My co-teacher was terrified of hospitals. She had been pregnant the previous year and refused to have a C-section because she’s afraid to have any surgery. The three women came to my room and sat on the couch asking how I was and expressing their surprise at the suddenness of my illness. They had all seen me perfectly healthy Sunday morning before the mall trip and Monday I was in the hospital awaiting surgery. My principal made sure I was being well cared for. She had some influence and, if she was really bothered, our school secretary was the cousin of Sheikh Khalifa, the president of the UAE so they didn’t had strings to pull as much as they had rope. But I already had a private room, an excellent surgeon and 6 nurses on duty for the 3 patients on my floor. While we were talking, one of the nurses came in to check my IV. My arm felt wet so I looked down and there was blood running down my arm. By that time I was so used to being poked that needles didn’t phase me. As the nurse was cleaning me up and inserting a new IV, I happened to glance at my co-teacher.
She was phased. She was phased a lot. I thought she was going to pass out. I shifted the blanket so she couldn’t see and the nurse brought me a clean blanket when she got the IV fixed.
Not long after the three of them left, the Western teachers showed up. They were also amazed at my sudden illness. Especially the teachers who hadn’t ridden the bus home with me and my vomit bags. By the time everyone left, I was shot. Something happened to the TV and in my anesthesia/lack of thyroid meds confusion I could neither fix nor manage to remember to ask someone to look at it.
On the third day my surgeon announced that I could have food. There was joy in Mudville. I hadn’t eaten since that lunch I threw up at Dubai Mall on Sunday and it was now Wednesday. Without meals to mark the time, I was further confused. Not long after the surgeon left a little woman poked her head in my door and confirmed my name with the card in her hand. She looked at me and then at the card and then at me and said, “you’re not Filipina.”
I was confused, but I wasn’t that confused. However my first name is a common Filipina name so I can see where it came from. My last name is not Filipino so I could also see why the nutritionist came to check.
“Do you mind the Filipino lunch? It’s fish and rice.”
I’d have eaten anything they put in front of me, but I didn’t tell her that. I merely said that the Filipino lunch would be fine. It was. When it arrived it was huge. A piece of pan-fried fish, about a cup of rice, some very thick soup, yogurt, water, tea. I’m sure there was some kind of desert, but I didn’t make it that far. I got through the fish okay, most of the rice, some of the soup, the tea because it was warm. That took an hour. An hour. By the time I pushed the tray away and admitted defeat everything was room temperature. I put the water and the yogurt in the fridge in my room for later. Four days without food has shrunk my stomach.
Next week, the last installment when I finally get to go home, and home.