I’ve been out of work for two days.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up and was sick to my stomach. Then, my head began pounding. Unable to muster even the energy required to towel dry my hair, I crawled back into bed and lay there until my driver called. I couldn’t move. Something was really wrong. After being ill for months and having my sickness come in waves, allowing me good days and ok days in between the hellish ones, I could no longer ignore the fact that I was falling apart physically. And I couldn’t put off getting treated until my R&R in late December.
My friend Nafi drove me to the German Clinic in Shar-e Naw, one of two high end clinics that serve foreigners and affluent Afghans. (Everyone else goes to the public hospitals and dubiously accredited private doctors –if they’re lucky).
Nafi waited as the doctor examined me. My pallor and slow, woozy reactions alarmed her. I was dehydrated and anemic, and when she pressed on my stomach, I winced in pain. I was sick, she said, very sick. Why had I not gone home to the US? I muttered my excuses: work, the elections, money worries, not wanting to upset my Afghan colleagues. The doctor tsk tsked disapprovingly, and expressed surprise that I was still on my feet.
Tests later confirmed that I had two bacterial infections, one of which had been let go so long it had riddled my stomach with ulcers to the point I was no longer able to digest anything. It was as if I had barely eaten in weeks, and had been on a crash diet for months. No wonder my hair was falling out. The doctor gave me five prescriptions and instructed me to rest, eat soft foods, and take lots of liquids.
Not content with breaking my heart a thousand times over, Afghanistan had to break my guts as well.
On the bright side, my guts will make a full recovery.