I didn’t take cupcakes with me today.   Who would dare to carry cup cakes into a sterile and supposedly health supporting environment? Where all that’s good and clean and fresh, minus harmful additives and other bad stuff for your body should be promoted.   Seems I was wrong, as there in all its glaring glory in the middle of a hospital reception area, alongside all the malaise and malfunction was a refreshment station promoting cups of coffee and this…

IMG_3367But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Let me just state before we get going here that I’m absolutely 100 percent fine. Thank you for asking and yes, I was in as an outpatient in this very large hospital ‘cos when you’re fair skinned and play with sun-fire you bet burnt. Probably a few too many times over my African childhood and now too, as I expose my shoulders to the rays, out there in the desert on my bike. I had to have one of those things with an un pronounceable name cut out. A one number basal cell carcisomethingorother and I parted company today.

No big deal.

What was a big deal; Dr Faruq M. Badiuddin MS, FRCS (Eng) FICS (USA) Specialist General Surgeon, Laparoscopic Gastrointestinal and Obesity Surgery. In short, the surgeon and his absolutely delightful garland of nurses that hung onto his every action and direction like their all time favourite grandpa was in the room – and it didn’t take me very long to see why.

As I was prepped, three amicable and so-sweet nurses, all from the Philippines and speaking in muffled tones through face masks, discussed their lives in general and their hopes in particular. They are treated well where they work. They are all happy and THE stare was not there as their eyes danced above the stretchy cloth keeping their germs in and mine out. All had immediate family living with them in Dubai and two had children, birthed here and living local with them.

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We talked the politics of corruption – same same in Africa as in Asia, the education or lack thereof in Presidents and the voting masses following them. We exhaled in the privilege of education and the price of living as an expat. We chatted as they scrubbed and opened surgical packs with their elbows and asked me to sign a million and one pieces of paper. And I marvelled, once again, at the gentle ways and nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude of this gentle nation of truly beautiful people.

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And then it was time for Dr. Faruq to do his thing. Obviously held in high but relaxed regard by all the girls I could see now why his consulting room walls are covered with thank you cards from grateful patients. He’s as softly spoken as his skilled hands, which moved a needle and scalpel with the stealth of a soldier, around my shoulder. Since he was a captive audience, has accolades on his business card as long as my arm and, I assume, had sworn the Hippocratic oath I took full advantage of the situation and launched forth into my repertoire of questions.

The story that unfolded was worth so much more  than the inconvenience of removing a malfunctioning mole.

Dr Faruq is the youngest of ten children born to Indian parents who were both teachers.   His mother had her first baby at 14 and her last at the age of 42. During this time she also managed to educate herself and alongside her also-a-teacher husband, all ten of her children. Some have passed on, others are medical doctors, some are teachers, a few are professors and academics, some are in India and others scattered around the world. He laughed when I asked him if he knew where all his nephews and nieces felt at home.   He got his initial MS in India and then went on to specialise in London and America. He moved his young family – a wife, two boys and a girl to Ireland where he spent many happy years before moving closer to home and the sufficiently similar to India culture of Dubai in 1987.   He’s been operating here ever since. His children finished their schooling locally and the boys moved on to the US, where they still live now. His daughter is in Dubai. They are all grown up, and have children of their own.

Between all the oohing and ahhing of his family stories, the pricking, pushing and tugging of my skin and what seemed like buckets of blood being mopped, the chat moved to movies, and his all time favourite Avatar. I stopped him to yuck the bloody mess he held at the end of the tweezers and asked him why he was sewing nylon tread through it. “For the pathologist so he can orientate the growth with blah blah” I lost him there – and gave him the go ahead to proceed with movie talk. He related almost frame by frame to me, a total ignoramus in the movie world, the story of co-existence which lead us to discuss the genetic differences between a banana plant, a chimpanzee and a man and then without pause the failure of the thing that burns an open wound to stop it bleeding profusely. The nurses scuttled and plugged in and out this machine and moved that equipment around while Dr Faruq stood poised with instrument in hand, encouraging them and me along. I asked him why it didn’t stink and he said burning skin smells, internal stuff doesn’t.

I’m telling you, you can’t make these conversations up.

When all was said and done, the sutures secure and do-this-at-home instructions given, Dr Faruq told me to be kind to my shoulder, a hard working part of the body, as he gave my hand a fatherly pat.

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He opened his mouth to say something else when a knock on the door brought in yet another nurse from the general anesthesia wards. She said they were all waiting for, what I now claim as “my” doctor,  as she gently pulled then pushed him out the door amidst upbeat banter and big smiles. “See you in ten days” he shouted over his shoulder as the door swung closed behind him. I dressed, hugged the three lovely nurses and wished them well while wishing I had brought the biggest cake along, all covered in candles to celebrate the birth of Dr Faruq M Badiuddin  – even though it was not his birthday.

What a gentleman. What a scholar.  What a surgeon.

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