#3 Life in Afghanistan :: AhmadPosted: October 3, 2013
My yard in the harsh Afghan winter.
He knocked on my door and I smiled big as I saw his face through the glass. I wondered if he would come today having left early the day before due to illness. He is Ahmad*, he is my guard, my gatekeeper, but he is also my friend. In a culture where women are not friends with men it feel strange to say – but that is what he is. I care deeply for him, and I know his loyalty.
“Selam alekum Ahmad! Khush astum ke amadin. Chitor asten?!” “Hello Ahmad! I’m so happy you’ve arrived! How are you?”
He smiles back at me, he always smiles. I know his life is not easy, but he always smiles at me. He is always happy to do what I ask, nothing is every too much. He has taught me much about having a servant heart without even knowing it. I am so thankful for him.
He tells me he is still not feeling well. I tell him to sit in his room and keep warm, and that I won’t need to him to do any outside work for me today. He is thankful and goes back to his room.
A few hours later a knock on my door disturbs me from my work. I go to see who it is, although I know it will be Ahmad – no-one has rung the gate bell. He is standing there looking sorry for himself, I ask him what is wrong. “My head is hurting, and my throat is sore, and I have a cold, and I am coughing.” I offer to send him home, but he would rather stay. Here he has wood and can heat his room, at home there are no such luxuries. I go and get a thermometer, he has a fever. I tell him to wait in his room and keep warm.
About 15 minutes later I make my way down the ice-covered outside steps and across the yard to his room. I knock on the door and he comes to it. I peek inside and see he is boiling water for tea and the crumpled blankets on the bed tell me he has clearly been curled up. I can hear the radio playing in the background and wonder what he is listening to. Coming back to the moment I hand him a strip of paracetamol. “Take two of these now, two when you go home, and two before bed. They will help your fever and your pain.” He nods at me. I give him a few strepsils, “Suck one every few hours.” Then I give him a few sachets of herbal tea rumored to help with coughs and colds and then give additional instructions for him to drink plenty of water. He looks at me amazed and thanks me profusely. I ask him to repeat my instructions to me to make sure he has understood correctly. I’m glad to see that he has.
Ahmad improved over the next few days, and I never gave the whole situation a second thought. Until about 6 weeks later…
I’m home from work after a long day, feeling tired and overwhelmed by the culture. Ahmad opens the gate to me with the same ear-to-ear smile he always give me, it lightens my mood instantly and warms my heart. He asks me to wait and rushes into his room. He reappears moments later with a piece of paper in his hand. “It’s my blood pressure numbers, is it ok?” He presses the question several times as I stare blankly at the paper in front of me. I shake my head, “I don’t know Ahmad, I’m sorry.” “But is my blood pressure ok? Is it healthy?” I want to give him an answer but I can’t “I don’t know Ahmad, I’m sorry. I’m not a doctor, or a nurse, I don’t know. I can take the paper and ask my friend who is a doctor, she will be able to tell me.” He look at me with bewilderment “No, you must tell me!” I explain again “Ahmad, I’m not a doctor or a nurse, I don’t understand these numbers.” He looks at me again with pure innocence and slight shock “But you are MY doctor! You gave me medicine and it worked, now you are MY doctor”
I eventually managed to persuade him to let me ask my doctor friend, and his blood pressure was a little high, but nothing too worrying.
His words continued to weigh upon my heart though. I gave him simple household medicines, medicines that even a teenager knows how to use. I gave him remedies that are available to us easily, medicines that we have enough of an education to not think twice about taking or how to take them. I gave him simple instructions in basic healthcare, to drink fluids and keep warm. Yet to him, these basic bits of knowledge and simple drugs, were hugely significant, they were a great revelation to him. They caused him to revere me as his doctor.
I dream that one day all Afghans will have basic healthcare and hygiene knowledge. That people will not die from taking the wrong medications, or from taking the right ones in the wrong way. I dream that Afghans will learn simple methods of self-care for common illnesses so that colds to develop into killer pneumonia. I dream that simple hygiene practices such as hand washing, and covering up poo – or using a toilet if available, and covering food; will become commonplace so children, and parents, and elders will not die from preventable diseases.
I dream of a healthier more educated Afghanistan.
*Names changed to protect identities
This is part of the 31 Day series