I have been away from the blog-o-sphere for quite some time. An emergency came up that prompted a good Iranian doctor to schedule me for a much-needed surgery. In that time of waiting and recovering, I was nervous and scared—as any human would be when faced with being opened up. The surgery was ultimately a success: a lifesaving event that took me from concerns of never seeing my family and loved ones again to realize how lucky I am to be here, just to see their precious faces.
Allow me to explain: all was not going so well in my life. For approximately a decade, I was suffering and did not know why–that is, till I moved to Iran. In my previous years, spent as an “ordinary” American student, researcher, waitress and mother simply trying to get by, I could not afford health insurance. There were times when I endured chronic episodes of fatigue, vomiting, pain, chills, and fevers. No one, at that crucial time of my life, really seemed to care; therefore, I really did not know how to care for myself or how to take my own health seriously. The episodes that I had would come and go. Unfortunately, the one opportunity I had to see a U.S. doctor, I felt like he had gone places he did not need to go—if you get my drift. His recommendations only had to do with getting my ovaries checked—and he personally checked them! It felt like it was really unnecessary and uncomfortable—and turned out that it was. All my test results from a feminine checkup came back negative. The “Good Evangelist” Doctor slipped me a pamphlet from his church, requesting that I forgive my husband, whom I was in the midst of divorcing, for assault, abuse, and infidelity. He also asked me to get an ultrasound that required over $700 for a down payment; oh, that was such thoughtful advice — *sarcasm — and money I could not afford to waste during a very stressful period of my life. Next, I applied for Medicaid. I thought, surely, my US government would back me; they would not reject a young, honest, and hardworking mother whom was so supportive of her nation and never in trouble with the law. Wrong! That did not matter. I was just another reject of American society! With nothing left to do, I continued back to a master’s program and worked as if nothing were wrong. I endured the pain, off and on, working through it and keeping up with my studies. I ate very little at times; my illness interfered with my appetite; and, of course, my weight dropped. During some periods, it seemed my illness would vanish: I could eat anything and I would bounce back to my usual weight. — I thought perhaps my symptoms were merely stress related or at worse a parasite. I would later find that was not so; although, something inside of me was definitely growing, increasing my chances of infection and even death.
Fast-forward from the USA to Iran: as you know being a Muslim in the USA we are silenced and threatened, at least that was my experience. I reverted to Islam in Texas, and the many people in my life—who treated me like gum on the bottom of a shoe—cursed at me, abandoned me, and hated me for the simple fact that I did not embrace their form of Christianity and instead became Muslim. Shortly after my coming to Islam, I met the most wonderful man and married; yet, even before Trump’s time, USA was very unfair in their treatment towards Muslims. I did not want to expose my husband to the same hatred and judgments that I faced as a Muslim who empathized with Iranians… It seemed only practical, for many reasons, that I would be the one who took this great step and venture to Iran. I made a decision to prepare for a “quick getaway,”– I knew, that if I announced my plans to permanently move to Iran, they may never let me out of U.S. I feared that some crazy “friend” or insane ex-U.S. military stalker (as a few had stalked me before) would try to kidnap or kill my children and me—yes death threats were that severe. I wanted to be free of that hate. I wanted to do something rewarding and meaningful with my life. I wanted to speak for what I believed in and pray to Whom I believed in, peacefully, so I moved to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
For the first few years, my illness gave me no issues: I was in love with my husband, my children had a stable roof over their heads, sure we struggled at times, but we were happy and safe in Iran. Slowly the old symptoms crept up on me. At least once a month, now, I was vomiting, getting severe headaches, and could not even hold water down. Regardless of being an uninsured American, when I first arrived in Iran, I was quickly given medical care during an emergency situation. My children were treated and valued just the same as anyone else. Over time, I became a regular at the local hospital. I was often admitted and put on an IV for dehydration and vomiting. A female doctor noticed my sugar was very low–30 on a glucometer test. For months my husband monitored my sugar, several times a day, to make sure it was normal and balanced. My low sugar was definitely one issue. We thought the problem was solved! I was diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia. I began a strict diet and all seemed to be fine, for almost a year, until I was admitted back into the hospital.
The symptoms were the same, but they had increased from once a month to every week, this time my sugar levels were normal. My illness was interfering with everything at this point: my work, my attitude, and my hobbies. I got sick every time we went out, so I rarely left the house. The doctors quickly ordered an ultra-sound on my abdominal region and an MRI ($120 USD for both, without insurance mind you!). A young E.R. Doctor suspected it was a large gall-stone that was making problems for me. He recommended surgery; however, after having some rough surgeries, which arose during my younger years in the USA, I was frightened of going under the knife. He was a young, new doctor, at that time I should have taken him more seriously, but I was trying anything to get out of surgery. I begged my husband to search for a holistic medicine doctor before I had to succumb to any surgery. He did. And for a few more months the diet and meds that the Doctor tabae’e (Doctor whom practices traditional medicine) prescribed were working, but perhaps meant for people with smaller, more soluble stones. The vegetarian diet would not work in time to dissolve my stone; it was now blocking my duct as shown on another affordable ultra-sound. I was back on the IV and in the hospital, twice within a month. My symptoms grew increasingly worse: my eyes and skin were yellowing from jaundice; my weight was dropping again; I could not eat nor drink; the headaches and vomiting were severe–lasting days at a time! My stomach felt like it was on fire some nights; I lost a lot of sleep and was looking rather zombified.
That was when Chief Medical Doctor Fazel of Golestan Province stepped in; he warned us that my gallbladder could burst, which meant I could die if we did not remove this stone soon. He pressed on my stomach, which made me yelp, and he concluded that I was swollen from a severe internal infection, due to a damaged gallbladder. He, Dr. Fazel, ordered me on antibiotics and pantoprazole until he could remove the stone himself, via laparoscopic techniques, depending on the condition of my gallbladder–it was at risk for removal too. By this time, my husband had insurance. Previously, we did not have insurance and paid expenses for medical treatment out-of-pocket at very low costs. On our first visit to Dr. Fazel’s office we paid a very small fee, the insurance typically pays doctor visit fees back and did later on. To see this well-established medical doctor it was $2 USD. My husband walked out smiling and relieved; we would have no problems paying or covering the cost of a much-needed surgery. At that moment, it was just a matter of waiting. However, I was sad that I had to face being probed and cut open. I was scared and worried; my stress levels were high. I had many fears bottled up, deep inside, from my past experiences in the USA with medical treatment and doctors. Everyone reassured me Dr. Fazel was one of the best doctors in the province, he had a good reputation, and I would be fine. My loved ones would say, “Don’t worry this is not the USA, Iran will take care of you.” – They would be right.
The morning of hospital admittance and prepping for surgery: I walked in a little shaky, I even told my husband “take me home, I’m scared.” He said calmly, “It’s all going to be fine my wife,” and held me close to him as we sat waiting. We were called up by a friendly nurse, she proceeded in leading us to my room for further test and preparations. We walked alongside her for a few minutes, the hospital was huge, well-kept, and for the most part modern–asides from some older equipment I had not seen since the 80’s. Iranian hospitals, because of no use of nuclear power (thanks to US sanctions—still somehow interfering with peoples’ lives outside of USA!), are equipped to deal with lack of computers and power outages; they are unlike what we are used to seeing in the USA where everything is computerized and very dependent on nuclear energy. I would soon learn this is why Iranian doctors are dually talented; they have to learn both modern and older techniques, as some doctors, like my own, travel outside of USA to perform surgery and work.
Just as we entered the wing of admission, I was quickly relieved to be greeted by an almost all female staff. I had dreadful experiences in the USA, before and after surgery, of feeling humiliated and exposed to the opposite sex for procedures that I felt only a woman should do—one experience included being shaven by a seemingly unprofessional male before an emergency C-section operation (he made jokes during this painful and humiliating situation). Furthermore, during the same event at this U.S. hospital, a class of both male and female nurses was brought into my room while I was in labor and being checked for dilation between contractions. They (this specific hospital in the USA) promised me ultimate privacy, but all of that was violated. The USA is very liberal in allowing male aids or nurses to prepare women for surgery, anywhere, without considering if the female wants to prepped or even touched by a man! Fortunately, I did not even have to worry about any of this in Iran. Women performed all the tests and tasks that needed to be done before my surgery; my husband sat right beside me, making sure they were careful, and he helped make their jobs easier any way he could. I became relaxed in this situation and my fears began to fade. The next morning I would find out if my stats were good–EKG, blood pressure, and other analysis–enough for surgery.
I was cleared for surgery; nurses began preparing me, right away, that morning. Soon, a friendly woman gave me a sedative to erase my fears; and, I seemed to have forgotten all but one detail: my teary-eyed husband giving me a kiss on the forehead, saying a prayer for me before I was swept away by a team of nurses and doctors, which prompted me to cry. It was not even 45 minutes after the surgery that I felt myself coming to, lifted onto a gurney, and wheeled from the hallways of the hospital and into my room. My father-in-law, my husband, and my kids were all there to greet me as I woke. I recall pointing to my kids and saying in a soft voice, “my babies,” I was so relieved to see them waiting for me. Then, I begged for water but passed out right after. When I became more alert, I was informed that my gallbladder was too damaged to keep; it was torn on the inside from the stone, which was lodged in my duct. I was given the gallstone as a “souvenir,” we joked; and, it was much larger than the ultra-sound revealed (image provided). Forthwith, I began to feel the positive effects of having my gallbladder removed: no more constant queasiness, vomiting, and burning feeling in my stomach. It felt like a huge rock was removed from my body. I spent another night or so in the hospital for close monitoring, in case of infection. I was released in no time and happy to be back home in my own soft bed. Of course, I am still in recovery mode and endure some small annoying pains, especially in my belly button where they made one of four small incisions, which are persistent less than a month after my surgery.—But I hear that is all normal. On the bright side, I was walking about and doing the task at home within a few days after the laparoscopic procedure without painkillers; I had none of the complications that many people do face after the surgery, like vomiting, leakage, and other nasty stuff.
I honestly think, if not for these great doctors and if by some chance I did not move to Iran, I may have wound up dead if I stayed in the USA and my children orphaned. For this, I am ever so grateful to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Doctors, Nurses, and Staff who treated me at Gorgan’s Sayyad Shirazi Hospital. What touched me the most was that in the midst of reading several articles on the mistreatment of Iranians in the USA, recently, from hate crimes involving murder to unfair visa rejections, detentions, and deportations, the great people of this truly loving community took it upon themselves to act and save this American mother’s life. There was no questions, no hesitations, and no interference from the government or any problems when treating me, ever and at any time. What needed to be done to save a life was done. And, today I am feeling much better than I have in years.
*All views and opinions expressed here are my own, other people may have different views, experiences, and opinions. I get that. In regards, to my title, no, not all Americans are prejudice towards Muslims or Iranians, there is no intention to generalize. However, a great amount of Americans are prejudice or hateful towards Middle Easterners and Muslims; this is one of the many social problems the USA must confront today.–Perhaps they can take note and learn from Iranians.