Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ebola

I am glad the government is now taking serious measures to contain ebola but I wish extreme measures were taken back in May when the first case was reported in Liberia. Borders should have been closed then and, a quarantine of the community where it was first reported should have taken place. Many deaths occurred in the countryside but it was only when ebola struck Monrovia that everyone started panicking. Another fine example of how Monrovia-centric Liberia is.

Having said that, I think the government assisted by the international community (WHO, UN bodies, international medical NGOs like MSF, CDC) will help it to contain ebola.

The reported cases in Guinea are started to taper off and, the same will happen in Liberia in a few weeks' time.

Having a business back in Liberia makes this situation even more stressful. We have clients, fellow business community members and most importantly our hardworking staff that we are thinking of.

I think I'll give it another couple of weeks before I head back.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Enjoying a cloudy evening in F-9 Park


Friday, 25 July 2014

Haresh went to India and all I got was a samosa

I made a long shopping list for Haresh since he was coming over from India: special Indian mithai (I wanted to savour and see if there were any different nuances of Delhi or Amritsar ki mithai), some funky souvenirs, and some khula kapra. Of course he didn't bring any of it. 

He did bring some left over plane food though. 


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Good evening!


The Hot Spot

 







The Hot Spot is an Islamabad institution. I always loved going there for amazing desserts and for the funky, funky atmosphere. I think these guys were the first ones to celebrate Pakistani film poster art. They also have a huge collection of vintage Holly and Bollywood posters. See some photos of when I went with Ami and my favourite posters. 

 My favourite ones are:

1) Chaudhrys Angels Mr. 303

2) Give the Dangerous Bitch her Chocolate

3) Pandoo No. 1

4) Men have feelings too, but who really cares?

5) Oops Wrong Fairness Cream - Racism Sux

6) Mr. Phaddaybaaz
 

Ami thought we shouldn't be here since it seemed to be a teenage hangout but I could care less. After all, I am still young at heart. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Funny fridge stamps

Amongst the various odd things I collect - mugs, tea pots, tea, boxes - are fridge magnets. I especially love buying magnets from museums and art galleries. 

These are the latest addictions to my collection. 


Post Surgery Recovery

So, by the time I got to the surgical ward, it turned out I had to wait for a bit in a small ward where patients had to wait before going in to the Operation Theatre (OT) and after the surgery too. The ward was really small and made me feel a bit claustrophobic or like one of those chickens in the cages in the kasai shops here in Pakistan. I was on the bed for a few minutes until a nurse came to tell me that I had to go to the OT. She wanted me to walk there. I got a very annoyed and grabbed the IV bag myself and walked over to the OT. I passed by some surgeons chatting to each rather too cheerfully, cracking jokes. I was kind of surprised by this laid back atmosphere. I felt like I was in a tea shop! "Shouldn't they be a bit more serious?" I thought to myself.  (In hindsight, nothing would have made me feel better given how much of a scaredy cat I am). 

In a couple of minutes I was led into the OT by the nurse. I freaked out! I saw a steel operating bed in the middle of the room. A couple of surgeons in scrubs were going about doing some things. I asked one of them whether he was anesthesiologist and it turns out he was. I threw a mini tantrum as I climbed up on to that bed where I was going to be operated on. I basically told him it was a scary proposition for a patient to have to walk up to his or her own operating table but I think I was put out even before I finished my tantrum.
In case you read my post "An injury and a couple of insults," you would know I was due to get my ball gladder, whoops, I mean, gall bladder, removed through surgery.

I had the surgery on the 24th of June and, not only did it go well but I recovered quite quickly too. 

I was told to come into the hospital by 1 PM so I could get admitted. The surgery would take place around 3 PM. I packed a few essentials, including my laptop and a couple of books so I could have some choice of reading. I checked into a semi private ward which had two beds but no one else was admitted the whole time I was there. While I was checking into my room, I noticed that a nurse muttered quite loudly "What does she want now?" as she was instructed to go and attend to a patient. I was quite disgusted and made note of it.

By the time I was admitted, changed into hospital clothes, was hooked up to an IV, and told the cleaners to clean the bathroom since I saw a cigarette butt on the floor, they were ready for me to go up into surgery. 

All this time I was pretty calm and not so scared but I stared getting a little nervous as they wheeled me. I stared at the ceiling, passer by's and chatted to the attendants: "You must have seen the gall bladder operations many times, recovery is fast, no?" My mother came was out of the room when they had come to take me up but she caught up with me and, emotionally said goodbye. I got a lump in my throat. 

So, by the time I got to the surgical ward, it turned out I had to wait for a bit in a small ward where patients had to wait before going in to the Operation Theatre (OT) and after the surgery too. The ward was really small and made me feel a bit claustrophobic or like one of those chickens in the cages in the kasai shops here in Pakistan. I was on the bed for a few minutes until a nurse came to tell me that I had to go to the OT. She wanted me to walk there. I got a very annoyed and grabbed the IV bag myself and walked over to the OT. I passed by some surgeons chatting to each rather too cheerfully, cracking jokes. I was kind of surprised by this laid back atmosphere. I felt like I was in a tea shop! "Shouldn't they be a bit more serious?" I thought to myself.  (In hindsight, nothing would have made me feel better given how much of a scaredy cat I am). 

In a couple of minutes I was led into the OT by the nurse. I freaked out! I saw a steel operating bed in the middle of the room. A couple of surgeons in scrubs were going about doing some things. I asked one of them whether he was anesthesiologist and it turns out he was. I threw a mini tantrum as I climbed up on to that bed where I was going to be operated on. I basically told him it was a scary proposition for a patient to have to walk up to his or her own operating table but I think I was put out even before I finished my tantrum. 

 Next thing I knew I was woken up by my doctor (my surgeon's assistant). I looked around groggily and was in that surgical ward. Next to me was a very old lady. It was around 5:30 PM. I went back to sleep until my mother woke me up again. She had Kavita in her arms. She looked at me lovingly as only a mother would look at her child. She was clearly relieved that the surgery went OK. My doctor was with her and, he showed me a container of my gall bladder stones. Ami left and I waited until they took me back to my room. 

The lady next to me was very nervous and kept calling the nurse to call her son or to leave the door open. She seemed scared to have the door closed. I wondered how such an old person would handle surgery and recovery. Her son, a middle aged balding man, eventually came in and, kissed his mother several times on the forehead. He comforted her and told her not to worry. Even after he left though she kept calling the nurse. Thankfully, the nurse was very caring and attentive - a rarity, an anomaly, at this hospital as you will see below.

During this time, I also overheard a terrific commotion. A small child had been in the ward - a couple of beds down - probably getting prepped for surgery. The doctor or surgeon was trying to - I assume - insert a cannula but the kid kept crying. I felt so sorry for him because even as an adult needles terrify me. I can't bear listening to other babies and children cry. I usually feel like crying myself. 

Image from How to Make Your Child's Doctor and Hospital Visits Easier
 Whenever I need to get a shot or have a blood test, I usually have to look away when they inject me, squeeze my eyes shut and make a face. The commotion escalated into a very heated and nasty conversation between the parents and the surgeon. Insults were traded! I thought I heard the surgeon insulting the parents. Apparently, the surgery had been delayed and, the kid had been given milk during this time. The surgery needed to postponed yet again. 

Anyway, I eventually got wheeled back to my room at around 7:00 PM where my parents, Kavita and one of my Khalas were waiting for me. It felt good to know that the surgery was over and I would be discharged the next day as I had been told!  I was quite groggy. My surgeon and his assistant came to check on me at around 10:00 or 10:30 PM. He told me that surgery had gone well and, I would be discharged the next day. My mamoon and mumani came to visit too which was really sweet of them. 

My mother eventually went home with Kavita and my father stayed for the night. The next bed was empty and he could rest there. 

I was in and out of sleep most of the night since I was still under the effect of the anesthesia. I was told I could not drink water or eat anything until the next day. 

My room was clean and neat. I had a remote to adjust my bed. There was a colour TV. I didn't have a buzzer though to call the nurse and the telephone was more than an arm's length away. I didn't need a nurse until around midnight when I had to get up to go to the bathroom. I thought I would be able to do it myself until I was in the bathroom and started feeling dizzy. I somehow got back to my bed and feebly asked my father to call the nurse. A nurse came in and helped me get back into the bed and put the IV bag back on to its hook. She noticed that my clothes were a little bloody (probably from one of the incisons) and my sheets too but said they'd change it the next morning. She left. 

After a while I realised my IV line had blood in it. I asked Aboo to call the nurse again. I was annoyed she had not noticed it the first time. As she adjusted it and cleaned it I felt a shooting pain in my arm. I yelped! 

I went back to sleep as my father recounted some of his Foreign Office stories. I was woken up at 6 AM by a nurse who came to check on me. After that I couldn't go back to sleep. My whole morning was quite unpleasant and I threw my second tantrum. I guess it had been building because I was quite shocked at how unpleasant the nurses were. None of them smiled or even asked how I was doing. Moreover they did not have any gentle touch. Each time they checked my cannula, I would feel extreme discomfort and pain.

I told the morning nurse to get me a fresh change of clothes and new bedsheets. She told me she'd be right back. I sat on the edge of my bed waiting for her. I waited for an hour! During this time my father went downstairs to get a cup of tea. The doctor on duty came in and asked if all was OK. I told him I was waiting for a change of clothes. I asked him whether I could get some water. He said, sure, just a cap ful. I looked at him weirdly. He pointed towards the bottle in the room and said, just fill a cap and drink it. My father thought it was a bit weird and told him but surely one of your nurses can get some cool water and not from this bottle which has been sitting it out since yesterday. The doctor agreed and politely left. All this time, the nurse who was supposed to come back with a change of clothes had not come.  

I lost it and hobbled outside and yelled. The front desk nurse and a male nurse came in. I started ranting about how I had been waiting an hour for the nurse until I was told there was a new shift. That nurse had left without passing on the information to the next nurse!

The male nurse calmed me down and, agreed that the nurses could do a better job. He checked my bandages and said that someone should have cleaned up the dressings until now. He proceeded to do so. Gently, may I add. He was in fact assigned to the general ward but told me I could call him any time. He put the telephone on my bed so I could easily reach it and wrote down his extension. he made sure I had new bedsheets and a new nurse came in to change my clothes. I had been wearing them backwards forwards and, all my 'stuff' had been hanging out since the day before. I was surprised that no one had noticed it until now. The nurses were not any more attentive than before.  In fact, I kept asking everyone when I could have a drink of water. That cap full of water never came round. 

I finally called my nurse to get me some water. He also got me a cup of green tea and told me to sip it all morning until my lunch arrived.

Now that I was fully awake and had to kill time until I got discharged, I decided to ask for the remote for the TV. All this time I didn't notice there wasn't any remote. 

I did not fell well enough to fire up my laptop or read a book even though I came well prepared. 

I was sent some liquid lunch at around midday which consisted of a soup and juice. I had it gratefully and felt some energy return to my body.

By this time my mother came back with Kavita who was both shy and excited to see me. I think this was the first night we were ever separated. I was glad to see Ami and Kavita. 

My surgeon and doctor finally came to see me at around 2 PM. I had got back into my clothes by then. My surgeon asked me how I was and I told him I felt great. He told me I could play football if I wanted to. He told me I needed to change and clean my dressing every day. I also needed to stay away from oily, fatty foods for a while. But what I really wanted to know was whether I could go home and he confirmed I could. I felt over joyed! My cannula was removed (I really wanted to get it out of me) and, we got ready to leave. We paid the bill and I slowly hobbled out of the ward. We got the medicines I was supposed to have for the next week from the pharmacy at Maroof. We went outside. It was very hot but I was definitely glad to be going home.

I'm pleased to say that I recovered quite quickly. I was delighted to see that I was quite mobile and could even climb stairs. I could do almost everything except pick up Kavita. I curiously looked at the incisions. There were 4, including one in my belly button. I could also see the stitches. I worried about when I was supposed to get them out and tried to calculate how much it would hurt. I had to sleep propped on pillows for the first few nights. As I slept almost sitting up I thought about inventing a special post surgery pillow that would allow someone to be more comfortable. I could make millions! After all, I have had two surgeries now and sleeping comfortably is always a problem afterwards.

My back hurt too but that was expected as the doctor explained (they had inflated my stomach for the surgery so I was bound to be in pain for the next 48 hours). All in all, I was feeling better every day. My mother also really pampered me, made me soup and took care of Kavita. It felt wonderful.

I came home on a Wednesday and I felt better enough by Friday evening to celebrate me feeling better. I told my mother to take us to the coffee shop in F-11 Markaz. I was so so happy! I treated myself to a coffee shake. 

I had a follow up visit with the doctor the next day. He told me to lie down so he could look at my stitches. He watched me climb up on the bed like an old lady and asked me why I was moving like that. I told him I was a bit sore. He told me he really meant that I could play football if I wanted to. He told me I could even pick up Kavita and sleep on my side! I definitely took heed and made sure I had more of a spring in my step. (Later that day, I could in fact pick up Kavita and slept on my side that night.)  

I was told to come in a week to get my stitches out.

After checking my incisions, Ami chatted with the doctor about her own surgical experiences (she had a valve replacement two years ago) and his own specialisation, laparoscopy. It turns out that my surgeon recently received a very prestigious award as one of the best young surgeons in the country. He has trained doctors in Pakistan in laparoscopy. I also wanted to pick his brains. I asked him how a body would function without a gall bladder and where would the bile be processed? He said the the liver produces up to two litres of bile. Without the gall bladder, the bile just goes directly into the intestine. I came home afterwards and read up some more about it on Wikipedia and some other links. 

Ami was highly impressed with my surgeon and, said she was so glad we never went for a second opinion anywhere else. I agreed! My surgeon also very quite humble and said that he owed a lot to God. his whole conversation was full of how everything hing was in the hands of God. My mother was even more impressed. He said that a patient has to have faith in God and his or her doctor. 

I did not get this fine point but reflecting upon it, I do. One definitely needs to have confidence in one's doctor so one can proceed with whatever treatment or procedure one needs. Getting better and healing would never work otherwise or be as smooth. 

My mother puts a lot of faith in her doctor for instance. She is still in awe of her surgeons and regularly gets them presents. She is very grateful to them for successfully operating on her. She was clearly very impressed with my surgeon too.  
  
I was also rather struck by how openly the doctor was ascribing his success to God. 

Also any jibes or sarcastic comment I would make about any of my experience at Maroof would illicit the strongest reprimands from my mother. As if I were tempting fate or was ungrateful that my surgery had gone well. That maybe I was not grateful enough towards my surgeon.

It got me thinking about how faith and healing go together. Holy people are thought to have the power of healing. Many prophets could heal the sick. Jesus could heal the sick.  In tribal societies or apparently in pre-historic times, the medicine man or woman had a special place. To be sick, to be afflicted with an illness or to be wounded is surely an hour of crisis and pain. We want to be relieved of the pain and to be healed. We want our loved ones to be healed and never to experience physical pain. And that someone who heals us, who knows medicine has an exalted status in our societies. 

I have never really been sick in my life and the first time I was hospitalised was for the birth of my daughter. It was the first time I underwent surgery. And, that too was in the US. It was definitely a different experience. My OB-GYN definitely never mentioned God. The nurses were quite well trained and, smiled a lot more and were gentler. My experience in Pakistan was also quite good and I always felt I was in safe hands. I just wish the nurses were better trained. Sure, the doctors and surgeons do the critical work but most of the care is provided by the nurses. It would be nice if they were better trained. But I suspect their status - at least in this hospital - is not even close to that of doctors. I never felt that the nurses were any less important in the US but I did here in Pakistan. So, I need to cut them some slack. Also, although I did find it a bit strange that the doctor would mention God so much, it was a different and pleasant experience. 

For the longest time, I associated hospitals and doctors with tragedy, fear and trepidation. I have never been sick to begin with for most of my life. My brother was quite sick early in life but I only remember the hospitals very vaguely.   I got hurt very badly when I was around 9 or 10 and had to have stitches. I was extremely terrified. My sister was born a couple of years later via a C-section and, I spent a night with my mother her at the hospital. It was a happy time. The next time I had to really be in a hospital was when my university friend Kavita was sick who I used to visit in the ICU for 2 years until she passed away. I really began to dislike hospitals after that. Later in life when I was pregnant, I associated visits to the hospital and regularly meeting my doctor as a celebration of life. I fondly remember my time when Kavita was born. They say  hospitals are places of life and death. They truly are!

have such a low pain threshold. Everything freaks me out. I keep asking everyone, "Is this gonna hurt?" I hope this experience is going to make me a bit braver and less of a scaredy cat. I also want Kavita to not be so scared of pain as I am.

Oh by the way, it did not hurt at all - just a pinch - when the stitches finally came out. 

I end on a note to say that I wish everyone around me good health. I wish everyone, far and wide, good health. But if ever anyone does fall ill or get hurt, may good medical care be easily and fairly available to all.