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Fatma Mohammed Al Saleh: Crowds, chaos and heat: Clinic hours
September 26, 2014
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10.30am. It is so warm. That’s all I could think about. Drops of sweat slowly found their way down my face. All our faces were dripping. The ceiling fan was not even on. All I could hear was chatter in a language I did not even remotely understand.

One room (that was definitely not bigger than our living room back home). Four desks. Two exam beds. Fifteen students. Six doctors. Four or more nurses walking in and out of that room which had multiple doors, and literally more than a hundred patients in the waiting area lining up to see the doctor. The line of patients extended from the waiting area all the way to the doctor’s desk. So the next patient stood right beside the current patient who was sitting on a plastic garden chair. There was no time to waste. They were waiting there since 4am to see him. Lets call him
Dr N. He was such a joyous character and an excellent teacher. We listened to the medical explanations and stories he told us and the room would roar with laughter almost after every sentence. This is how entertaining he was.

We all stood around the table staring at whoever was being examined and just extended our hands to feel their lump, abdomen, neck, foot, hand, face … whatever it was. Sometimes all at once. Once, I feared a patient’s abdomen was going to pop open because 5 hands were poking and prodding him at the same time. I learned to forget about patient consent and privacy issues there, because sticking to them meant I will learn nothing. No one practised them. Patients didn’t expect them either.

I stood there shifting from side to side trying to rest one leg at a time. I’ve been standing for three hours straight. There was a door next to Dr N’s desk that opened onto a corridor which had a tall cabinet stacked with patient files. The files were basically a bunch of papers tied down by a piece of cloth or cardboard and numbered with a black marker. Of course that corridor was open to the outside. I could feel all the carbon monoxide swooping in and sticking to my face, clogging every single pore. Sigh. Time passed as my brain accumulated stories to tell and my phone pictures to show. Oh how much I have to tell. But now I’ll walk back home for an hour’s break to come back for afternoon casualty theatre.
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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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