I have been putting off posting this for a few days until she could tell her family back in Romania, but now that it is out and her sister knows, I can.
Monday night, I called my BFF and asked her if she wanted to come over for dinner. She said she was tired and she'd pass. At 2:30am, she sent me a cryptic message asking me to pick up her dog, Tinkerbell, from her house because she was worried about her. She (The Romanian, not Tinkerbell) wouldn't answer her phone. A few cryptic messages (several in Romanian - WTF?) later, she told me she was in Mubarak hospital after having a heart attack.
She's younger than I am. She's had problems with high blood pressure and cholesterol and has been taking meds for it.
Ok, so we all think we can "sneak" foods once in a while when we know we're not supposed to. So, she had an omelet for dinner and then had severe chest pains. She called her son who was out with the guys and he immediately called an ambulance.
The ambulance (in Salmiya) arrived in approximately 5 minutes. Her son arrived right after. The technicians (I don't think they could have been paramedics) sprayed something under her tongue and told her that if she didn't feel better in an hour, to call them back. Her son drove her to the hospital. The ER doctor told her that she was having a heart attack and emergency services should have taken her immediately to the hospital. (Mark has a very interesting post on 2:48am blog about emergency services in Kuwait and how high-tech they have become - ergo the 5 min response time; however now it is time to get the employees up to the level of their equipment.) They almost cost her her life.
She's a heavy smoker, so this is a huge wake-up call to her. When she decides to do something, she is as stubborn as a mule about it, so I know she is going to take this very seriously. She's already told me that MY lifestyle is about to change to suit hers; that's fine except for the refreshing drinks. It will be good for me, I'm sure.
Her doctor (who has the same name as The Man) told her that they are seeing more and more heart attacks of young people in Kuwait - people in their late 20's and 30's - because of the lifestyle here. High cholesterol, fatty foods and lack of exercise. I look around at some of these guys with what appear to be 9-month-pregnant bellies, smoking cigarettes and wonder how they are still on their feet. Anyhoo, maybe this is my wake-up call too - start living better.
The Romanian is doing much better. For the first several days, they had her on some kind of morphine mixture for the pain and did literally round-the-clock tests. It is a blockage of one artery and they think it is from high cholesterol. She's been on a drip to and blood thinners to remove the blockage and they have checked to determine if there should be another course of action (angioplasty or whatever). So far, it looks good; that it was a mild heart attack that can be cleared without anything invasive. Inshallah.
And now for a
NOTE TO FOREIGNERS in Kuwait
Got Civil ID? Kuwait has a universal healthcare system
Lots of Western expats come to Kuwait and get private insurance and think that is the only way to go. You've got a favorite doctor at International Clinic or Mowasat and think you're set. You pay your deductible (and more) without ever even considering the national universal Kuwait healthcare system. If you have a civil ID, a full blood work-up at the local Kuwaiti clinic in your area is 2KD. Not covered under my private insurance, the same full blood work-up cost me 100KD at a private clinic. (Dental care is also treated at local clinics - look into it.)
First, find out where to go in your community; both clinic and hospital. It is determined by the address on your civil ID.
Also - the health care The Romanian has received at Mubarak Hospital has been OUTSTANDING (from the time she arrived to the young, professional Kuwaiti nutritionists/dieticians who come in every day at 1pm to train her how to adjust her lifestyle). My friend, Bobaliscious, had a similar good experience at Al-Sabah, and yet another American friend recently at Adan Hospital. We visited Al-Bahar Center (specializes in eyes) and the treatment both the Romanian and I got there was excellent.
I am here to tell you: Healthcare in Kuwait has improved dramatically over the past few years and most people speak English and are very willing to assist you (even the porters at Mubarak Hospital walked me right to The Romanian's room and were very friendly).
IF (God forbid) you or anyone you know needs emergency care for heart problems, the government hospitals are THE ONLY hospitals who have the latest equipment to deal with cases. Don't just get in your car and run over to a private hospital; you may be wasting valuable life-saving time and they will only charge you for the use of one of their ambulances to transport you to a government hospital.
And by the way, ambulance service in Kuwait is free; dial 112 and INSIST that they take you to the hospital or you will report them. There is no shame in going to the hospital and having it be a false-alarm. It would be worse if, as in my BFF's case, it was something serious and they didn't take you.
Wastah helps tremendously. This is yet another reason why, foreign people in Kuwait, you should make and retain friendships with Kuwaitis. They know the best doctors/dentists in the areas and if something bad happens, you might be able to score an upgrade to a private room or better treatment. But just remember, wastah is a 2-way street. You can't just drop people (use them) once they've helped you. Remember your friendships. It isn't (always) like you owe them something in return, but even kindness or a returned favor in some small way will do it. (I know a few Americans who have been helped through Kuwaiti friends and their wastah and the Americans haven't figured this rule out; burning bridges that could help them cross over a problem in the future. Bad juju.)