Wednesday, 16 March 2011




As part of my internship or rotation in the late 1980s I spent three months in the department of paediatrics, despite everything, I enjoyed the job, paediatrics was not my favourite subject, and the job was the busiest I had done so far, with seventy-two hour non-stop work being the norm.

The doctor’s room was located in the middle of the ward and had started life as a broom cupboard with no window, and no fan.
For weeks and between on calls I would lie in my bed of sweat trying unsuccessfully to rest between knocks on the door by nurses, orderlies, and even frantic mothers with sick babies.

What made the job so great were the staff, here were the best group of nurses I had ever worked with, the consultants were on the whole dedicated, and their juniors put their whole lives into the job. I ultimately was so influenced by the team on the paediatric oncology ward that I changed my career path and did something similar in adult medicine.

One doctor in particular had a different and lasting influence on me.

He was one half of a pair that seemed inseparable; originally from outside of Baghdad they teamed up, and rotated together.

In his second year of the training rotation, he was small but stocky, with a deeply furrowed face, and thick curly hair.

In charge of the emergency room with me as his junior dogsbody, and covering the neurology ward when I rotated there we would occasionally chat over the notes trolley as we did our rounds.

I remember three separate lines of conversation

The first was a question

Put very bluntly and at the time unexpectedly

“Are you a Sunni or Shia?”

There is no difference I replied

Then you must be Shia he replied no Sunni would ever say there was no difference.

His second was a piece of advice

When you take a history from a Kurdish child with leukaemia he said, do not accept the first address they give you, always ask where the family lived before the child was born, or when the child was younger, let me know once you see the pattern.

His third was a gift

A book he lent me, an eye opening experience, written by the Egyptian author Dr Nawal Al-Saadawi. A gift that immediately made him “the enemy” in the eyes of many of my male relatives.

If I could meet him now

I would not need to ask him his first question.

I would tell him the answer to the second.

I would thank him for the last.


saminkie said...
uClever story....laden by symbols and simple words that lead you to a complex ideas and memories....
Hope you keep writing...I enjoy reading your blog...
And I have enjoyed this story especially...

08 July 2007 11:31
3eeraqimedic said...
Welcome to my blog, I am glad you liked this post, he was a complex person, and talking to him opened my eyes to a lot of things.
I wonder where he is now?
09 July 2007 07:48

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