Have you ever experienced seeing someone – perhaps on the sidewalk, at a restaurant, or in a grocery store – and your mind began to develop a story about that person. Where did he come from? What makes her happy? When did they move into this neighborhood? What career is she in? How did he get that scar? So many questions race through my mind as I try to imagine the history behind the face. This was the reaction that was evoked inside of me when a met a gentleman whom I’ll refer to as the Devoted Doctor. It was through a friend that I was introduced to this older gentleman in his 70s. Due to the introduction, my attention was naturally placed on this guest, and yet there was an additional curiosity that was sparked from the moment I shook his hand.
In front of me was this older, fragile man. He struggled to move, as he was physically assisted by a family member. It looked as if life had taken a toll on his body. His hair had begun to turn shades of gray and the wrinkles across his hands reminded me of a person who exhibits good work ethic. His body trembled which made me think of a busy worker who was eventually slowed down by life. And then I looked into his eyes. There I saw devotion, warmth and intelligence. We shared a cup of chai, dates and nuts as the conversation took a common road. By the end of the meeting, I was full of questions and wonder.
Throughout the years, I began to piece together this man’s story – though I am sure it is only a fraction of what could be discovered. This gentleman had spent his entire career as a doctor – a deeply devoted doctor. Here are some excerpts from his life that created this Lasting Legacy: The Devoted Doctor.
The Devoted Doctor was born in Iraq and graduated from a small rural area called Al Nassirya. In the 1950’s, he was selected as part of a prestigious group to participate in his medical studies in Germany. After moving to this new country, the Devoted Doctor managed to learn both the German and Latin languages in only a few months and then completed his medical schooling and surgery residency. (Clearly this man possesses strong intellectual abilities to be able to master another language at such a quick pace.) After 15 years, the Devoted Doctor made the decision to move back to his native country and continue to serve others through providing medical services.
Upon arriving back in Iraq, the Devoted Doctor lived in the Basrah area where he was a surgical doctor and was soon appointed Head of the Health District in southern Iraq. Professionals in the medical field sensed the doctor’s talents and he was selected to perform more and more delicate surgeries. By this time, the Iran-Iraq War had begun and mass causalities were becoming far too common. Soldiers from both Iraq and Iran were being brought into the hospitals with life threatening injuries. (His ability to work during such a highly stressful time in history proves his strong work ethic and dedication to helping patients.) Although it was quite taboo, the Devoted Doctor put his commitment to treating patients before political affiliations as he cared for soldiers from both sides of the war. It was during this war that the Devoted Doctor faced a significant medical challenge. A soldier was brought to the hospital with a rocket propelled grenade in his abdomen. The rocket had not exploded, which created great fear among the hospital staff. They restricted the patient to a far side of the hospital as staff members fled the location out of fear that he would soon blow up. The Devoted Doctor examined the man, and discussed the possibilities with someone in the military who stated that the rocket would probably not ignite at this point. After hearing that, the doctor decided to take the risk and lead a surgical team to remove the rocket from the man’s abdomen. Years later, while walking through a local market, a gentleman saluted the doctor. Upon questioning why the man was doing this unnecessary gesture, the Devoted Doctor learned that it was the soldier whose life he saved that day when he removed the rocket. (He was so passionate about helping others that he was willing to risk his life to save the life of a patient.)
The war continued until 1988. During that time, the Devoted Doctor began to lead medical advancements in the area of bone lengthening. His success in this area lead to requests from other countries for him to travel and mentor other doctors in successfully completing this surgery. Instead, he chose to remain in Iraq, where he led teams through completing thousands of successful surgeries. It was also during this time that this mountain-mover decided to open his own clinic. It was here that he was the only doctor, treating many patients and often providing his services for free. (Unlike the US, Iraq did not have insurance companies who collected medical payments. This permitted doctors to have the flexibility and ability to provide services at different rates, or even for free.) The Devoted Doctor was known for treating friends, relatives, and the poor, at low cost, if anything at all. He chose serving others over financial advancements. (The kindness of his soul echoes from these loving acts to best serve his patients both medically and financially.) In addition to the obstacles brought about from war causalities, the Devoted Doctor experienced his own personal challenge during these years. One day he was struck by a vehicle as he crossed the road. This lead to multiple injuries, including many broken bones. Nevertheless, he was determined to get past being a patient in the hospital – where he recovered for several weeks – and return to being a doctor from the hospital. With a strong mindset, this soon became his reality. Though the mass casualties decreased after the end of the war, the hospitals were still dealing with the catastrophic events that occurred during the war. There were still patients to treat and surgeries to perform.
The Gulf War began only two years after the Iran-Iraq War. Though it lasted fewer years than the one prior, there were still, unfortunately, mass causalities. A newspaper once reported about the doctor’s ability to lead his team as they completed 52 surgeries by candlelight due to the harsh conditions of the warzone. This was a doctor who would not allow electrical outages to control his willingness to treat patients. The wars were highly challenging times that presented new barriers every day, and yet this gentleman refused to let these circumstances dictate the quality of care that he provided to others.
As the years continued, the Devoted Doctor found himself working 9-10 hour days for six days a week. He did not count the hours of work in the clinic, instead he viewed it as opportunities to help others. Yet during this same time, he was building memories with his family as he served as a strong role model for his children. You could find this father running with his son near Tuesday Market and explaining to his boy that we should accept our share in life and enjoy the life we are blessed with. He was a father that taught another son how to swim, while also modeling that one should be understanding (Understanding) of others, even when they make mistakes. While spending time with his daughter in the old cultural market, he told her stories from his past, such as the time when he saw the King of Iraq and the value of doing charitable acts because life should not be all about money. He was a Baba who would take the time to read bedtime stories, as his son rested his head upon his father’s arm. This gentleman encouraged his wife to continue her dream of becoming a school teacher as she modeled for her children the value of reaching one’s goals.
However, in 2004, things took a turn. The Devoted Doctor experienced an event that forever altered his life. While walking home from work one evening, the doctor was the victim of a robbery by knifepoint. He returned home, rattled, disoriented and unwilling to heed his family’s advice to seek treatment at the hospital. It was soon noted that the Devoted Doctor experienced a stroke during the robbery. He was required to complete hours of physical therapy, which was a challenge since the country was in the middle of yet another war. The physical limitations greatly impacted his quality of life, and though his heart was still set on treating patients, he had to retire from being a surgical doctor. This was devastating for a man who had committed his entire life to caring for others and who was driven by giving others a chance at a better future. His coworkers would describe the Devoted Doctor as: calm, respected, kind, hard-working, honest, passionate, serious, loving towards patients and a man of principle. Though his active career ended at this time, his impact on the medical field and on the lives of others continues to this day. Even today, while he sits at home and watches over his children and grandchildren, that which sparked a fire within him for so many years can still be seen by those who look into his eyes – the passion and dedication of the Devoted Doctor.
I discovered that my first impression was true. I had encountered a man who possesses strong work ethic and strong moral character. Is he perfect? No. Like all human beings, he has flaws. But that does not take from his extraordinary impact he made on thousands of people whose lives he saved, or improved due to successful surgeries. He is an example of a devoted doctor, a provider for his family, a gentleman of rich knowledge and a stranger whose eyes can speak into the souls of those whom he passes by during this journey of life.
Ahmeli…that we find a career path that sparks a passion inside of us that is evident to all wh0m we encounter.
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