I've Moved!

My new blog is called Reflections from a Global Nomad, in order to acknowledge that we no longer live in Maadi and that we are, in fact, global nomads, not staying in one place longer than two or three years. Please join me at http://DeborahReflections.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We have one! I saw the flutter myself on the ultrasound. Hamdulilah, praise Jesus!

Now for the saga of the ultrasound ...

When I made this appointment two weeks ago, the saga showed signs of being more complicated than necessary. In the States, you'd call the doctor, make your appointment, show up, maybe wait a while, have the procedure, and then your various doctors would coordinate amongst themselves so the report ended up where it needed to be. No real surprises.

Not so in Egypt.

First, the health unit people called the local doctor. She told them to call someone named Magda. They tried to reach Magda, to no avail. Eventually they reached Magda. Magda said that the appointment had to wait for two weeks, until I was seven weeks along, and two weeks was too far out to make the appointment.

I like making appointments early.

I called the clinic myself, with the blessing of the health unit people. The operator told me to call back two days later, between certain hours, when Magda would be working. I called back during the set time. Magda wasn't working. I was to call back the next morning at 7:30 a.m. I got frustrated with the incorrect information I had been given previously and tried to clarify whether the information I was getting that time was correct or not. Apparently the operator's English wasn't good enough to deal with the non-Egyptian trait of not accepting what you're told and hoping, insha'allah, that the information is correct this time. I got even more frustrated and hung up.

I called the next morning at 7:30 a.m. Lo and behold, Magda was there! We spoke. I explained the situation and told her that even though I couldn't come in for another couple of weeks, I wanted to make the appointment. She agreed, and we made the appointment. I made it clear that I needed an intravaginal ultrasound, and I needed to take the report with me so I could give it to my embassy doctors. She agreed; there would be no problem.

Fast forward to today. Jeff and I showed up shortly before 9, the time set for our appointment. The receptionist obviously had no idea why we were there. I told him I had made an appointment with Magda. He told us to sit down. A few minutes later, he called us back over and told us that Magda was on the phone, which he handed to me. Magda didn't seem to remember me at first. Then she suddenly asked, "Are you pregnant?" When I answered affirmatively, it was like something clicked in her mind. She said, "Ok, you should sit down and wait. I'll tell them what you're going to have done." I handed the phone back to the receptionist, and Jeff and I sat back down.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called us back over. He told us to go to the cashier downstairs and pay LE100, then go to a different reception area and tell them that we were there for an ultrasound with a specific doctor. So that's what we did.

We were told to wait in the other reception area, which we did for a few minutes. Then the receptionist there came over to me and started speaking in Arabic. I looked at her blankly and said, "Ana mish fahma. Arabi schwayya-schwayya." ("I don't understand. Arabic little-little.") So she motioned me to follow her and led me to the other receptionist in that area. This one told me in English that the doctor I was supposed to see was running very late today, and instead I was to see Dr. Mohammed Someone-or-another. I told her I was supposed to get an intravaginal ultrasound. She agreed and said that Dr. Mohammed would do it. I declined. I told her I needed a woman doctor. Even in the States I have not yet been forced to endure a pelvic exam from a male doctor, and there's no way I will allow it with a male Egyptian doctor, not with the stories I've heard of doctors who apparently ask women to disrobe for no reason other than to see if they will.

Completely unsurprised, the receptionist told me to wait a moment, and she made a phone call. She then told me to go back to the first reception area and wait for Dr. Laila. So we went back and made sure the original receptionist knew we were back. He told us to go to a third reception area and wait for Magda. On the way, we had to pass by the second reception area. The English-speaking receptionist there stopped us and told us to go back to the first area. We explained what the receptionist there had told us. She shook her head, told us to wait, and picked up the phone. After a brief conversation, she told us to go back to the first area.

Back in the first area, the receptionist motioned us to go into a separate area that seems to be reserved for those who have paid. After a short while, we were called in to the ultrasound room. The technician/doctor/whatever she was took the basic information that all doctors apparently want when you're pregnant, then asked if I was still taking a medication that I'd been prescribed previously. I said no, because my research had shown that it was not appropriate for pregnant women. She told me to go back on it in order to avoid a miscarriage. I said okay, mainly to acknowledge that I'd heard her, because I will not go back on it unless my embassy doctor tells me to ... and even then I'd probably want to do more research on my own first. She asked if I was taking prenatal vitamins, then told me to only take them for the first trimester. (Somehow I think I'll be taking them longer than that.) All in all, this woman wasn't really acknowledging that she isn't my primary physician.

Finally, though, we got around to the reason I was there--the ultrasound. She turned the screen so I could see it. She pointed out the gestational sac, which I'd seen on the previous ultrasound (unbeknownst to her, because it was at a local hospital, not the clinic). She showed me the embryo--the baby. She pointed out the fluttering, which is the developing heartbeat. At one point, she had to explain why I suddenly saw two embryos where previously there was only one; apparently it's normal to get echoes. She measured, and I don't remember the size, but she said that the size was consistent with a mom who's 8 weeks along. She said that everything looked normal and good, and the baby appears healthy. At this point, I readily forgave any and all inconveniences that had occurred while making the appointment or earlier this morning.

Afterward, she wanted me to meet with a specific doctor. My choices were to wait today for "one or two hours," most likely meaning three or four hours, or to come back "tomorrow or after tomorrow," when there would be clinic hours. "Clinic" means I come and sit in the waiting room for who knows how long until the doctor gets to me. Um, no, thanks. I've got better things to do and more comfortable places to sit. So I just asked for the report so I could take it back to my doctors at the embassy.

This is the point where my temper almost made an appearance. She said no. I couldn't have the report. What they had done today was for their records. It didn't matter what Magda had said when I made the appointment (which Magda had apparently not actually made anyway, reviving all the frustrations of the morning). If I wanted a report for another doctor, I'd have to talk to the doctor here and ask for it. It wouldn't be a problem to get it, but I'd have to spend untold hours waiting for the opportunity to ask for it. I was furious a little upset to hear this news. But with a heroic effort I easily contained my anger, held onto my temper, and calmly announced that I would not see the doctor today.

My husband and I calmly left the clinic. Once outside, we agreed that, as soon as I got home, I would call the health unit and let them deal with this nonsense. Meanwhile, Jeff announced that unless it is absolutely necessary, we will not be returning to this clinic. I fervently agreed with that judgment.

To make the rest of the story short, the health unit people did their thing. The report will be picked up tomorrow, and I won't even have to pick it up. I will never have to deal with this clinic again.

Still ... they made it possible to see my baby for the first time. And there was a heartbeat. So even though I'm glad not to have to deal any more with their inefficiencies and absurdities, I guess they're not all that bad.


  1. I can only imagine the frustration of the appointments, but praise the Lord for a heartbeat!!! What good news! Praying still for a healthy full term pregnancy for you.

  2. Wow - that totally sucks! Do you go through your/your husband's work for the health services or just on your own? That was waaaayy too complicated; next time argue with them more ;)

  3. Little P- Most of our medical care is provided through the embassy's health unit. They have some American doctors and nurses, as well as a local pediatrician, and everything there goes by more familiar procedures for us. They refer us to local clinics for things they can't do in-house, such as ultrasounds. I knew I probably could argue a little more, but I was so frustrated that I knew I'd go over the top with it ... so I decided to let the health unit people handle it--some of them can argue in Arabic, when necessary, which my language skills just aren't up to. Luckily, there are other options for ultrasounds--we've had one at a local hospital, where everything went very smoothly, and we're going back to the hospital for the next one. No more dealing with that particular clinic.


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