Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Persia: Chapter iii

Before reaching the road that led to the farm, the mule and boys were spotted by a farmhand who had been working on a perimeter fence. Having talked with both boys early that morning, the farmhand knew something was wrong when he saw the limp figure on the back of a strange mule. Minutes later he intercepted them in his horse-drawn tool wagon. After a quick look at the unconscious boy, without a word to Mohammed the farmhand untied Achmed from the mule and carefully lifted him into the back of the wagon. With a thankful Mohammed clutching both Achmed and the bouncing wagon, they spend at a full gallop toward the farm. Achmed's mother became hysterical when she saw her son.

His father screamed at the farmhand, "Get the big wagon, and hitch-up my four best horses. Now! Hurry!" He then ran through the house like a madman, tearing a mattress from a bed, gathering blankets, bandages, and canteens of water. Within minutes they were on their way to the hospital at Isfahan. The farmhand drove the team and Mohammed and his uncle rode in the wagon with Achmed, who now lay wrapped in blankets on the mattress, his head cradled in his father's arms. It would be yet another hour before they would arrive at the hospital.

Even though it served the entire province whose name it bore, the hospital at Isfahan was small and poorly staffed. The small oscillating wall fan did little to offset the stifling heat in the room. The lone doctor on duty in the emergency ward was sweating profusely. He and two nurses had just spent more than two hours attending Achmed's injuries, more the result of intimidation than dedication - Achmed's father had not left his side. The boy had sustained a broken leg, a fractured skull, at least three broken ribs, and numerous cuts and bruises. The doctor expressed concern about severe shock, about which he knew very little, and the fact that Achmed had not regained consciousness.

It was now well past sundown. Mohammed and the farmhand, uncomfortable with the heat and sickening odors inside the hospital, had returned to the wagon some time ago. After they both stretched out on the mattress, Mohammed, for at least the third time, was relating his terrifying experience in finding and rescuing his cousin. During their wild ride to the hospital, Mohammed had told the story to his uncle and was disappointed and angry when his uncle seemed too preoccupied with Achmed to listen. He would now be equally upset if he could see the sleeping farmhand. Mohammed's voice trailed off in the darkness as the excitement of the day finally caught up with him and, he too, fell asleep.

Inside the hospital, Achmed's father paced the dimly lighted corridor like a caged animal, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the hospital's director. Outraged when the staff doctor had been reluctant to discuss his son's chances for survival, he had demanded that the director be summoned from his home.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, the door to the outside flew open and the director stormed into the waiting area. He barked a reprimand and slapped an orderly dozing at the front desk. The staff doctor watched through an open doorway and mumbled to himself as he quickly ducked from sight - tonight's going to be a nightmare, the bastard will make us all pay for having his dinner interrupted.

Even though he had been furious when told that someone was at his door with a message from the hospital, occurring just as he was slicing the lamb roast, the director's anger quickly turned to fear when told the patient's name and the demands of the patient's father. He had left immediately for the hospital, knowing full well what the consequences would be should he ignore the summons.

The director apologized effusively to Achmed's father for his delay in arriving, all the while mopping perspiration from his florid face and bald head. He yelled for the absent staff doctor and then directed the orderly to fetch cold drinks for him and his guest. When the staff doctor finally appeared he was greeted with a profane tongue- lashing for not summoning the director sooner and was ordered to immediately produce the boy's chart and x-rays. Twenty minutes later, after scanning the records and examining Achmed himself, the director led Achmed's father into his office. Closing the door behind them, he motioned to a visitor's chair and then retreated behind his cluttered desk, as if it offered him protection. "Sir, your son should survive his ordeal, but the next forty-eight hours will be crucial. I guarantee that he will have the best medical care available, and I, sir, will not leave the hospital until the crisis is past - on this you have my word." Again mopping perspiration from his face, the director looked like he was about to have a coronary. "I suggest you go home now and return tomorrow..."

"No!" Achmed's father shouted. "I, too, will stay here. He is my only son...everything I have is for him! He cannot be allowed to die. I will stay here until he is out of danger. I will watch over him - and I will watch you!"

Originally published: Tuesday, March 20, 2007; most-recently modified: Friday, May 31, 2019