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Welcome home, Kassim!

 For the last two weeks, one of our residents has been in the hospital, including a significant amount of that time in quarantine. Tonight, we were able to welcome Kassim Abdallah Bawah back ‘home’!

Not that this could have been known two weeks ago, but apparently this all started in 1989. Kassim began experiencing symptoms then that local medical authorities in Ghana attributed to allergies or some form of asthma or bronchitis. Then, about six years ago, the symptoms became more severe, and he was given medications to suppress the symptoms of bronchitis. But, apparently that’s all it was doing, was suppressing symptoms. A few days into his stay in Rome, after a couple days of extended walking in the late, humid Roman summer, his symptoms came back with a vengeance.

When our local doctor came by he suggested antibiotics, but after a day of no effect, Kassim and our resident nurse, Ann, began to suspect Malaria. With that in mind, the doctor recommended checking into the National Hospital for Tropical and Infectious Diseases out in Trastevere. What follows is clear evidence that we are not in the U.S.!

When Donna took Kassim to the hospital, she was prepared for the typical Italian experience, would not necessarily be an improvement over staying home with a doctor and a nurse in the house. When they arrived, they found a very quiet, locked waiting room. On ringing the buzzer, a gruff Italian voice asked, “Who is it?”

“I am here with a sick person”, Donna replied, and the door opened. No other patients were waiting in the emergency room, but a doctor met them immediately, gave Kassim an initial exam and asked some questions. After 15 minutes or so, he announced, “If we have a bed, we will admit him”. Twenty minutes later, Kassim was admitted. Aside from showing his passport, there were no questions about residency, legal status, insurance or ability to pay. For the first couple of days, Kassim was visited by almost a dozen different doctors, and had regular conversation with the nurses, orderlies and other staff, where language was not a barrier. He was given a private room with a private bathroom, tv, and outside view. Several of us from the Lay Centre were able to visit on his third or fourth day. They began testing for everything – TB, HIV, HepB, etc. Then one day, they locked his door, and no one would enter without full surgical protection. Apparently, his chest X-Ray showed what was either Tuberculosis, or advanced chronic pneumonia. As it turns out it was the later, and it has been slowly killing him for the last six years at least (probably an aggravation of whatever started 20 years ago).

 After treating the pneumonia and waiting to be sure it was fully taken care of, they released Kassim to Donna’s care yesterday, with the admonition to spend the next week resting, and to check in with the local doctor at the end of the week. Otherwise, he is healthy, indeed for the first time in two decades.

There was no bill.

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