Cat in an Istanbul ER

Maurizio and I just got back from Istanbul. It was not the vacation we had in mind. I did get to see an ER facility in a local hospital in the capacity of patient, having collapsed because of what we now know was a bleeding ulcer. But back to the hospital. It was certainly shabby, a little more shabby than the one we used outside of Naples. The wheel chair had no footrests, a small thing, but it’s hard to hold your feet up, I discovered, with a blood pressure of 80/40, which the somewhat bi-lingual doctor referred to as “very small blood.”
The treatment room featured a cement floor and bare bulbs, not that clean perhaps, but I was there within minutes of arrival, given EKG, IV, blood tests, all with skillful efficiency and a deft needle-stick. I had no ID with me, certainly was not a citizen and yet was treated with courteous care because (now here is the un-American thing) I was sick and needed help. Female patients enjoyed the benefit of blue cotton curtains.
There was no chair for Maurizio in our cubicle but, poor man, he was too agitated to sit. Thinking of stroke-like causes, he was all for constant social interaction or at least signs of cognitive activity. But spunky I wasn’t. At one point he announced, “Hey, there’s a cat.” It occurred to me that Maurizio was losing his mind or becoming a little desperate in attempts to rouse me. With some difficulty, I peered over the gurney and there indeed was one of the many, many cats prowling the city. The cat wound around my IV pole, explored our space and then wandered under the curtain to my neighbor, an older woman in a hijab attended by various worried relatives. By their delighted laughter and excited commentary, I divined the Turkish for “Hey, there’s a cat.” I felt better and I hope my neighbor did too.
Soon after, our nurse appeared, switched out the IV bag and fetched my blood test results. A pleasant doctor assured Maurizio that I was “taman” or stable for release, and we paid. About $30. Those hours were, I think, some of the finest medical care I’ve ever experienced. More cats in our ERs would not be a bad thing. Less obsession with sterility and a little more indiscriminate compassion.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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