Day 0 and Day 1
As I was telling you last night before I drifted off into deep sleep (melatonin, you are helping me kick jetlag's butt like no one's business!), I had the option of taking it easy yesterday and acclimating, or checking out the camp and helping out. I wanted to do something so I opted to head to Moria camp to finally see with my own eyes the camp that I heard so much about. This black barn right here is the Moria Medical Clinic that's run by Offtrack Health, and where I'll be spending most of my time. I'm what they call a floor manager--I'm responsible for intake of patients, crowd control, recording notes and anything else in between. I stopped by yesterday to see the clinic, meet some people and just get the lay of the land. And to buy a local SIM card nearby.
After getting my SIM and starting to feel the after effects of the long trek, I stopped by the clinic to say bye when a clipboard was thrust into my hands and I was put on the job. All hands on deck? I'm in.
The current floor manager was working on a case with a seven year old boy with a broken leg. The boy and his family had just arrived and our doctors determined he needed X-rays, which meant he would need to go to the hospital. This is where the floor manager was helping. She needed to figure out how to get the family fast tracked through registration (refugees basically can't do anything until they are registered with the Greek police), what to do with the rest of his family of 7 (get them a place in a family camp to spend the night--aka calling around to find space and then figure out those logistics), and how to get him and a parent to the hospital for care (volunteer drivers). Mind you, the family only speaks Arabic and the floor manager doesn't. There's a translator around but he is also translating for doctors who are assessing other patients in the clinic. So I understand why she thrust the clipboard in my hand and asked for my help.
The clinic was fairly busy itself. There was a steady stream of patients all night, 95% speak Arabic or Farsi only, and translators and doctors were constantly on the go. I felt like an air traffic controller/bouncer/greeter all at the same time. While the other floor manager was off and about working her magic for the 7 year old with the broken foot, we had a pregnant woman come in as well. After assessing the woman, the doctor determined she was at a high risk for preeclampsia, which meant that we would want to help find them a place in a camp that evening to rest for her and her family as opposed to waiting in line outside in the cold.
Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. One of the toughest parts about this case, and actually many cases, is determining how many people there are in her family. In North America, when you ask someone how many people are in their family, they count up their siblings, parents and maybe grandparents if they live with them and give you a number. It's not like that in the rest of the world, especially when you're fleeing your home country with only the possessions you were able to carry. Here, your family includes your aunts and uncles, and brothers and sister-in-laws, and sisters and brother-in-laws, and nieces and nephews, and whoever else in your immediate and extended family (as North Americans would call it), who you travelled with. Family is everything, I've heard it and probably even said that myself. But especially here, especially now. Family is all that you have left. Family is everything. So when a patient says they have 21 family members with them, you confirm that you have the right number (not 22 or 19, because that makes a difference) and you get on the phone and you find space for them, all of them, as a family.
And that's how I came to meet Nasreen. Isn't she precious? The niece of the pregnant woman, this one month old baby made the boat crossing yesterday. (FYI, any photos I'll be sharing of refugees, especially children, were only taken after permission from them or their families in order to protect their privacy and safety.) When you're in an environment where conditions are desolate and times are trying, it's important to keep sight of the good things. Especially the innocence of children. This reminded me of one of my favorite sayings by Rabindranath Tagore: Every time a child is born is proof that God has not yet given up on the world.
I carried that thought with me as I had my first official day today. Lots of patients, including a young boy with an abscess (growth) the size of a golf ball on his chin. The little boy was so scared of going to the hospital and the father was afraid that going to the hospital would separate them from their traveling companions, it broke my heart. Can you imagine that? No parent wants to see their child ill or suffer, but the chance that they might be separated and left behind was that scary that it seriously made the father think twice. Fortunately, thanks to the other amazing floor manager, she got them dry clothes, a place in the camp, registered and off to the hospital for care, reassuring them that the rest of the family was safe and they would be able to reconnect with their companions later. (More about that tomorrow when I have an update on his hospital visit.)
The rest of the day was full of patients, and children, coming in and out and being seen by out medical staff. While medical treatment is highly needed, what's more special is the calming nature and soothing vibes that the volunteers provide. It's a place where they can feel safe, they can feel taken care of, where they can find some calmness and even laughter! I acted as an Urdu translator this morning (Hindi and Gujarati and similar enough that I can do some basic translations and have conversations) and the two people I helped were so grateful to hear a familiar language, they asked to take photos with me before they left.
Overall, a successful day. How successful? I came home and took a 5h nap after my shift because I couldn't keep my eyes open. Tomorrow I have my first solo shift. I got this.