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Fatma Mohammed Al Saleh: You need to be patient here
September 19, 2014
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Around an hour later came a short bald white-haired Sri Lankan man who told me to follow him. He said he was taking me to “the doctor” whom I had no clue about. No name, face, or any sort of information was given to me other than the fact that he was a surgeon. I was very cautious as I walked behind him. We walked all the way to another building, through several narrow and dark hallways with wet floors, up an elevator and finally the surgical ward.

As I stepped out of the elevator into a long sunlight-filled corridor, I realised what I was in for. The floor was wet and muddy. Two middle-aged ladies dressed in brown knee-length dresses shoved the water towards the floor drain. A doctor, who was conducting the morning ward rounds apparently, had the bottoms of his trousers tucked in his long white socks in an attempt to avoid getting soaked in water. I walked past several mats on the floor that had pillows on them. At first I was puzzled and later shocked to see the poor patients sitting there having their breakfast. Just a wild guess, but these were the “overflow” beds?

Other patients were squeezed side by side on beds in a long hallway. It looked more like a shelter. We raised the legs of our pants up so as not to get soaked in water and walked in the narrow corridor that led us to the nurses station.

It struck me how there were no windows, just open to the outdoors. At the nurses station the man and the nurse chatted in Sinhalese as I stood there. Of course I understood nothing. A minute later, he introduced me as “the student from an Arab country.” I was confused. Later I realised that the first thing they ask you is “where are you from?”

So 10 minutes later I, “the Arab student,” was told that my supervising doctor wasn’t showing up and I had to join other students downstairs. The endoscopy room it is then.

“The Central Endoscopy Unit,” the large blue painted sign read above the double doors. I pushed the door to see two long rows of patients sitting in white gowns and blue hairnets. They were waiting for their turn to be scoped. I changed my shoes and stepped in to see a large crowd of students and two doctors staring at me. After introducing myself I looked around the two connecting endoscopy rooms in amusement. Everything was pale and seemed to be from another era. As my eyes wandered through the room I could hear the groaning of un-sedated patients in the background as they underwent the procedure.

Here the adventure begins. One patient at a time.

Follow on Twitter  Instagram: @_theuntitled
Fatma Mohammed Al Saleh, a 22-year-old Emirati medical student,
is training in general surgery as part of her programme in Sri Lanka.
She is a passionate photographer and writer. Fatma shares her deeply
felt experiences about the healthcare system in Lanka.

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