would have felt if I were a beggar. The young gentleman told me boldly that I had to wait. More serious cases will enter first.

Could anything on earth be more serious than feeding children? I didn’t plead more. Not because I am a human being who has dignity and should not beg for a “right” but because I lost hope that insisting to enter would make him allow me to enter. I walked back to the waiting room half dead. The women there were tired and angry. I waited for an hour then the young gentleman showed up at the door announcing, ”The doctor has left back to his house. It’s late now. Please come back tomorrow.”

We all stood up very obediently, we walked out of the clinic without mentioning a word of objection. The face which has got used to being slapped, extra slaps don’t hurt it anymore. The young man closed the door with the key and rushed down. All patients went down like a spilt gelatin. We were only coins inside a piggybank.

I waited until they all disappeared and sat down on the stairs. I descended by sitting on each stair.

Another bug was going down with me. It was running fast. Maybe had to go and feed its children. I spoke to it, “Hey, what’s up? Didn’t enter, did you?” I sighed because I didn’t either.

I then took a taxi and went back home. My three kids rushed to me nearly pushing me back to the floor. I hugged them with my hands on their backs. I can’t hug and bend anymore. Also I had a terrible headache. I know these severe headaches. They are a sign that my blood pressure is high.

I went to the kitchen to prepare something for the kids to eat. I was sad, depressed and full of desire to box or break or even scream. I didn’t understand what I cooked. I didn’t realize if my kids ate or not. I didn’t even remember if I myself ate or not. I wasn’t ok.

My kids went to bed. I passed to each bed and smiled and put my palm on their wavy, black hair. I couldn’t bend and kiss. I wanted to cry for a long time. I left their bedroom and headed towards the medicine at the top of my cupboard. I keep pills and medicines there because my children might eat them. I held the medicine. I looked at it. It looked at me. I laughed. I said to the pills, “You know something?? I AM Going TO TAKE A PILL NOW!” I did.

Immediately after that I sat down to type an SMS. I wrote, I was breathing like I would after jogging, I wrote, "listen doctor, I took the pill a second ago. Now if it does anything harmful to me then I am praying to Allah the just now, before any harm reaches me that may Allah never forgive you. May Allah punish your children by losing their father like you made my children lose me. Regards!”

In a week I started to feel my knee becoming much better. I went out to look for a job. I found one as a cleaner in a bank. A bit insulting but I accepted. A cleaner isn’t the lovely house I wanted to live in, but never mind as long as my kids will eat and drink. After a week and during my sleep, an SMS was delivered to my cell phone, “ Very sorry for being late! No, don’t use that medicine. It is not suitable for you. Come tomorrow to me and I will write another one instead.”

I never received, nor read that SMS. At that day, Allah had set me free. I no longer worried about my kids, no longer felt the pain in my knee. I never saw my kids again. I never knew what happened to them after. Who died??? Well, unfortunately it was ME!