Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LVII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Sickness (1 of 6)

One day when he needed medical attention, nonno Zaki walked into a new clinic. There, he was greeted by an empty waiting room. For a short while there was no sign of life. Eventually a male nurse emerged from a room to greet him; next, he asked for his name, address, age, and other particulars. He then told my grandfather that Dr. El Masry would see him soon.

Dr. El Masry was very young; he quickly welcomed my grandfather: “ahlan wou sahlan, ya khawaga Ezri.” (Welcome Mr. Ezri). His first concern was to find out how Mr. Ezri liked his coffee; once 2 mazbut (not too sweet or bitter) coffee landed on his desk, he asked my nonno what his medical problem was.

Zaki was the first patient of Dr. El Masry; that being the case, he told my grandfather that there would be no charge now or in the future for him and his wife. Nonno protested; but, by the same token, since Egyptians are so superstitious, he understood the “logic” behind the generous offer of this young doctor.

Dr. El Masry was blessed with a wonderful personality; even in difficult situations, he could infuse some humor and calm the patient and her family. Therefore, in no time, he managed to build a substantial practice.

He had 2 clinics: One was his day clinic and it was called, Le Dispensaire. There, he received poor patients who paid only what they could afford. The other one, his evening clinic, was in an upscale building for well-to-do patients. Once he was finished with his clinics, he made the required house calls. (Doctors routinely made house calls in those days).

I do not want to leave you under the impression that Dr. El Masry was killing himself, he wasn’t, he took enough time off in between to replenish his energy.

By now you probably guessed that Dr. El Masry became our family physician, and a much beloved one. Indeed, we considered him as a member of the family. Many years would go by before I looked upon another doctor as a cherished member of the Ezri clan. It happened in 1976 shortly after we had moved to Ottawa and became the patients of Dr. D.K.

Sickness is unfortunately a part of every family’s life, and our family was no exception. Before I talk about that, I will relate two peculiarities of medicine as it was practiced back then.

Once a doctor has made his diagnosis and determined what medication(s) was required, he was faced with two options: Either the medication existed in ready-form and he took advantage of that; or he had to list the ingredients for the pharmacist to dispense. What does that mean?

By ready-form I mean the way a doctor would prescribe today. For instance, he would write on his prescription pad XYZ drug which in turn is manufactured by ABC Pharmaceutical. He need not tell the pharmacist to concoct a medicine in his back room. But, in those days, a ready drug was not always available to the doctor. Therefore, his choice was to ask the pharmacist to prepare it, and that process was called dispensing.

Dispensing required the collaboration of the doctor and the pharmacist. The doctor listed the ingredients and the dosage for each one. The pharmacist carefully checked the list for drug incompatibility, and for proper dosage. For instance, it could happen that two chemicals do not (physically) mix together, or, in combination, could prove toxic. A dosage could be too high or sometimes too low. The pharmacist also looked for possible human error, for example a dose of 20 mg when the maximum allowed for this drug was 6 mg. It will come as no surprise to you to hear that doctors back then had just as bad a handwriting as today’s doctors! All of which made the dispensing process hazardous. Often, the pharmacist had to call the doctor for further clarifications.

If you’re a pharmacist (or doctor) from the old school, you know exactly what I am talking about. You’re also aware that the doctor and the pharmacist shared the responsibility of dispensing a safe medication.

I was a student in pharmacy back in the ’50s; in the summer, I worked in a pharmacy and did dispense under the supervision of the pharmacist. However, by then, more and more drugs were becoming available in ready-form; and it was becoming obvious that the art of dispensing was on the way out. (I understand that, today, in some rare cases, some drugs are still prepared by a pharmacist).

The other issue related to patients’ charts. In Egypt when you went to a doctor for the first time, he noted your name, address, and age. He may also record your present ailments and the medications you’re taking.  The rest – as he gets to know you better – resided in his memory! What I am saying is that there were no patients’ charts; a nurse didn’t pull your file when you arrived, there wasn’t any! We never considered this practice as odd. Indeed, we would have questioned the need for such a process.

When we arrived in Israel in the 1950s, we noticed that the doctor, in addition to questioning and examining us, wrote furiously what had transpired during the visit. We also had a medical file! When we questioned the need for such a procedure, we were told that this allowed the doctor to know us (medically) better. As well, the file could also be transferred to another doctor who didn’t need to start from scratch.

Our reaction: What a good idea this was!

Comments are closed.