Covid-19 Chronicles: Leaving Iraq

Photo: somewhere in the mountains of Kurdistan, early February 2020.

Singapore

I left Iraq in mid-March, to come back to Singapore. At the time, Italy and France were being brought to their knees by Covid-19. Iran, a hop and skip away from where I live in Sulaymaniyah, was ratcheting up its infection count.

I came back for 3 reasons.

3. I’m unwell

I’ve been sick since 2020 rolled around, and have slowly been getting sicker. Symptoms suggest that my immune system is turning on the body that contains it… how’s that for cabin fever?

Also: I’ve had a bunch of respiratory illnesses – asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia – multiple times through my life. I get chest infections at the slightest provocation. Stuff that hits the lungs take me down hard. Covid-19 is a scary prospect.

2. Medical care

Following the point above, I needed to be somewhere with healthcare I can afford, and trust. The fancy private hospital that is my only practical option in Kurdistan is very expensive, especially when I need the ongoing testing and consultation I’m now pursuing in Singapore.

And then, there’s the infrastructure factor. And what mass infection could do to Iraq’s already frail healthcare system if things got bad.

1. Mum asked

My mother has never inconvenienced me for anything in my entire life. In late February, she asked me to come home because of Covid-19. Please. Nevermind if you lose your job, I will support you.

Mum has a 45 year career in nursing. This isn’t to say she’s a virology expert. Or that she’s deciphered Sars-CoV-2. But it does say that she’s worked through more than her fair share of emergencies professionally, including SARS in ’02/’03. Like a lot of medical veterans her age, she’s unflappable in a crisis, and is especially unimpressed when said medical crisis involves errant offspring. Those of you who have parents from the old medical school, you might know know I’m talking about.

For her be dramatic is… Dramatic.

0. The motherlode.

If Mum was that worried about me, then my own anxieties for her shot up. We knew, by March, that older people are particularly at risk. Underlying issues, weaker immunity, etc.

My mum lives alone. If she got hit by this thing, and I couldn’t get out of Iraq, who would be there for her?

So here I am. Finally writing about it 2 months later.


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