“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory”
Just over a year ago I wrote about my great-uncle’s death. Today, his wife, Amal, passed away, another victim of Kuwait’s appalling health care. She suffered for several weeks and doctors failed to diagnose her. Her last weeks were comprised of experiments that blasé, indecisive doctors carried out.
My Aunt Amal was a wonderful woman who cared for her husband throughout his long fight against Alzheimer’s – it was a one-sided war. Despite all the pressures, she was always cheerful, steadfast in her faith and resilient. She has seen the inside of every hospital in this country and it was not until her last days did she show pain or complain about her deteriorating health.
During my senior year at university, I took a medical anthropology class that looked at the human health, health care systems and disease across different cultures. I wanted to present on Alzheimer’s in Kuwait and rushed to my Aunt Amal to gather information from a credible source. I’ll never forget how proud she was of me for trying to document this misunderstood disease. I went back and forth between her house, the psychiatric hospital and the library. I spent most of my time, however, in my car crying my eyes out in helplessness at the state of public hospitals in Kuwait. All the hideous hospitals in Kuwait pale in comparison with The Psychological Medicine Hospital, which at the time was undergoing great renovations to move patients from decaying structures to a hollow giant block of a “modern” building. The new building had no library to speak of, no doctors willing to help me with my research and no caring staff to tend to the tortured patients who were locked away like criminals. Every trip to the hospital left me agitated and outraged.
Although my research fell apart (I simply could not gather the information I needed) and I ended up writing about Alzheimer’s in India instead, my Aunt Amal continued to treat me like a hero. She was thrilled at the mere idea of someone willing to fight for her cause. I remember apologizing profusely for never finishing what I started but she always nodded wisely and assured me that I did the right thing by trying to start a conversation about Alzheimer’s. A few months ago, a conference was held to raise awareness about the degenerative disease. The government is ten steps behind on that one.
All negativity aside, I pray for strength to be just like my aunt, who smiled in the face of hardship and quietly endured indescribable grief and pain over the years. Rest in peace, Khalti Amal, you will be missed; we belong to God and to Him shall we return.