Dr. Mohammed Sobhy was a very accomplished Egyptian plastic surgeon.
He was the chief of plastic surgery at one of the major Egyptian universities. He had a very thriving practice.
He enjoyed the respect of the whole Egyptian society. The only problem was that he hated America and everything American. He hated George W. Bush … He hated Obama…He hated the American people … He simply hated everything in America and everything that America stood for.
But he did not understand what America stood for. He thought that America stood for imperialism and occupation. He could not see that America did any good in this world. He was one of those people in the Middle East who celebrated and danced when they heard of the Sept. 11 attacks. It did not trouble him that more than 3,000 innocent people were killed. For him, no American was innocent. If the American people elected a president, then they were responsible for all the foreign policy decisions that the president made. In his opinion, those decisions were responsible for the attacks. His idea was that all Americans were selfish, superficial, snobbish and ignorant.
He had traveled to America a few times to attend conferences, but he did not change his pernicious mind. By association, he did not like me since he knew how proud I was of being an American. He considered me a “traitor” since I considered myself first and foremost an American. He actually tried very hard, fortunately unsuccessfully, to get me removed of my seat on the board of directors of the International Federation for Societies for Surgery of the Hand (IFSSH) for which I represented Egypt. He marveled, “How could an American represent Egypt?” But I was elected by the members of the Egyptian Hand Society, which I founded.
So, our relationship was very frosty at best. I would see him in a conference and try to avoid interacting with him. He was not a popular man. He was full of hatred for everything and everyone that did not agree with him socially, politically or even professionally.
Then a few weeks ago, I heard that he was in Indianapolis waiting for a liver transplant. I was flabbergasted. If he hated America that much, what was he doing here getting an American liver to save his life? Wasn’t he afraid of being contaminated with a selfish, superficial, snobbish and ignorant liver? I felt sorry for him.
So, a few days ago I put all my reservations about him behind me and called his cellphone. When he answered, he did not recognize my voice. I told him my name. He asked me twice to repeat my name.
Then there was a total silence. I told him I was calling to see how he was doing and if there was anything I could do for him since he was very close to Effingham. He said that he had the surgery seven weeks earlier and that he was doing fairly well. I asked him if he was well treated in Indiana. Then all of sudden he started sobbing. Uncontrollable, gut-wrenching sobbing. It broke my heart. I gently told him not to worry, that everything would be alright. Indiana University has a very active and reputable liver transplant program. Then through the tears, he said, “I did not know… I did not know.” I immediately knew what he meant. His hatred of America blinded him from seeing what was good and great about this country.
His hatred of me also put a dark filter on his senses to see only what he wanted to see.
At that moment while I was talking to him, that dark filter was suddenly being lifted off and he could, probably for the first time, see what was amazingly great about this country and its wonderful and generous people. He told me that people in Indiana treated him with love and compassion that he could not have imagined he would receive anywhere in the world, much less in America. He told me that I was the last person on Earth he could imagine to call him and ask about his health. He said in a very faint and tired voice, “thank you, and I am sorry.” I told him that I was wishing him good health and speedy recovery.
I actually invited him to spend the Fourth of July holiday with us here in Effingham. Then the sobbing started again, and he said, “now I know why you love America so much” then he asked, “could you forgive me?”
I told him all the past was gone, and we should start a new page. I added that the person who donated that liver to him was doing an act of love that extended beyond his/her own death. This is the ultimate love when you help someone you don’t even know. The silence crept up again, then in a hesitant, quivering voice he said very faintly, “I love this country and its people,” and I replied, “and we love you too,” and we hung up.