Iraqi - Final Day


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April 5th 2017
Published: April 28th 2017
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So, as is inevitable, I got back to the daily grind and didn't finish up the journal. But I am doing so now. It will be less fresh but I'm committed to seeing it through.

Wednesday was our last day. And it started with operating on Ali, our host. He had a tibia fracture 8 months ago after he was hit by a motorcycle and it was fixed in Lebanon because that was the nearest country that had the materials to fix it in a modern fashion. He was having difficulty moving his ankle properly and after examining him I realized that one of the screws that holds the internal rod inside his tibia had impaled and pinned one of his tendons to his bone. So we decided to remove this screw and check out the tendon.

Hoffinger and I removed the screw. Ali stayed awake and we did it under local anesthetic, like at the dentist. I know Ali felt some of it. He is a tough cookie. He watched most of it.

A funny thing about the OR- there has to be one boss. It doesn't work otherwise. Studies have shown that testosterone increases three fold in Orthopaedic surgeons on operative days. (No joke- this study was performed because surgeons wondered why they wanted to have sex with their wives more after OR days than clinic days).

Even Hoff and I, great friends, sort of ran over each other a bit. It gets a bit territorial. Not awfully, but noticeably to me anyway. Ground work should always be established as to who is the boss prior to cutting skin, and the other surgeon needs to defer. I'm not the best at deferring if I'm honest with myself. Must be the testosterone.

So at the end of it, Ali and his wife Zaineb were on gurneys in the OR recovery room. My two patients. We said our goodbyes and had lots of recovery room hugs. I don't see myself ever being in a similar situation, but at this point, I can say that about a lot of things.

Thamer then invites us to his office to see him prior to his meeting with the US consulate and a few other big wigs. We went back to his office and he showered us with gifts. Books and books and books and gold and books... too much honestly. How were we going to get this home? And do I really need a book about Orthopaedic troubles in pregnancy? But of course we smiled, and accepted, and gave our thanks and knew we would figure it out later.

We then unexpectedly accompanied Thamer to the meeting. ( Iraqi flow. Just go with it.) Lots of security detail, cameras, the whole spiel. We were introduced to the US Ambassador Douglas Silliman and the US consult Win Dayton that we had met previously. Rachel, the social coordinator, saw Scott and I and her face was notably perturbed under a mask of formal forced happiness to see us. She made it very clear that it was so wonderful to see us again, before the very private meeting that we are very much not invited to. But don't worry, she will take a photo and email us. She acted like we were trying to con our way backstage to a Maroon 5 concert. Sorry, you are just not that big of a deal and I can yawn my way through plenty of meetings. And I still never received that fucking photo.

But the consulate and his wife are lovely and we exchange pleasantries then head off. We stop by Thamer's house and his wife gives us a suitcase to carry the bountiful gifts. They have 12 screens in their kitchen for the different security cameras around their house. Moments like these always crack the smooth exterior of my feelings of safety. And I remember that Thamer has been abducted from his home. Twice. How must his wife have felt? His children? Thamer?!!

We set off for a relatively uneventful trip back to Kuwait. Takes much shorter than our way there, but with the same undertones of inefficiency. To my dismay, the Kuwaiti Emirates Lounge does not serve alcohol. This has been a long nine days. So I fly sadly and soberly to Dubai and stay over night and leave for SFO in the morning.

All turns around for the better as I have more than a few mimosas in the Emirates lounge the next morning and then we board. It's surreal to see people in SF Giants t-shirts. I feel still so far away from home. I meet a nice engineer from the East Bay, his wife is a doctor. I try to sleep, but fail, so I go to the back of the plane and there are the stirrings of a party. No idea what time it is on any time zone, but there's a bar and laugher and voices start increasing in volume as the drinks keep getting poured. In the end, there is a Chinese, Indian, Saudi Arabian, Iraqi, American, Irish, and Hungarian around the bar. Make a joke out of that one. We get a bit rowdy and the Chinese woman gets cut off when she sticks her bare hand into the ice bucket. Epic. At least I got a few hours of sleep after that mini bender. I think I drank a full bottle of Veuve.

Arriving in SFO is a bit surreal. I say goodbye to Scott and get in the car for home. I can't believe I have a full OR day tomorrow- what was I thinking?!? Fortunately I get home and crash at 7:30pm don't wake up until my alarm goes off to start the day. Maybe the only good night's sleep of the trip. But of course- I would do it all over again.

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