Tonight I headed over to the “football” field (soccer) where some patients and hospital staff were playing. I got there late, but a handful of people were still hanging out enjoying the cool, evening breeze (a relative statement in the Middle East ;).
I joined the conversation until my 26 words of Arabic ran out, and everyone went back inside except for a 27-year-old woman named A*. A* is one of the inpatients in the hospital with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB). TB causes people to lose a lot of weight, so this lady only weighs about 90 pounds. Holding her thin arms out in front of her she tells me, “I used to be so beautiful.” I assure her that, while I would like it if she gained some weight, she is absolutely lovely. Turning her face toward me, she looks at me with her dark brown eyes in near-disbelief. “Shukran, thank you,” she says, her expression of disbelief turning into a smile.
A* is an intelligent woman. She knows four languages and can read and write fluently in Arabic (an impressive feat in itself), and is teaching herself to read books in English. She knows how to dance. “I can do tango, salsa, and Arabian dancing.” I am thinking a TB ward dance party might be in our future. *grin*
A* found out she had TB in her home country of Saudi Arabia. When the disease was discovered, she began treatment right away, wanting to get better for her infant son and husband of two years. After months of medication and not getting better, it was found that her type of TB is resistant to several drugs and was referred to our hospital.
“Many people think just poor or dirty people get TB,” A* told me, “but my family is rich and we have everything we need. Now I just need my health so I can get back to my beautiful husband and baby. I miss them, Jamelh.”
Jamelh (Jah-mee-lah) is the Arabic name my patients gave me. It means ‘beautiful’ and ‘one who makes me happy when she comes to speak with me.’
A* has been here two weeks and her 16-month-old son has started walking. He hears her voice and won’t let go of the phone. “My husband says my baby has such sad eyes because I am away,” A* says, almost crying, “but I have to stay for maybe four months before I can be better enough to go back to him.”
I ask her how she copes with being sick and away from her family and she mentions praying to Allah, having hope that she will get well, reading books to pass the time, and spending time on a Galaxy phone that she gets calls from her family and pictures of her baby on. :P
We chat till it gets close to being too dark for ladies to be out by themselves and then begin to say our goodbyes till the morrow. Reaching down for my keys, I am surprised when she flings her arms around me, kisses me on the cheek, and cries, “I love you, Jamelh, habibti!”
I have a new friend. What a blessing.
I am very much enjoying the many cultures of this hospital. The patients are from Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Palestine, and more. The staff from Jordan, Holland, Brazil, Egypt, South Korea, Canada, and more! So fun!
You guys can be praying for me as I strive to obtain a workable knowledge of Arabic in the next couple weeks (ha – easy, right?). In August, a couple of the nursing staff are leaving so they will be short-staffed and I will be functioning as a full-fledged nurse…in a language I don’t know. I would love to be a competent nurse and especially be able to have good conversations with my patients, so please lift up my brain capacity for Arabic (why, Babel, why?! :P)
Pray for A*, that the God of hope would fill her with all joy and peace in believing that she may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Pray that the staff and patients of the hospital would worship and adore the One True God and give Him the glory that He so richly deserves (Revelation 4:11).