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  • Writer's pictureBarry Hampshire

Extract from Chapter 15 - Syrian Rebirth

Rashid and his family have moved to London. At the end of their first week, they all walk to a local doctor's office for check-ups.

Dr. Hamley introduced himself to the group as they sat alone in the waiting room. First, he checked over Rashid and pronounced him fit for work. Soon he also declared several others to be healthy. Meanwhile, Faisal distanced himself from the group and sat brooding alone. Rashid wondered why but said nothing.

Next, Faisal and his parents filed into the examining room. As Faisal sat on the examining table, Rashid sensed his demeanor shift . To Rashid, he acted like a caged animal, distrustful and scared. Faisal often hesitated as the doctor asked questions.

Puzzled, Rashid glanced at Fatima, who seemed worried too. Dr. Hamley's easy manner evaporated. He asked Faisal to lay back as he wanted to examine his torso. The doctor probed Faisal's chest and abdomen and asked if it hurt. In a defiant tone, Faisal said he was not in pain. The doctor pressed around Faisal's left side, just below his waist, and Faisal's reaction was immediate. He recoiled to the right, away from the probing hands.

Dr. Hamley asked, "Something wrong?"

Faisal didn't reply. Wondering if Faisal hadn't understood the doctor, Rashid repeated the question in Arabic.

Faisal held his breath and frowned before he said, "No. I'm fine. It's nothing. I might have walked into something. No big deal."

Rashid tensed, he knew Faisal wasn't being truthful.

The doctor said, "Faisal, you can relax. Please, sit up straight, hold your arms out, and then take three deep breaths." The doctor listened to Faisal's chest on his stethoscope before probing with his fingers to sense Faisal's reaction.

Dr. Hamley stopped to stare out of the office window for several seconds before turning back to his patient. He then walked in front of Faisal, who stared down at the bottom of the wall. The doctor squatted down so that he looked Faisal straight in the eyes. "Faisal. I can see you're in pain, and I suspect a lot of pain. On a scale of one to ten, what is the pain level? One would be no pain and ten would be unbearable. Please, tell me truthfully, how is the pain?"

"About a, it's probably a seven."

"How long has it been like this?"

"Since before the missile attack."

The doctor turned to Fatima. "Now, where did your family come from?"

"We lived in Damascus. The attack happened about six weeks ago."

The doctor continued probing Faisal and questioning him.

Hearing about Faisal's gastric issues and the occasional pains in his extremities shocked Rashid. His recent sense of stability slipped away from him. He wrapped his arm around Fatima's shoulder and held her close. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "Faisal, did this start as a result of the attack?"

"No. The pain began before then."

"Why didn't you say something to your mother or me?"

"Father, you're always so busy and what would've been the point? You always said we had no medical services available to us in Damascus."

As Faisal's words sank in, Rashid put his hands together and held them to his forehead. He realized in his efforts to gain peace and security for all children, he'd overlooked his own son when he needed his father. He recovered enough to offer, "Son, I know I am caught up in my life. You are our son. We would do anything for you. Things were bleak back home. Your mother and I, we would have offered your pain up so Allah could show us a path forward."

"Since losing my brother, I'm not sure I believe in Allah."

Nodding, Rashid stepped forward to embrace his son.

The doctor interrupted. "Faisal. Doesn't the pain and discomfort stop you doing activities?"

"Now I'm a man. This type of thing can't stop me."

Choking up, Rashid stepped back and placed his hand on Faisal's shoulder as Fatima grabbed Rashid's other hand to steady herself. They stood, silent, but inner voices screamed in alarm.

The doctor straightened himself. "Right, we need an MRI to find out what's going on. My nurse will set one up as soon as we can. I'm afraid you may have to wait for an MRI appointment. It might be a week or so. In the meantime, I'll write a prescription for medication that'll help alleviate some of Faisal's pain. Take one pill twice a day as necessary, but call me if you want to refill the prescription. I don't want him addicted to them. My nurse will draw some blood for testing. I'll be in touch."

Ten minutes later, the three of them walked out of the office, not noticing the rest of the family as they sat, watching. When they almost reached the door to the street, Tahira called out, "Don't I get checked by the doctor?"


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