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My Doctor, My Sister -- an encounter with an angel

Ellen Rich creates ad copy in London, England. On a recent holiday in Tunisia, she was cared for by a modern-day angel - one she and her husband will never forget. This is Ellen's story...

I discovered I was pregnant...

Two days before my husband Bob and I left for our Tunisian holiday, I discovered I was pregnant. My doctor reassured me that travel would not pose a problem. She was almost right.

After a wonderful week in the sun, my cramps began the day before we were to return to London. Then, I began to bleed slightly. By the next morning, both my pain and panic had increased and the hotel doctor directed Bob and me to a clinic.

After much gesturing of hands and a combination of broken French and English, I was admitted, then pretty much left to suffer in a small sterile looking room. Eventually, the doctor on call paid us a visit.

She was young, no older than I. Happily, she spoke some English along with her French and we were able to communicate without too much effort. She explained to me that she would like to treat me in her private downtown office--it would be easier. She called her husband and, with him and her young daughter in the car, we were driven to the city. On route, she introduced herself properly as Dr. Safia Zemni.

I wept in her arms. She examined me and then confirmed my fears - yes, I was, in fact, miscarrying. She recommended that I not fly back to England as planned. It was too dangerous!

I burst into tears whimpering over and over again, "I just want to go home."

"Don't worry," she kept saying. I am here. I am your sister. I will take care of you.

I wept soundlessly in her arms. She prepared some mild painkillers, gave me her cell phone number, drove me back to the hotel and promised to check with me that evening.

Within a couple of hours the bleeding increased and my pain became unbearable. I called Safia on her cellular phone. She explained that she was over two hours away but she was turning her car around and heading back to the clinic. Bob and I were to meet her there.


She held my hand...

From that point, it became pretty much a blur of pain and panic. After what seemed like a very long time, I opened my eyes to find Safia standing there, the same warm compassionate look on her face. She held my hand while I suffered through an internal scan and then she poured over the results. Evidently, she felt that the worse was not over and she had me admitted into the hospital. As I drifted in and out of sleep, Safia sat by my bed, telling Bob and me stories about Tunisia, her past, and her attitudes towards medicine.

I woke the next morning to discover I had miscarried fully, and thankfully, the pain was finally gone. Safia discharged me and drove me back to the hotel. Before returning to work, she asked whether Bob and I would be interested in joining her and her husband for dinner that evening. Obviously, she was intent on keeping our minds off of our loss.


We talked of life and family...

With the help of the hotel, we arranged for a huge bouquet of flowers. Using my limited French to explain our sentiments, I composed a card for my modern-day angel.

When Safia and her husband arrived at the hotel bar that evening, my husband and I were already waiting, the flowers hidden behind a chair. And, just when I thought that this wonderful woman could not possibly do anything more to amaze or impress us, I saw that she was holding a gift -wrapped package in her hands.

"For you," she said simply.

I reached behind me and pulled out the bouquet. "And for you," I said.

Our eyes met-- the bond of sisterhood so real, so potent. We laughed and wiped our eyes. I opened her gift-- a traditional Tunisian coffee pot and an ornate little mirror in the shape of a hand.

"So you always see who you are," she explained.

During that last evening together, the four of us talked of life, love, happiness, tradition, family - everything. Our hosts took us on a tour of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city, culminating in a walk through an old port.

They drove us back to our hotel and we said our good-byes, exchanging addresses and phone numbers and promising to stay in touch. Sofia and I embraced, holding each other tightly, my gratitude to her beyond words. She stroked my back and words necessary. With a wave, she was gone.


The kindness of strangers...

Have you ever been in a travel situation where you required help? Has someone recognized your need and gone out of their way to help and solve your problem. We'd love to hear your mini stories (up to 150) words. Please send your tale to: and put the words, 'kindness of strangers' in the subject box. We'll post your email right here.

A guide to the theatre in New York...
My girlfriend and I were in New York trying to find our way to a small theatre for that evening's performance. We stopped a woman on a street corner. She was an Australian doctor who was studying in the USA. 'Yes, I know that theater,' she said. 'I was there this afternoon for the matinee. C'mon, I have time, I'll take you there.' And she did. With her help we arrived on time and had the lovely benefit of chatting with her and learning her story as we made our way to our destination. Nice lady!
Evelyn, Toronto, Canada

In the wake of Katrina...
Trapped and scared in New Orleans, the staff of the Frenchman hotel treated my husband and I like family and they rode out the whole ordeal with all of their guests. Once the storm passed everyone stayed at the LaMothe (sister hotel). Restaurant owners opened up to help feed those that were trapped in the city, and the people making ice at the shop kept running on generators. Strangers banded together for safety, and civilians worked together to create order where there wasn’t any. We all did our part and helped out in any small way we could. The kindness of people kept us safe, and it was kindness that helped us on a bus to Houston. I would personally like to thank every man, woman and child who ever handed us a bottle of water, a handful of food, or said those wonderful words that gave us hope.
Marcy, Waterloo, Canada

On the way to a job interview...
In Turkey, on my way to a plum job interview, my skirt got caught on a car bumper. It tore from the lower leg up to my thigh before I realized what had happened. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I stood on the street and bawled. I had been searching for the address for almost an hour, and this was the final straw. Out of nowhere, this couple appeared. Taking me gently by the arm, they led me into a nearby apartment building doorway. The security guard sat me down, brought me a damp cloth to wipe my face, while the couple stitched up the tear in my skirt. They dropped me off at the proper address, and I couldn't have thanked them enough. Amen to the 'kindness of strangers.'
Holly, Montreal, Canada





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