- Monday, June 27, 2011
“Still with all that, these new looms permit weaving of more carpets than before. The elders have come to see how much better it is for children to be in school and their wives free of the opium. So you see what a terrible thing it is the accident should happen at this time.”
Accident? Just how much had Jamil missed earlier? But the jerk of Omed’s head indicated a group of men wandering leisurely over from the chaikhana.
“The mullah and some elders are saying it is a sign we should not have changed to the new looms, that they are too dangerous. The healer has refused to touch her because she is a woman. I begged Haroon to take her to the city, where there are hospitals for women. But he says there is no money. I prayed the healer would change his mind and show mercy. When word came instead to me of you, I knew it was the answer to my prayers.”
If Jamil was straining to fill in gaps, the gist became clear as the approaching men swirled around him. A man in lab coat over shalwar kameez pushed open the door under the red crescent. The health clinic was a single room lit by a kerosene lantern hanging from a ceiling hook. Metal shelving and a glass-fronted cabinet held few supplies. On a wooden table a burqa and blanket draped a female shape curled up in fetal position. The woman looked curiously deformed, her shoulder thrusting oddly under the burqa as though a hunchback.
A second burqa was watching over the patient. She retreated into a corner as the men crowded into the clinic. Omed murmured an aside to Jamil. “My wife. The injured woman is her sister.”
Then he addressed his wife gently. “Did I not promise you, Najia, that I would find another healer? This is Jamil, the one of whom we were told. He has agreed to make an examination.”
Jamil had now caught enough babbled conversation to piece together what had happened. The accident to which Omed had referred was the collapse of a new vertical loom early that morning, wrenching this woman’s shoulder from its socket. At question was whether the shoulder was simply dislocated or more seriously broken. For that Jamil would need to examine the injury.
As Jamil reached to fold back pale blue polyester, his hand was struck away. “You would dishonor our women? Omed, what kind of healer have you brought us?”
Jamil’s assailant was the man in a lab coat. Jamil paused to look at him. “You are the health worker in charge of this clinic? Then you can tell me. What is the extent of the woman’s injury? Are there bones broken? What have you done to treat her?”
The health worker nodded to a small, thin man. “Haroon, the woman’s husband, examined her. He said no bones are broken. Only the shoulder has popped from its socket.”
Jamil turned to Haroon. “How did you determine whether bones were broken?”
Haroon shrugged. “I raise sheep and goats. I know how to tell when a bone is broken. Besides, I have seen such an injury before. Nabi’s shoulder was so hurt when a stone falling down the mountain struck him last winter.” The patient’s husband nodded toward a bystander. “I helped the healer put it back into its place.”
Jamil turned back to the health worker. “If you know how to treat such injuries, why is this woman lying here unattended? To heal well, such an injury must be restored to place as soon as possible.”
“But I cannot touch her.” The health worker visibly recoiled. “She is a woman. I explained to her husband how it must be done. When Haroon was not successful, I had him give her opium so that she should not injure it further until we see whether it will heal or not. Sometimes if left alone, such injuries will restore themselves to their rightful place. Or so our instructors taught us.” The health worker drew himself up proudly. “I studied for three full months to become dokter here.”
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