It may be a bad time to be pregnant in Egypt, but isn’t it a bad time to be pregnant everywhere else, too?
On 31 July, in a 3,200-word article titled ‘Now is a very bad time to be pregnant in Egypt,’ the online newspaper Mada Masr aimed to denigrate the Egyptian health system. The writer provides examples of women about to give birth but are fearful of the contagion, of the unavailability of their regular doctors, of the closure of clinics, and much more.
The article describes these challenges as though they exist only in Egypt. They do not; they exist worldwide. Through the eyes of someone living elsewhere, Vancouver, Canada, we will compare notes. True, my case isn’t one of pregnancy, but it is a health issue nonetheless.
My total knee replacement surgery was set for March, but due to the pandemic, the surgery was delayed to October, an extra eight months of hopping around and excruciating pain. However, luckily, due to a cancellation, I had the surgery on 24 July—only a four-month delay. The aches and pains are still there, the healing is slow, but I hope I am on the mend.
Despite being in Vancouver, not Cairo, the fears associated with having an intricate surgery during a pandemic left me in a more frantic state than the one the women in the article were in. The hospital, where I was to have my surgery, had had a COVID-19 outbreak in the post-operative ward—the outbreak was dealt with prior to the ward’s reopening, of course. Still, tell this to the person bound for that ward.
I was left to fend for myself at the hospital entrance because companions and visitors are not allowed in. I had requested a private room, but those were saved for severe cases, so I ended up in a room with three others, a male and two females, and the male patient coughed throughout the night, leaving me dead sure that I had caught COVID-19. I couldn’t sleep a wink.
After an orthopedic surgery, physiotherapy is key to success, and yet I was informed that, due to Covid-19, I wouldn’t be seeing a physiotherapist, that I should perform the exercises myself. A Zoom meeting is scheduled after two weeks. I keep wondering if I am performing the exercises correctly or will the surgery and its pain go to waste? I’m really glad I had the surgery with my chosen doctor, but I won’t see him again before six weeks.
Scary issues, wouldn’t you agree? However, would I say, “Now is a very bad time to have a knee surgery in Canada”? Definitely not. In fact, I was ecstatic when I was told a spot had come up due to a cancellation. I may say, “Now is a bad time to have a knee surgery anywhere in the world,” and the same goes for giving birth, and every other medical issue.
Let’s turn to the article. “Farida, not her real name, started feeling extreme fatigue and pain in early April; she chalked it up to her increased load of housework. Schools were suspended and daycare centres closed, and so she has had to shoulder the responsibility of caring for her two children under age six — full time, all by herself.” I empathise, but mothers around the world have taken up working from home while schooling children and keeping them occupied.
Farida lost the baby due to complications that we aren’t informed of, but I don’t relate the miscarriage to COVID-19 in Egypt, while extreme fatigue due to shouldering the responsibility of caring for two children doesn’t usually cause miscarriages.
In another example, the article talks of a poorer woman, Sahar Zakariya. She lives in a small room “where the bathroom is partitioned off with a curtain full of holes.” This is hardly worth mentioning unless the writer implies that Sahar’s simple home would’ve caused her demise. She had been vomiting and coughing, but the church OB-GYN clinic, among other services she frequents, was closed due to the pandemic, so she couldn’t access her regular doctor.
This must have been terribly disappointing, but a pandemic is a pandemic is a pandemic. Again, in Vancouver, Canada, all dental, chiropractor, and physiotherapist offices were closed; doctor visits were conducted by phone. Other services such as mammograms, bone density tests, and blood and iron infusions were cancelled, while visits to seniors’ homes were absolutely forbidden. The earlier days of the pandemic must have left their toll on all those who needed assistance.
Sahar tried several pharmacies to get medication; all refused to provide her with any without a prescription because she was pregnant. This is a good thing by the way. She finally headed to an outpatient surgery hospital as a last resort, but the situation at the gynaecology clinic there was no better: doctors had stopped coming several days earlier, also due to the coronavirus pandemic. The article gives flaky reasons all along, but the unavailability of physicians would be a petrifying situation, and I must agree that this would troubling.
Raghda Hashim, another pregnant woman, was disheartened that family members were not there for her during this delivery. "For the birth of my first child, my family and my husband's family came with me," she says. "This time, I only took my husband. Doctors refused to let him into the delivery room.”
Raghda, the doctors were performing due diligence practised around the world. Stricken families of patients suffering from heart attacks, strokes, and COVID-19 don’t accompany their loved ones into hospitals; they stand outside the glass windows of emergency rooms in the hopes of seeing what is happening to them. My dear Raghda, you are in the same boat as everyone around the world.
The point of view of the article came across as flimsy and insubstantial. COVID-19 has not descended on Egypt to cause mayhem there and not elsewhere. These are tough times all around.