Saturday, March 10, 2012

My BFF, The Romanian, had a heart attack

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
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.)


Anonymous said...

my heart goes out to her (?!)
my hubby who is not fat and had 4 heartattacks before he was 45 (his father had several and his grandfather died at 47)

meaning pills, life style change and a check up every 3 months (and stop smoking)

if she doesn't, she'll never see you celebrate your 35th ;) birthday


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

My husband had a 'crisis situation' and went to the ER in Mubarak hospital and I was so horrified by the ER that I dragged him out and drove him to a private hospital where he stablized himself, until he boarded a plane to the US for treatment. Firstly, there were piles of bloodied sheets etc. in the corners of the FILTHY room, I saw numerous patients who had been waiting forever to see a doctor who was down the hall on his mobile and even in the ER he was on his mobile whilst attending patients and it didn't seem medical related. He serviced the Kuwaitis first before he got to expats and as I walked around the room interviewing the patients about their care, (yes I did) some told me that they had waited a hour to see 'this' guy - not many doctors in the room. I looked over at the nurses who one lifted her mask to sneeze into the air and put the filthy mask back on. It was horrendous. If you want doctors who have been educated and trained in the States or Canada, there are some marvelous doctors in Dubai, but even in Dubai you have to be careful, because so many doctors are trying desperately to escape the Arab spring to live the 'good life'. 'The City Hospital' in DHCC is like a 5 star hotel. My experiences personally in an ER in Kuwait were horrible and I would consider many of the doctors I interfaced with here as medical clerks, not professional doctors, so please take heed in recommending people go through the Kuwait medical system which I feel is highly inadequate for the region. I would go to Bumrungrad Hospital which is excellent before I would go to a hospital in Kuwait. I understand the 'Romanian' was in an emergency situation, but now that she has stabilized herself she may want to travel overseas for better healthcare. There are also fantastic 'health resorts' in Thailand where she can learn the basics about living better. I think there are health resorts in Eastern Europe that are fabulous that are close to her family. I see so many Kuwaiti patients boarding planes to Dubai now, so I think many people may be disillusioned by the MOH here. Bottomline: They can build new hospitals all they want in Kuwait, but it is the doctors practicing in these hospitals that will make a hospital great.

Anonymous said...

For your information, as stated in AB, the quality of healthcare in the GCC can be broken down into the following percentages. The majority of nationals and Arab expats are happy with the quality of healthcare available in the Gulf, with satisfaction levels rising to as high as 90 percent in Qatar, according to a new study released this week. Qatar, which was recently declared the richest country in the world, had the highest levels of satisfaction at 90 percent, followed by the UAE at 79 percent. Coming third was Oman (78 percent), ahead of Bahrain (70 percent) and Kuwait (62 percent), while Saudi Arabia was last in the GCC with 60 percent. There is great dissatisfaction in the healthcare in Kuwait, so I am happy to hear that your friend felt that she received adequate care and that they could stabilize her condition. She may want to consider some lifestyle changes.

Anonymous said...

Hey DG- how about a post solely for your favorite hospital? Getting vision checked? Mammogram? I hear that expats are completely covered for cancer treatment- is it true?

I know you did dental a while back,as well as OB/GYN but until this post I've been very afraid to go to a government hospital for anything. Mostly because I read Arab Times crime section when I'm bored.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry for The Romanian and wish her a speedy recovery. Take good care of her.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, these comments sound familiar regarding healthcare in Kuwait. Colleagues unfortunately had very similar experiences when using medical services in Kuwait. They encountered what seems to be the kuwaiti way of life attitude of indifference, racism,(unless you are a white woman and you'll get their full attention-creepy), and complete disorganisation. They may have all the up to date modern equipment, but not the will/motivation/expertise/desire to use it. Its also not a good professional impression when doctors are standing around at the entrance to the hospital smoking and on their mobile phones. (as do the police/airport police/visa staff, etc). At the hospital, triage seems to not be based on clinical need, but more on status, with Kuwaitis first, white expats next, and as for Asians, well they can forget it..just like everywhere else in Kuwait really. I always worried about ever needing emergency healthcare while I was there. What worried me the most was witnessing the ambivalence and absolute disregard Kuwaiti drivers show when an ambulance that is blue lighting is needing to get through traffic urgently. The police never looked particularly bothered or seemed useful in that situation either. In Europe and the USA, I have witnessed cars mounting dual carriageway islands/barriers and pavements (safely) in order to ensure ambulances can have free passage. Life is precious, help preserve it!! It can't always be Inshallah!! Theres a word called empathy that seems to be absent in Kuwait. Oh, and responsibility.
Kuwait has such a very long way to go to develop and mature as a country/culture. I think I would have been on the first plane out heading for Europe if I had developed urgent medical needs. I do hope your friend continues to recover well.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your friend. I hope she has a speedy recovery. I wanted to point out, Al Babtain is specialized in burns and plastic surgery, Al Bahar is specialized in eyes.