Igey’s surgery is a lens on his sense of humor
Since Igey came to the International Community School two years ago, teachers have been worried about his health. The soon-to-be second-grader misses a great deal of school, and has coughs that drag on for months. He had surgery on his left ear in the refugee camp that left him with a small wound behind his ear that did not close. Last month, he and his family went to Emory-Children's Center, at Atlanta's Emory University, for surgery to close it.
Since Igey came to the International Community School two years ago, teachers have been worried about his health. The soon-to-be second-grader misses a great deal of school, and has coughs that drag on for months. He had surgery on his left ear in the refugee camp that left him with a small wound behind his ear that did not close. Last month, he and his family went to Emory-Children's Center, at Atlanta's Emory University, for surgery to close it.All year, I've been curious about the family's interactions with American medicine. Such "bridge" moments are often telling, like Dawami's misunderstanding with the traffic court judge, or Hassan's parent-teacher conference about spanking. His parents have asked that I keep the major details of Igey's medical life private - and that would be The Monitor's preference in any case. I can say this: Igey had excellent care. Steven Sobol, a board-certified pediatric otolaryngologist, successfully closed the opening behind Igey's ear. Far from being the stereotypically brusque, self-important surgeon, Dr. Sobol spent time with the family, speaking with Hassan in French, and with Dawami through a Swahili interpreter, about the procedure.It was a relatively quick surgery, in and out in six hours, and Igey was beyond stoic. He sat next to his mom, legs tucked up under his gown in the chilly room. Once in bed, Igey watched cartoons and zoned out as doctors, nurses, and various technicians buzzed in and out and duplicated one another's questions. Was he on any medications? Did he speak English? In fact, he didn't speak much English to anyone there. Medical interpreter Rosemina Punjani translated the nurses' questions to him in Swahili, and he responded in English. It wasn't clear whether this was because nobody quite realized that he's practically fluent in his adopted language, or whether in his nervousness Igey had forgotten it.As a nurse wheeled him away, she said to the family expectantly: "OK, kisses and hugs? No? You not talking?" Dawami gave a little wave, and Igey looked at her curiously, and off he went.All day, Hassan and Dawami seemed subdued. Hassan was especially tender with his son. Only after the doctor returned to let Hassan and Dawami know the surgery gone well, did Hassan muster the courage to ask what had been troubling him: "Is it going to affect his hearing or his thinking?" (No. If anything, the surgery has won Igey "cool" points with his friends - since it made him, in their eyes, an authority on Michael Jackson's plastic surgery.)In the end, his surgery may have revealed most about Igey's unstoppable sense of humor. Strangers in this country always mispronounce his name (EE-gay). People who don't know him favor "Iggy," but he gets every variation on the theme. This day, a huge parade of people in scrubs had called him "EE-ghee," "IH-ghee," and various other wrong things. Igey had answered to all of them. They gave him meds to make him drowsy, and just as he was drifting off, another nurse popped in and said, brightly: "EYE-ghee?" Through his haze, Igey looked up, caught my eye, and rolled his, as if to say: "Can you believe these people?"