Friday, February 20, 2009

Have you got anything for pain?

My husband's cousin recently had a kidney transplant. He'd gone in the past to China hoping to find a donor (after refusing his sister's offer of hers) but he didn't find one so he came back. At first he thought he'd just give up and live his life as best as he could, but in the end, he decided to take up his sister's offer of her kidney. The surgery was performed here in Tripoli.

I went to visit on the day the sister came home from the hospital. She had been released after about 4 days and was in quite a lot of pain. I asked her what pain medicine she was taking and she said they only gave her pain meds on the day of the surgery and she was told she didn't need them after that because they 'weren't good for her'. Her brother was still in the hospital, being the receiver of the kidney, it was going to take longer for him to recover.

The woman was in a small room off a large reception hall on the ground floor of their house. She was laying on a twin-sized bed in the corner covered in blankets. The women visiting (there were about 40 of them when I got there) were all in the large reception hall drinking glass after glass of tea while small children ran in and out and babies wailed relentlessly. Every time a new visitor arrived she shook everyone's hand and kissed everyone and then was led into the small room to shake the poor woman's hand and kiss her too.

My husband had been warned (by me) when he dropped me off to make it a quick visit. He was elsewhere sitting with the men. After making the rounds and shaking hands I sat down to listen to the latest gossip and drink tea. It was the usual talk of marriages, engagements, pregnancies and illness. I just let their chatter float over me while I watched the toddlers running around.

The auntie mentioned that right before I arrived one of the kids had run smack into a pillar in the centre of the room and cut his head open. One of the men had taken him to the emergency room to get stitches. From my personal experience it was a normal Libyan get together! At least one kid gets stitches at every event and another will break a bone.

One little girl, who looked to be about three years old, ran over to our group to touch base with her mother. She had her heavily greased hair in about 30 tiny ponytails. The discussion turned to what to do to make hair soft and straight, and the girls mother was proudly telling everyone that the secret was coating the hair daily in Ibuprofen oil. Many of them admitted that they were doing this too.

Am I supposed to be surprised by their stupidity? Ibuprofen is a drug! It's a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that's used to manage pain, fever and inflammation. Ibuprofen oil is used as a rub for arthritis and muscle injuries and aches. It's not meant to be used on peoples' hair to make it straight and soft! And like every drug it has side effects:

The most common side effects from ibuprofen are rash, ringing in the ears, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. NSAIDs reduce the ability of blood to clot and therefore increase bleeding after an injury. Ibuprofen may cause ulceration of the stomach or intestine, and the ulcers may bleed. Sometimes, ulceration can occur without abdominal pain, and black, tarry stools, weakness, and dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension) due to bleeding may be the only signs of an ulcer. NSAIDs reduce the flow of blood to the kidneys and impair function of the kidneys. The impairment is most likely to occur in patients who already have impaired function of the kidney or congestive heart failure, and use of NSAIDs in these patients should be cautious. People who are allergic to other NSAIDs, including aspirin, should not use ibuprofen. Individuals with asthma are more likely to experience allergic reactions to ibuprofen and other NSAIDs. Fluid retention (edema), blood clots, heart attacks, hypertension and heart failure have also been associated with the use of NSAIDs.

In the past I would have had to put my two cents in during their conversations but I have given up. They never listen to me anyway - I'm just the 'ajnabiah'. So I just sat and listened and kept my opinions to myself (I can vent my gripes here on my blog ... hehe). The thing that I found so ridiculous was that the woman talking had a university degree. She also had a computer and she had access to the Internet. It had taken me all of three seconds to look up the side effects of Ibuprofen!

I used to feel sorry for these women because when I came here 20 years ago you didn't find many that had much education. But now things are different. Women here have access to knowledge, they have Internet and they can watch all kinds of informative programmes on hundreds of TV channels. I don't feel sorry for them anymore. I feel disgusted.

The saddest thing was the poor woman suffering with pain because taking pain medicine after having major abdominal surgery 'wasn't good for her'. Meanwhile they are pouring pain medication on their heads!

OK... I've gotten that off my chest... I feel better now!


  1. Lets just say I have a little experience in this matter. I work in organ transplant. Kidney donor experience a hell of a lot more pain then the recipients. Our donors get to use a PCA pump (Patient-Controlled Analgesia) filled with morphine or dilaudid through the first day post op. Then after that they can have Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone) every 4 hours as needed. They are sent home after about 4-5 days with a prescription for pain meds too.

    Pain relief is a very important part of recovery. Studies show that if pain medications are used post major abdominal surgery and patients are relieved of most pain, they in fact heal faster and with less complications.

    Now as for the ibuprofen used in the hair of young children... How sad it will be when that young girl will need a kidney transplant too.

  2. All I can say is "OMG"! I am rendered speechless (for once).

  3. I assure u that not all Libyans live in this style that you portrayed ... but the Libyans I know and proud to be part of do not exersice such behaviour ..
    Why don't you research and write about the other side of the Libyan culture ... made up of highly educated, talented, people .. who don't discuss triviality as getting their hair straight and annoying patients .. or probably I presume you are surrounded with such characters .. that made you generalize your misconception about Libyan society ...

  4. It certainly never ceases to amaze me how ignorant these 'educated' people are - my husband's family is the same - drives me crazy - they are all university educated - as is he and the co-wife - but they are so woefully ignorant about so much not what I would 'expect' from an educated person. And they are determined to cling to the old ways - no way are they willing to give good old 'common' sense - not so common any more - a try. The way they pop antibiotics like it were candy - the second my husband has a sniffle he is after me for an antibiotic - and while I do have pain killers, antihistamies and such in my 'drug' cupboard - I refuse to keep antibiotics in the house. I had a really bad cold and the co-wife was insistent that I take antibiotics as a precaution - told her in no uncertain age - that having reached the age of 49 and having taken antibiotics for a total of five times - I was not about to take them as a preventative measure - and she is a dentist. Go figure.

  5. When I came to Libya 20 years ago
    I felt sorry for the women you know

    No access to knowledge in the nation
    Most Libyan women lacked education

    No education & nothing much to do
    Women stayed home & cooked too

    But what’s happening to some today
    Net, informative TV paved the way
    Sea of info, pouring at us everyday

    No excuse for anyone to act stupid
    To love knowledge no need 4 cupid

    It’s about a woman who talks stupidity
    She got a degree from the university

    4 the sick, medicine is not good for her
    For others using it to soak up their hair

    Coating the hair daily in Ibuprofen oil?
    Story makes my blood starts to boil

  6. Anonymous... of course I'm surrounded by such characters... everyone in Libya is!

    I meet educated Libyan females all the time because I am an English teacher here. I see many who come to learn English so they can do their post-graduate studies abroad. But even among those, there are few that I would consider enlightened.

    Sorry that you don't agree with me, but I am being honest.

    Mahmud... thanks for the poem. It's been ages since you last posted one. Glad to see you are back rhyming!

  7. hi im libyan and i am a girl so i know what you said is totally true and is honest .sometimes when im sitting in these gatherings i think "could they really be this shallow" then i just count the minutes till its over
    try talking about the news they would think your a freak .
    this stuff would sound insulting to someone who hasnt sat with these women .but beleive me its totally true its about time the truth got out , and i know not all libyans are like these but the majority is and like the saying says "majority rules"
    and this is a blog so the blogger can say what they want if some anonymous person doesnt like it go blog about it !!! and have the courage to write your name

  8. Anonymous again: in reply to your reply ...
    This is what I call typical prejudice , ignorance and stero-typing ... a symptom sufferred by "new world" imigrants .. who believe that the earth is flat .. and do not speak a second language and get their news from stand-up comedians !!!

  9. This is the first I have heard of Libyans using Ibuprofen oil for hair and in my family I have a mixture of those who are not educated and those who are. I am also saddened that you could not speak up and advise them that this is dangerous, since a young child was involved.
    KT, why do you continue to visit these people if you are neither interested nor keen on them. Yes as muslims our society calls for us to visit the sick, and pay our respects to those dead and to celebrate with those who are happy. I am sure you are not obliged to go see these people, I'm sure they would rather you where there because you wanted to be rather than because you have to be, as human beings we are allowed to choose, I'm sure your old enough to choose who you want to stay in contact with.

  10. Hope the poor woman is better today!

    It never ceases to amaze me how certain myths and stories are preferred to actual fact! An acquaintance of mine is studying medicine, and her "diet" includes eating a cucumber for breakfast, lettuce for lunch, and tea for dinner!!!! She’s studying to be a doctor and look how she's treating her own body!
    and as u said, no matter how much you try and go into discussions with them, you will fail, and trust me, its not because you are an "ajnabiyah", its because their minds are predisposition to them being right, so no matter how much scientific proof you present to some of them, ibuprofen will be an equivalent to hair straighter to them!

  11. those "highly educated, talented people" should help the ignorant.

    I do feel the same way Teri, but the good thing about my family here is that they listen and are open to learning. I just wonder how many lives have been wasted just because of someone's ignorance or because of someone's refusal to learn or accept criticism, or someone refuses to help or inform or even because of plain stupid pride?

    it is good that you let out your thoughts on these issues. if one is truly educated, then he/she should be open to new things, to learning.

    now i am wondering if it's possible for someone to be "too lazy to think" or to have a "different kind of 'common sense'" or to be "too smart, talented and cultured to learn?" lol

  12. You are only a U.S. citizen of Libya and Tkrhin grass really do not deserve to Taatnevsi Air Libya
    You are a people of Amazigh you write about your husband?
    You have to be your husband Thtermi But what people say
    Net You know the customs and traditions
    As I said earlier foreign
    God's call to enter one of the Tamazight Ieitk lesson in respect for the people of your husband

    If Libya and the Libyan people do not, why do not you like to Trhalin home?
    American community is not perfect and we know this
    A woman who was present at the visit of the patient

  13. Well,
    - first I feel very sorry for this woman getting disturbed by all those visitors at once.
    - Second if those women just equip their selves with Islamic manners they wouldn't end up like that.

    Nizar G.

  14. Why on earth doesn't she try acupuncture - this is highly effective in treating localised pain.


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