The Ella Tannous Case: When Every Lebanese Suddenly Becomes A Doctor

Ella Tannous

I just wasted 7 years of my life in medical school.

Naturally, when you live in the country with the likes of professor Marcel Ghanem, Dr. Joe Maalouf, Tony Khalifeh and their friends, is there a point for you to remotely try to get an education? They will tell you what you need to know, give you medicine crash courses and guide public opinion on the matter.

Clearly, they’re the ones who know everything and those doctors are just backward-minded folks who only care about money.

Ella Tannous is a young 9 months old whose pediatrician is now in jail. Why is he in jail? Because we live in a corrupt country where security forces get carried away by the sensational reporting of Kalam Ennas and other similar shows to ruin the life of a man simply because of the science of Marcel Ghanem’s report and that dramatic Lord of the Rings music in the background and the tears of the child’s mother as she whispers: why can’t my little girl play with barbies?

Again, what would I know. I’m sure that policeman in between his Malek el Tawou2 sandwiches was busy reading medical textbooks. Give me the differential of a crying baby, kind sir. Oh, you have cramps from all the garlic consumption? Excuse me.

According to her parents, Ella had a high grade fever for which they contacted her pediatrician, Dr. Issam Maalouf, who ran some tests that revealed Ella most likely had a viral illness and prescribed medications to lower her fever.

However, Ella’s fever did not subside and upon contacting the doctor again, he told them not to worry and to use cold towels to try and drop her temperature.

When the parents saw that their child’s situation did not improve they took her to the hospital. It was a Sunday. The pediatrician did not see Ella that day and instead saw her the following day when she had already deteriorated.

He got her transferred to AUBMC where further treatment was done. Ella, however, was in shock and in a state called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) and had gangrene in her limbs, which had to be amputated to save her life.

This is what happened with Ella Tannous according to her parents:

*cue in dramatic music.*

What happened to their child is surely devastating to them and Ella’s parents have every right to be sad and heartbroken over what happened to their daughter.

But just because someone’s daughter had complications does not make that person a doctor who can go on air and pretend they know what makes sense scientifically and what doesn’t. It also does not give Marcel Ghanem or any Lebanese media, who were quick to jump on this very delicious scoop, the right to become full blown medical professionals who spent their times doing night duties in pediatrics.

So let’s go with what we know one by one:

1) Ella’s blood tests revealed a viral illness. Viruses are not treated with antibiotics as Ella’s father was alluding should have happened. In fact, the side effects of those antibiotics and possible increasing resistance to them make their use in viral illness not recommended. How do you treat a viral illness, scientifically? You provide symptomatic relief. A patient has fever? You give anti fever medication. A patient has a sore throat? You provide pain relief, etc.

2) Ella’s fever persisted. Viral illnesses can have fevers that persist. You still give anti-fever medications and monitor. This is what you do, unless LBC or Annahar have new guidelines that we need to be aware of, in which case enlight us please.

3) Ella deteriorated and they contacted her physician as they took her to the hospital. He didn’t recognize them at first. Well, bring the guillotines. A pediatrician could not recognize over the phone a patient out of the hundreds that he has. He must be incompetent. Issam Maalouf’s mistake? He did not go see Ella that day at the hospital. However, that hospital is a university hospital and they should have been reporting back to him every single that happened with Ella as she would’ve been admitted under his care.

4) Ella’s fever continues and she starts experiencing decreasing urine output and becomes lethargic. These are signs of dehydration and deterioration. Dehydration can lead to kidney damage because blood flow to the kidney is decreased which causes something that is called acute kidney injury. This is not what probably happened to Ella, however.

5) Because of her decreasing immunity fighting the virus, Ella contracted another bacteria called Group A Strep (GAS). This bacteria is virulent and has been known to cause a wide array of complications when not recognized and treated early. To recognize and treat it early, you need to maintain a very high level of suspicion which in the setting of a clear viral illness, such as Ella’s case, was not the case.

Due to her low immunity, Ella had a dissemination of GAS. This led her to go into septic shock and full blown DIC. Septic shock is an extremely lethal condition whereby the body cannot adequately find the overwhelming infection. DIC is a complication of septic shock that leads to the depletion of the body’s ability to coagulate the blood through the formation of little clots that block blood vessels across many organs and vessels. The condition is extremely lethal.

In fact, the combination of septic shock and DIC is usually unescapable. Ella is lucky to be alive. Do you know why she’s lucky to be alive? Because her pediatrician saw the signs early enough to transfer her to a hospital that can manage her well.

 

Bring The Pitchforks, Why Don’t You:

After all that they’ve done, I can’t believe the Lebanese populace still trusts Lebanese media blindly when it comes to medical issues just because they’re sensationalized enough for their liking.

This is the same media that wanted to convince you we had a Guillain-Barré virus.

This is the same media that, a few years ago, ruined an OBGYN’s life by pretending they know medicine and accused him of killing one of his patients who was giving birth. That patient had an amniotic fluid embolism that is a lethal and extremely rare complication of giving birth. That doctor’s future was ruined anyway. He was also thrown in jail for something out of his hands before the courts realized that he was thrown in jail simply because of Tony Khalifeh’s report at the time.

Issam Maalouf joins the growing list of doctors whose entire career rests upon the whims of a reporter who understands nothing and who goes by what the parents or family of a patient are saying as if they know what’s happening, as if they know the medicine behind diseases. A devastated parent is not a doctor.

This is the same media that now has you convinced a competent doctor is now where he belongs, behind bars, and has you changing your display pictures to “Justice for Ella” snapshots.

When faced with a report from the Lebanese Order of Physicians about what actually happened, that same media downplays the report as inaccurate. Because clearly, the Order of Physicians does not know the medicine behind what’s going on. Those physicians did not go to med school for years and then did residency and fellowship programs for more years only to be ridiculed on air for being imbeciles.

Complications in medical scenarios happen. Not every single complication, despite how deliciously journalistic it looks, is a headline story.

With all due respect to a patient’s family, the esteemed reporters across the Lebanese republic and the people holding the pitchforks in Ella’s defense: You really have no freaking clue what you’re saying. Stop suggesting treatment modalities. Stop suggesting scientific explanations. Stop ruining people’s lives just because it makes for fancy headlines.

And then you get the Ministry of Health pretending they suddenly understand medicine to bring their pitchforks too. You know, that same ministry who turned Lebanon’s food safety issue into a Star Academy-like nominee-every-week report fashion.

There is a reason we go to medical school for endless years. There is a reason we do residency for another batch of endless years. Only doctors can know when medical errors occur. Only doctors can judge another doctor who does a medical error. Only doctors know how to treat patients and diagnose them. Only doctors know how to manage complications.

This is not elitism. This is common sense. This extends to other professions as well. I can’t judge the work of an architect, but an architect can. I can’t judge the work of an electrical engineer, but another electrical engineer can, etc.

The bottom line is: I just wasted 7 years of my life in medical school, that much is clear. Because clearly, Marcel Ghanem and his friends know better than me and all my colleagues.

Dear Lebanon, There’s No Such Thing As A “Guillain-Barre” Virus

When you think the Lebanese press circle couldn’t sink lower, they surprise you. Be it with their super horrible reporting which happens often, to them jumping on anything they’d deem as a scoop to lately causing the entire Lebanese population to panic over something called “Guillain-Barre” virus that’s ravaging the country.

I have no idea who told them about that so-called virus, but this is bullshit.

I first saw the story on MTV. And like the good media that they are, everyone else immediately jumped on the story because clearly we have nothing else to worry about in Lebanon so let’s add a horrible-looking virus flying in the air among us that can kill us at any moment.

Behold the credibility:

It’s the apocalypse I tell you, MTV-style.

In their defense, MTV did ask a doctor about it. And he gave them a more or less correct answer of what Guillan-Barre actually is. But I suppose MTV decided that the explanation was too non-dramatic and not-attention grabbing, so they figured they’d make up an entirely new virus strain and get Lebanese across the country to panic.

Let’s get a few things in order:

There’s no such thing as a “Guillain-Barre” virus, but there is something called a “Guillain-Barre” syndrome. That is to say there is no virus floating in the Lebanese air that will paralyze you, but there is a very well-documented syndrome called “Guillain-Barre” that is quite rare, albeit present, that affects the nerves and whose effect, when diagnosed and promptly treated, is almost entirely reversible.

This is what Guillain-Barre syndrome is:

Following an infection by a virus or a bacteria, some people develop antibodies that end up attacking their own nerves. The most common pathogen isolated in patients who have developed Guillain-Barre is a bacteria called “Campylobacter Jejuni” (don’t try to pronounce it).

As such, this syndrome is autoimmune (your own body attacking itself) and inflammatory (there’s an inflammation taking place) that targets myelin in your peripheral nervous system. Myelin is a form of insulation that covers nerve endings leading to much-faster propagation of messages. Damaging myelin leads to very slow nerve conduction, if not minimal conduction altogether.

This manifests in tingling in a person’s feet at first that propagates upwards to their legs and thighs, then hands and arms. Ultimately, a person would also stop being able to move their limbs altogether. The disease is progressive and ascending.

The main life threat of Guillain-Barre comes in it affecting a person’s respiratory muscles, that is to say since it ends up paralyzing muscles across the body, it might also paralyze the muscles that you need to breathe which causes a person to end up in respiratory failure. Don’t freak out, however, because this is a sign of a late progression of the disease and most people do not reach this stage and are managed well before it.

There’s no way to know if a person will develop Guillain-Barre or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lebanese, Sudanese or Vietnamese: the processes that cause a person to end up with the syndrome are under study. Being infected with a bacteria or a virus does not mean you will end up with this syndrome. It’s an extremely rare disease. However, it is manageable.

Since Guillain-Barre syndrome involves your own body attacking itself, treatment essentially alters this process of attack by blocking it or decreasing it. I have no idea about the cost of treatment, but it works well at stopping the progression of the disease and bringing back any person towards a full recovery.

Lebanese media want you to think Guillain-Barre is a death sentence. It’s a disease with a fancy name that most people know absolutely nothing about, so why not turn it into yet another Lebanese panic-du-jour to make people rush to their doctors and wonder if their seasonal allergies come spring time will get them paralyzed in a few weeks?

I have seen Guillain-Barre often. The patients I have seen were all okay. A neighbor and family friend was so unlucky she had Guillain-Barre twice. She made a full recovery both times and is now a fully functional woman in her thirties with absolutely no care in the world.

My advice is as follows: do not trust MTV, LBC, OTV, etc., when it comes to medical information. In the age of the internet, it is your duty first and foremost to make sure that what they’re saying is true or not. As a rule of thumb, they’re full of it most of the time. Deal with them as such.

Shame on MTV and whichever media outlet jumped on the story without fact-checking it. Google is your friend. Or, you know, a 3rd year medical student would’ve told you that you’re wrong.

Beirut’s Skybar Burns Down; Lebanon To Announce A Day Of Mourning

*Clears throat.*

I know I’ve never, ever, written about a Beirut club before. For starters, I’ve never been to any of them and to a lesser extent, I’m not a party person. So I guess it seems fitting that someone as morbid as me would write about a Beirut club – the most infamous of them might I add – when something distressing takes place.

People of the Republic of Lebanon, I am terribly sorry to announce that something extremely horrifying has taken place overnight. Our Beiruti pride and joy, the main manifestation of culture in Beirut for the summer, has received a terrible fiery blow: Skybar is no more. At least for the upcoming season.

The opening was set for next week, but a fire ravaged through more than 60% of Skybar last night, overtaking its VIP area, the kitchen, the dance area, among others. Reports say that repairs need about 5 to 6 months.

It is safe to say Beirut will have, for the first time in years, a Skybar-less summer.

The following are pictures from the scene:

Clearly, this is a conspiracy by The Garten to make sure that they remain the only “it” place for this summer. The other option is obviously an attempt by ISIS at trashing our national heritage and monuments. Palmyra? Assyrians? Nope.

Now that SkyBar has burned down, however, there are pressing issues to be raised and extremely important questions to be asked.

1) Will the country go into mourning tomorrow, will our flags be lowered as they should for such a national tragedy?

2) What will become of our touristy summer season that is entirely dependent on these clubs functioning at maximum capacity?

3) How will we tell EVERYONE now that we are the party capital of the Middle East world when we’ve lost our most prestigious club?

4) How will we show that we are open and hip and cool and liberal, life and alcohol-loving people who do not live in tents and don’t ride camels?

5) What will happen to all the selfies and the SkyBar-inspired hashtags that all the youngsters who could afford it had planned? RIP #SkyBaringWithFriends.

6) What will happen to all those future Facebook statuses of people who were outraged they were turned away by the bouncer for not being either 1) cool enough, 2) rich enough or 3) connected enough?

7) What will happen to all the unopened “Moet” bottles?

8) What will happen to all the virginities and hymens whose loss was contingent upon SkyBar opening this summer?

9) Will we ever be able to use the world “wel3ane” while partying at Skybar again?

10) What will happen to our future Beirut Snapchat story?

I’m glad no one got injured. Skybar have made enough money in previous years to bounce back from this unscathed.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you to ponder on those existential Lebanese questions in the aftermath of this horrifying national travesty.

 

 

Lebanese Ely Dagher’s Waves ’98 Wins Best Short Movie Award At Cannes 2015

Ely Makhoul Cannes 2015 Waves '98

About four weeks ago, I wrote about a very promising short movie by Lebanese director Ely Dagher which was nominated for Best Short Movie at this year’s Cannes Festival (link).

The short film is an attempt by Ely Dagher to come to terms with living and growing up in Beirut, while working out of Belgium: the movie is about his adolescence years as a Lebanese lost in his own capital.  As I said before, the trailer made it seem extremely promising: it was unlike any Lebanese movie or short film I had seen before, and I had high hopes.

Well, Cannes agrees with me.

Ely Dagher Waves '98 Cannes Win

Ely Dagher just became the first Lebanese to win a major award at Cannes. By having his movie win, Ely Dagher beat out seven other nominees from seven other countries that probably cared less about their production than the Lebanese government ever did.

By being nominated in the first place, Ely Dagher beat out 4550 other short films that were submitted from all across the world. And today, I feel proud and I suppose so should you.

Let Ely Dagher’s win be a testament to Lebanese talents everywhere who can make it big, like he did, when given the chance, the funds, the backing, when they are allowed to pursue their vision beyond the confines of a Lebanese society that is so comfortable in what it knows that it never ventures out of its comfort zone, a society that squashes its own arts as forever cliches and doesn’t let its own artists truly express what they can do in fear of not being commercial enough.

I congratulate Ely Dagher for winning. Here’s hoping Waves ’98 makes it big at next year’s Oscars as well. Hopefully it’ll become the first Lebanese production to win that golden statuette as well.

 

Lebanese Women Are 10th Sexiest Worldwide

Lebanese women

I stumbled on an article published in The Independent today talking about an American survey to pinpoint the world’s sexiest nationalities among both men and women. To that effect, 60,000 women were polled and it turns out Irish men are their favorite. It could be the accent.

Lebanese men, however, are not in the top 10. I suppose “ya ashta” doesn’t translate well to the average American woman? Our life has been a lie.

On the other hand of the gender spectrum, however, Lebanese women represent.

In another poll of nearly 45,000 men, Lebanese women ranked at #10 on the list of the world’s sexiest nationalities. The #1 sexiest women of the world according to that poll were Armenians, fueled by American adoration to Kim Kardashian and her family.

The full list of nationalities is as follows:

  • Armenian

  • Barbadian/Bajan

  • American

  • Colombian

  • English

  • Australian

  • Brazilian

  • Filipina

  • Bulgarian

  • Lebanese

The Lebanese woman that was found to be in the forefront of the survey was none other than Amal Alamuddin, a person that I find is an extremely good example to represent Lebanese women, not only looks-wise. She is extremely accomplished and successful, is a champion at defending human rights worldwide and has been all over the place the past few months with representing Armenia in European hearings to defending captured journalists in Egypt.

I say we dodged a bullet by not having Mia Khalife represent us, right?

The value behind this survey isn’t as simple as naming a representative celebrity. Being done by an American dating website, it’s also about real-life encounters with people of said nationalities. As a country that gets anxious whenever we’re mentioned in the same sentence as the word “sex,” especially when our women’s hymens are at stake – honor and all, I think it’s wonderful that our women are becoming so comfortable with themselves abroad, comfortable in their own skin, away from the confines of a society that is all about sex, but not really sex, sex.

Ultimately, surveys like this are not entirely worthwhile. But a little fun every now and then never hurt anyone.

 

How Lebanon Kissed Salma Hayek’s Ass Like No Ass Has Been Kissed Before

Overwhelming refugee crisis? Nope.

The fact that it has been over a year that our parliament convened in session to vote for a president? Nope.

All other issues worth discussing about the country? Nope.

Salma Hayek visiting? YES, YES, YES.

In order to stay up to date, little as I want to, with what’s happening in my very beloved country, I usually turn to my social media feeds. As it goes: if it’s important enough to become a twitter thing, then you should be aware of it.

Salma Hayek was a Twitter thing. A Facebook thing. An Instagram thing. A get out of my face thing. A don’t we have other things to worry about thing. An everything kind of thing. A “are we seriously still talking about this” thing. A “awwww Lebanese pride, bitches” thing.

It had been a while since I saw my country, even if from afar, kiss ass in such a glorious way. Not only was the nation all over Salma Hayek’s Mexican-American ass, we were also salivating all over it, begging her for the minimal and most mundane of acknowledgment. We are here, we matter, recognize us please, breathe our air please, share our sewage system we beg you.

1 – We Gave Her A Freaking Citizenship

Salma Hayek Lebanese citizenship

Salma Hayek’s grandfather was Lebanese. Sure, she has “legal” right to get the citizenship, but so do a whole lot of other people of Lebanese origins who have been blessed by the Almighty Lord to have the semen-given part of their genome be Lebanese. Salma Hayek lands in the country and not only do we run to give her a citizenship, I bet we also gave her a very nice “golden” civil registry number. I’m also sure her national ID card number was golden. Her passport number? Platinum, I bet!

Never mind that it actually takes presidential decrees to nationalize. Never mind that the country doesn’t really have a path of citizenship to begin with. Never mind that there are hundreds of people of Lebanese-origins who have been trying to get our very precious citizenship for years to no avail. Never mind that our country won’t even let Salma Hayek pass her citizenship to her daughter, like the so many Lebanese mothers who have been struggling for years and whose children are more Lebanese than Hayek.

Certainly, Salma Hayek should get our citizenship. Because being Mexican, and American and being married to a French guy are definitely not enough. Lebanon trumps them all.

2 – We Hosted Her On Kalam Ennas:

Kalam Ennas Marcel Ghanem

I usually associate Kalam Ennas’ special episodes with matters of national crisis that require the country to halt all programming in order to accommodate the necessary political diarrhea to be spewed. Not this time.

Salma Hayek was in the country. How could we not host her? How could we not flaunt to the entire world that she was giving Lebanon its very first movie premiere EVER. How could Marcel Ghanem miss the opportunity to boost his interviewing record by interviewing…. just some B-list actress who happened to grace the country with her presence?

What’s your name, Marcel would ask. Salma would answer. He’d sit dumbfounded. She was proud of having Lebanese heritage, as if it was a multiple choice question with more than one option. She forgot her purse at the terminal because she was pre-occupied with the Cedar she was given. They ran after her. She didn’t care, mostly because she has 46342753851371357 other purses, because that Cedar was her whole country.

Jmade, wli. 

3 – Sethrida Geagea Joined Twitter

Sethrida Geagea Twitter Salma Hayek

In order to capitalize on the buzz that was generated by Salma Hayek visiting Bsharre and the subsequent fashion showdown, Sethrida Geagea decided to join twitter. She has tweeted 4 times so far. 3 of those 4 tweets are about Salma Hayek and her visit to Bsharre. Of course, Lebanese media did not see it from this perspective because they were pre-occupied with the fact that Sethrida Geagea was better looking than Salma Hayek.

How is that possible? A Lebanese is better looking than a Hollywood star? How could that be? Is it even remotely possible that Salma Hayek could be human and not the God she was made out to be? What does Samir think about all of this? Next time, on Lebanese Serial.

4 – We Suddenly Cared About Syrian Refugees

It took Salma Hayek visiting the Syrian Refugee camps for those refugees to become news again. Were they important enough during Lebanon’s relatively harsh winter? Nope. Are they important in absolute value? No. But we can’t let Salma Hayek know we don’t care. So for the few days she was here, of course we’d show how much we cared for those refugees… as long as we capture that perfect Kodak Moment in order to show how much we care to the whole wide world.

Don’t you see those poor babies? That huggable little girl? All those miserable people in subpar conditions? Don’t let anyone tell you we’re not helping them… We made sure Salma Hayek visited!

5 – The Prophet Is Now Everyone’s Favorite Book. Ever.

In between all the mania surrounding her visit, I bet Salma Hayek almost forgot why she was here in the first place: to promote her upcoming movie to the country that made it.

Yes, it technically premiered at Cannes last year. Yes, there was also technically a premiere at Doha earlier this year. Yes, the book on which the movie is based was written in the United States and in English. Yes, Salma Hayek probably came here because part of the funding of the movie was via a Lebanese bank.

But goddammit, no. She’s here to show how proud she is of her Lebanese heritage, which is clearly exemplified in The Prophet, a book about how the wonderful stringing of words together can be and how easy it is to repeat them at funerals, weddings, graduations and other miscellaneous occasions.

Subsequently, The Prophet has now become Lebanon’s official favorite book, even possibly beating The Bible and the Quran. Don’t let priests and sheikhs know, though. “Your children are not your children” has been quoted so many times I’m beginning to search for children that may not be mine.

I bet the movie will be the movie of the year too!

Bonus: Elissa Was Fangirling

A picture is worth several hundred words. How about a bunch?

Waves ’98: The Lebanese Short Film Nominated For A Palme D’Or At Cannes 2015

Ely Dagher Waves '98

4550 short films from across 100 countries were submitted to the Short Films category at Cannes this year. Only 8 made the selection to be in the running for the Palme D’Or. And a Lebanese short film, Waves ’98, by Ely Dagher is one of them.

It has been a long, long time that Lebanon has had any movies featured this prominently at Cannes – Nadine Labaki’s offerings were not given the same treatment. This is the first time in over 24 years that a Lebanese film made the selection at Cannes this way, not since 1991 when Maroun Baghdadi’s “Hors La Vie” was nominated, and ended up winning the Jury Prize..

Ely Dagher is a young Lebanese filmmaker living in Brussels. As someone who was torn between life in Belgium and life in Lebanon, he ended up writing Waves ’98 as a way to come to terms with what living and growing up in Beirut meant to him. The work took two years.

I haven’t seen the movie, but the trailer shows it to be very different from anything Lebanese that has been offered to us in the past few years. In fact, the feel of it reminded me a bit of the very, very good (and very traitorous?) movie “Waltz With Bashir,” albeit with a different subject matter I’d assume.

It doesn’t matter if Ely Dagher’s Waves ’98 wins on May 24th at Cannes or not. The fact that he managed to be nominated out of 4550 other submitted movies is triumphant enough for him and Lebanese talents everywhere, when given room to grow beyond the confines of cliches that they are required to be limited to while trying to make it in Lebanon.

The nomination of Waves ’98 shows that when not limited by subject matter, and when not restricted by local taboos, Lebanese talents can make a dent in fields that we’ve come to brush off as beyond us.

I contrast this with a play I watched recently in Beirut called “Venus,” which had a brilliant script, beyond brilliant acting and broke Lebanese taboos like no other play I had seen before. Venus worked because it didn’t care about sensibilities. Waves ’98 isn’t necessarily within the same context, but it being different puts it in the category of works of art pushing the boundaries of our Lebanese artistic repertoire.

Instead of talking on and on about movies such as Vitamin, and beyond subpar offerings by Lebanese cinema in recent years, we should at least give the ambitious and talented Ely Dagher and his movie the credit they deserve for making a dent, for showing that Lebanese filmmakers can accomplish such feats.

Congratulations, and my outmost respect.

Check out the trailer: