Syrian Dr. Chabalout will always be remembered

Dr. Ahmed Chabalout


    Time and again we read about Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who suffer from some ailments or other bad condition and decide to go home.

    For one reason or another, they believe, mistakenly or not, that they will be better off in the Philippines. Whether they will get cured or not is beside the point. They put their trust in being in the Philippines taken care of by Filipino doctors.

    We had a different experience, however. Since we were under contract we could not leave anytime unless it was due to extreme urgency.

    We could not tell the bosses that we were going home for medical treatment. They would remind us that health services were part of the package from the company.

    This was true when I joined Riyadh Daily in 1986. Even though I was entitled to category B benefits, it seemed I was accorded A category service.

    Informed by a woman community worker named Toots, who was working at the Riyadh Military Hospital, that I had high blood pressure, I drove myself to the Dallah Hospital in my old 1982 Cressida that had seen better days. That was in 1991.

    I was confined for six days as part of the package from Al Yamamah Press Est., mother company of Riyadh Daily that is now only available online.

  When I joined then Khaled Almaeena-edited Arab News on Jan. 13, 2004,  I also enjoyed generous health care services, which included free monthly prescription drugs and medicines thanks to Saudi Research and Publication Company (SRPC), which is part of the publishing giant Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG). Faisal J. Abbas is currently the Arab News editor-in-chief.

   In the latter part of January 2015, I visited one of my doctors at the Saudi Specialized Medical Center (SSMC), Dr. Ayman, an Egyptian who asked me to undergo a complete medical checkup, which included a laboratory test three floors underground.

    A Filipino woman staff-technician saw a shady part of my right kidney but she would not give any detail.

    “The doctor will tell you the result of the lab test,” she said.

    When I visited Dr. Ayman, he said, ”Your right kidney has cancerous cells.”

    Fear crept up my spine; I felt frozen. I could not move as I tried to compose myself.

    As if to make me feel at ease, Dr. Ayman said, “But there’s no (need to) worry right now. They’re in the early stage. You could have the ailing kidney removed at a later date but the only remedy is to remove it.”

    What he said made me decide to have it removed immediately, partly to avail of free medical procedure and partly out of fear.

    But what he said next intensified my fear.

    “The position of your kidneys are complicated. Instead of being separated, one is on top of the other,” he said, the intervening silence stoking my fear. I was at a loss for words.

    Seeing me confused, with fear in my eyes, he said, ”But don’t you worry. We have a specialist for that!”

   That eased my apprehension and worry. I felt a little relaxed.

    “Go and see Dr. Ahmed Chabalout. He’ll be in his office later today. I’ve informed him about your case,” Dr. Ayman said.

    I approached Dr. Ahmed’s office in the sprawling hospital’s third floor with apprehension. As I showed up at his door, I saw a man too busy with work.

    He was a slight man of middle age with short, gray hair and a stubble. But he was friendly and talked gently in a manner that indicated he had performed similar procedures.

       “We can schedule the operation on Thursday morning. By eight you must already be here,” he said. It was a Sunday night. As simple as that!

    I did as he told me. As I was brought into the operating room, he was already there waiting for me with a broad smile.

    He asked questions intended to make me feel at ease, then I felt I was being put  to sleep. I could remember nothing after that until I woke up two hours later at 11 a.m.

   Dr. Ahmed was at the recovery room and asked me how I felt. He followed as I was wheeled back to my room at the hospital.

   When I called him months later to thank him, he told me he was in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province.

    His friend and fellow Syrian Dr. Hussam Jnaud of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center (KFSH & RC) sent a text message about Dr. Chabalout:

         He was originally from Syria and trained in the United States. He was a senior consultant who specialized in vascular transplant surgery and had a long standing practice at the KFSH & RC and Riyadh Military Hospital.

     Dr. Chabalout and other doctors who took care of me will always be remembered. They were not Filipinos but fellow expatriates, except for a good Saudi ophthalmologist, who were all competent and A-1 in their respective specializations.

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