Amman: Week 10 // Henna and Healthcare

Most of the things that I have experienced while abroad have been pretty predictable and reasonable, but this past week I walked through hell and came back. The week started off on an incredible note with a fun belly dancing class where we all ate Mansaf and got beautiful Henna done. It was probably the most beautiful henna I have ever gotten done. I was (and still am) weary about the black henna the artist used, but her craftsmanship was beyond stunning. She started by writing my name in Arabic and proceeded to freestyle an amazing piece around my name. It was the first time that a piece of henna truly felt like mine and what I would image anyone who gets a tattoo feels about their piece. I had always romanticized the idea, but not understand that the romanticism is true. I felt as though she understood my soul and displayed its beauty through this piece of art on my skin.

The rest of the week was not as positive as this event…

I grew up thinking everyone saw their doctors and dentists as much as I did and was very friendly with their pediatrician. The older I got, the more I realized how wrong I was. Though healthcare is essential to survival and a basic human need, it is a privatized resource. Sometime on Tuesday evening, I felt the most bloated in my entire life and knew that something big was going to pass… but golly was I surprised at how terrible things were. The bloating escalated to nausea which then escalated to being queasy and light-headed. I will save everyone the gory details, but I ended up spending the night in the emergency room at the local hospital in my neighborhood and with a new found appreciation for bidets. My experience at the hospital made me think critically about the American health system. It was interesting how quiet the hospital was in general and much smaller it was. The rooms were much more minimal and the hospital was not as concerned with paperwork or payment. It did not have the urgency and anxious overtone that I have found most American hospitals have.

My program had stated in the orientations that most of the doctors here speak English very well and studied in America; I found this the case for the doctors and medical professionals that I interacted with. There is also an easiness of access to the healthcare and medicine that is for the most part unheard of in the United States. When I walked into the hospital, they asked me basic informational questions and if I had insurance. That is all. In the United States, the patient would be interrogated and made to fill out packets of paperwork unless they were bleeding profusely. Because I was queasy and unable to function properly, I was immediately told to go into the examining room. Within 25 minutes, I had gotten four samples of blood drawn for testing and an IV hooked up to me. No questions asked.

The two things that were the most interesting to me was how the entire staff was male and that they were not as warm as some of my other experiences with healthcare professionals in America. In America, hospital beds are soft and have blankets, here I was given an examining bed and a pillow. I was freezing the entire time and asked multiple times for a pillow. They also do not have water as readily available, which could be a general reflection of the water problem in general.

In the United States there is a profoundly ridiculous stereotype that nurses are only women and doctors are usually men. In Jordan, the doctors and nurses were all men. It was interesting that they did not even ask me if I had a preference in gender in terms of doctor. In the United States and maybe it is just at my University, but they always ask what you are most comfortable with. There is also a much more pressing importance and recognition of gender identity and sexuality at my University than Jordan.

The most surprising aspect of my visit was the total cost. The entire cost of my visit, which included seeing multiple doctors, multiple other nurses just to hold me down to give me an IV, the actual IV, multiple blood tests, and even a stool test was only 75 JD without any insurance. Which yes, is very expensive in contrast to the average cost of living in Jordan and salary of most Jordanians. But in comparison to the United States, which would have involved much more waiting around and less professionals would have easily cost me 300 USD with insurance.

Thankfully I am better now and am so grateful to have such a caring host family who helped me in the recovery process. I would like to never experience that again, please and thank you.

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