Saturday, May 30, 2020

Self Preservation

Recently, it was the anniversary of the Manchester arena terrorist bombing - a very sad day indeed. The thought of such a dreadful thing happening close so to home in an arena where I had attended concerts even with my children, was terrifying. I remember how it sparked open prejudice within the society.

There have been a few waves of discrimination of various groups of people in different societies for various reasons. Eastern Europeans during the Brexit saga and more recently, South East Asians for Covid 19. Within the American Society the atrocious blatant racism against the black society does not seem to have changed since the era of slavery- but that is beyond my remit and comprehension.

Muslims had a long spell thanks to several terrorist attacks all over the world. Personally, I have respect for the dedication to their religious practices and cultures in spite of adversities.

I remember one particularly embarrassing incident around the time of the attack which made me reflect on perceptions of prejudice.

There have been times when I have been visibly startled in the course of my work, such that I was unable to retain my professional poker face.

One time was when I attended a home visit for an elderly lady. She lived alone in a small forlorn bungalow with an overgrown front garden. I knocked and waited. After a few moments, the little old lady poked her head through the door and believe it or not, she had a small horn in the centre of her forehead. I freaked out and jumped back (probably yelled "Blood of Jesus!")...but I got my composure enough to complete the visit. I later found out it was a skin condition she had developed over time, awaiting treatment. Nothing of the devilish inclination I was thinking. (But yes, it was a horn, like a Rhino's, but much smaller)

Another time whilst working as a Junior doctor in an Urgent Care Centre many years ago, a young middle eastern man came in complaining of a skin condition on his back. I asked him to lift up his thobe (kaftan) to allow me to examine. As he did so a huge pile of scaly skin fell to the floor with a loud rustling sound. I literally jumped out of the cubicle. I thought it was a snake. As I found out later, it was a really bad case of a skin condition called Erythrodermic Psoriasis. (You know you want to "google" it).

Anyway, back to my original story....

It was a few days after the Terrorist attack when there was a heightened sense of alertness in the company of Muslims.

I called in my next patient. He was a middle aged bearded Asian man dressed in traditional kaftan.

He made brief courteous eye contact with little expression. He walked at a steady pace, and took his seat on the patient chair in front of me. As he did so, he brought out a mobile device from his pocket and placed it on the table between us, glanced at me and turned to fix a stare at the wall behind me.

Within a few seconds, his phone vibrated on my desk followed by a rather loud Muslim call to prayer. "Allahu akbar".
Before my brain had time to process what was going on, my body leapt out of the chair, out of the door, through the corridor, down the stairs and outside the building. All in about five seconds.

After a couple of minutes, (when the building did not explode), I took a moment to recollect, said a quick prayer and re-entered my office.

"I am so sorry." He apologized. "It's my prayer time alarm, I have turned it off"
I muttered some form of excuse in apology for running off like that.

It was a most embarrassing moment for me but we forged a very good doctor-patient relationship with his whole family from then on for the next few months.

I know I am not prejudiced. I would still put my personal safety on the forefront-
Self Preservation is somewhere in the Hippocratic Oath.

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