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Interview with Alain Abdel Karim

Karim, Alain Abdel
Mjahed, Khalil
Overcoming obstacles; Relationships with people and places; Cultural identification; Tolerance and respect
Alain Karim talks about the hard time he had with insurance in the US versus in France.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Khalil Mjahed interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
KM (Khalil Mjahed): Khalil Bou Mjahed with you again. Now I am going to interview Alain Abdel Karim from Lebanon. Um, now I am going to give him the microphone and he is going to tell us a story.
AK (Alain Abdel Karim): Hello, my name is Alain Abdel Karim. Um, my parents, my father is Lebanese and my mother is French. I came here, um, to America five, six years ago because I wanted my children to get an education here. It is known that the best education that you can get is in America. And I am going to tell you what happened to me specially. When I first started working here, I worked with, at first, with the Cadillac company. Then, I was transferred because they asked me to, because my manager left and took me with him. But after working for around two, two and a half years, um, I had a problem, an accident at work. This accident was that I broke my thumb, the bone from inside and I suffered a lot going from one doctor to another at first. As I understand here that the insurance company here tries to avoid paying and stuff. Everything that has to do with this-.
KM: How did you break your finger at work?
AK: I broke my finger while I was working on a car. The guys were, um, a customized Jeep Wrangler. Its wheels were three times the regular size, and it was hot and we were sweating. The tire got loose and hit the ground, and I did not want it to hit the other car so I tried to grab it but my finger got stuck in the hole and it snapped me down to the ground. So it was broken, and I went to the emergency room because it was blue, I mean, I was hurting. So they gave me some medicine to decrease my pain for three days so they can X-ray it. After three days, they transferred me to the insurance company doctor, and after that we started coming and going, coming and going. And (what) they did to me, they did to me around, um, (with) a scanner, around three to four times (with) a scanner to my hand. And they found in it like tiny pieces of metal. After this, the bone was broken with two pieces sticking out. This story was after a year and a half, um, after a year and a half they performed a surgery. They cut my hand open, took the pieces out, and then they started doing some exercises to my hand for another year and my hand would not recover. The doctor decided that, he brought some experts to test me for disability to decide how much I can use my hand. They found out that I can't use-, pick up more than twenty pounds with my hand. And, um, it went to the insurance company, and [there were] problems with them, and (I got) a lawyer. On the basis that this is my job for almost thirty, and even forty years, and I don't have another job. This is my profession since I was a young. And cases, cases, cases went until-, I mean it didn't-, I mean we had to pressure the insurance company and the lawyers and the disability to convince them, and, um-, according to the doctor's diagnosis. So they gave me that amount of money, the twenty thousand dollars. And at the end, as they say, they ignored me. Like, "This is your life. Find a way to manage it." And I am not used to that situation. Um, I used to live outside here, and when something like this happens, the government is responsible to take care of me. And now I have no job and nothing. And nobody would take me because I-, if they go back to my records, insurance companies know. It is known in the internet, in the computer, wherever we go it is known that I can't carry more than twenty pounds in my hand. And twenty pounds for my job, take out an engine, take out a transmission, and take out stuff like this needs more power than that. So nobody wants to take me in. So this is one of the things that I saw and was surprised that this happens in America. Everything is up to the insurance company, and the insurance company has the final word. It is the country, it is the government, and it is every thing. Nobody can do anything about it. So, I am looking back and I don't know what to do. Even my kids, now they are all in schools, universities. My daughter is studying medicine at George Washington University. And my son also politic is that right? Politics. [Note: Political Science] And, um, my other son is studying biochemical engineering, and I can't help them. They work to educate them selves, they study for a while and stop for another so they can work and make money to go on. And in our country we are not used to this. We are responsible to keep our kids at home. They are our responsibility until they get married and finish their education. As long as they are with us, as long as they didn't get married, they are not allowed to sleep outside the house, that's how we are. And I was surprised here, that I even see that one of the kids that I tried to help with my son. He turned eighteen, and his mom and dad kicked him out, go get a life of your own. So it was very embarrassing to me because he was my son's friend and I was obligated to help him, help the kid as much as I could, and teach him what to do, and get him a job. And my son is still, I mean whenever the kid wants anything he comes to him, and asks me what to do because his parents don't care about him anymore. And the same story with other people. So this is neither our way nor our culture. As I said that the kid is a kid, and will stay a kid until he gets married and has a job, and is married. After that his life is up to him. So we are responsible for his house, his food, his money, his car, responsible for everything. And that was a big surprise for me here. And now since I have nothing here left, I am thinking of going back to France because whatever I do there it's the government's responsibility. If there is no job, if I can't find a job, they will provide me with eight percent of the house and they will pay me the minimum salary which is five thousand and five hundred French francs there. This is the minimum to secure my needs. This thing is available to everybody who comes to France, and he is legal, he gets these rights. And the medical side is also a hundred percent covered by the government. And especially, I am fifty-five years old now, and the government takes care of everything for me.
KM: Alain I know that you are a French citizen and you are originally from Lebanon. So what I would like to know when this thing happened, when you broke your hand, and here they prevented you from working and did not pay you for almost two years. And at the end they gave you a small amount of money, and almost kicked you out of work. So if the same thing happened in France or Lebanon, how would the government have dealt with you? And how would it have approached you and your situation?
AK: As far as this subject goes, if I was in France and this accident had happened, I wouldn't have had a headache or thought about a thing. The government, um, first of all my salary would still be on as long as my hand in this condition. And if they decided that I can't work in that condition, my salary is on as long as I am alive. And they will teach me, and help me, and try to find me a different job. Anything out there so I could have fun, and wouldn't get bored, um, really get bored. I mean so I wouldn't cause problems to other people, and in the streets, and the world, and anything else. I mean the government is aware of this subject. Because people who this thing happens to, and don't get help start to go and break cars, steal, and everything else so they can live. I mean it's not right to steal but a person needs to eat, what should he do? Kill? He needs to steal to eat. So look at these things in Europe, that everything is available to help you to this kind, to that kind of accidents. Um, as far as medicine and medication go, I am a hundred percent covered by the government. And as I said, my salary would still be on. Even after ten years they still have provided a salary for me the same with, um, no deductions until the last salary. And on top of all this they consider the inflation that happens. Three percent or four percent, it goes up or down, they also start to increase my salary according to the inflation. I mean, so I wouldn't have to beg, beg for money from anybody. So I think that it is an important thing for all the countries of the world to take care of their employees and citizens. I mean these things should happen, as they say to avoid problems in the future, and the robberies, and the violence that happen. I think that violence is happening as a result of poverty and the things that are going on. I am also going to tell you about a thing that happened to me around three weeks ago. I was in France to visit my mother because my mom had an accident. She fell down and broke her hip and went to the hospital, the hip and the shoulder. So the government took care of here in France and treated her, and kept paying her. And now they assigned a nurse for her. She comes home everyday, and this scenario has been going for more than a year now. One nurse washes her, another nurse gets her medicine, and they bring her food, breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the house. And all this is from the government. Now, as far as my son goes, when I left, I was there and I sent him to the beach, and he is not used to the beach. Here in Charlotte we don't have a beach, and he has been-, now he is seventeen years old. He came here six years ago, he was eleven years old. So I had an appointment with some people and he asked me to put him on the beach. We've put him on the beach, him and his sister. They are twins. So, um, his body got burnt to a point were it had bubbles of water. He wasn't hurting a lot, when I came and got him and took him home he was in great pain. At five o'clock in the afternoon I took him to the emergency room in the hospital. So he came-, they called a specialist, he came and treated him. He gave him shots to lessen the pain, and lotions, and I don't know what, and medicine, and piles. And they kept him at the hospital all day and all night. There under intensive care because they were worried about the water, it was bubbly and everything. And what happened? The next day they told me that now he can go home but have to stay uncovered. Not to cover him with all the lotion, keep the lotion stuck. And we were ready to get out. We asked for the bill, and we were surprised. They told us that the emergency is always free. In here I know that for emergency you have to have insurance. And there, there is no need even if he was French, or American, or Arabic, and there are Moroccans and Tunisians. So they treated us till the end, and gave us medicine, and didn't let us pay anything. And they gave us a special medicine so he would not suffer at all because two days later we had to be on a plane, and he can't get on the plane like this. And I think that they were generous in this, in this way. And after I-, seventeen years of not living in France, six years in Lebanon, and six years in the Gulf. And that was a big surprise for me, I mean the way they treated us there. I respected them and they were excellent with me. Thank you.
KM: Thank you, Mr. Alain.