Louisa Reade, RN, MSN is a registered nurse from Ashland, Oregon, who spent three weeks in November 2015 volunteering with Project HOPE at the Gevgelija Transit Center on the border of Macedonia with Greece, where about 3,000 migrants passed through per day on their way to seek asylum in EU countries. Reade and fellow volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn, also from Ashland, Oregon, provided free medical care to refugees in need.
Today is my first day in Macedonia. We have seen our first patients, and everything is different: the medicine, the IVs, fluids, etc. At times I feel overwhelmed, but Corey is amazing to work with – knowledgeable, with a calm, friendly bedside manner. The Red Cross runs a separate clinic and refers more acute or complicated cases to us or instances where the patient is very young. We were in the clinic for 13 hours today and treated about 10 people. About 1,000 people came through the transit center, only because the Greek ferry operators are on strike. We have heard they will be back to work tomorrow, and we expect 15,000 people to pass through tomorrow, making our clinic very busy.
Today, when not treating patients, I handed out water and sacks of food provided by two other organizations. During our shift, 5,000 people passed through the refugee center. We drove the ambulance to the hospital today, so a woman in early pregnancy could have an ultrasound. It was quite an adventure! Even though it was only our second day, I felt at home in the clinic.
I cried three times today, mainly because I was worried about families or groups being separated. Each family travels in a group. If a refugee chooses to seek health care, he or she might become separated from his or her group. The group could move onto the next destination – taking the train or bus to Serbia – while he or she receives treatment. For this reason, a person may choose not to seek health care. Everyone found one another today – thank goodness. And, sometimes the search was heart wrenching.
Next Few Days
What do we do each day? We start moving around 6:30 – 7:00 am and head out the door by 7:55. We get a ride to the transit camp from the Ministry of Health. Once we arrive, we do a one or two minute report-ish hand off from the night staff, also a doctor and nurse. I say “ish” because they speak Macedonian, and we speak English. I wipe down all the surfaces. Corey reviews the charting from the night before, and we see patients as they filter in.
The Red Cross medical staff screens the patients and then sends the very young and/or very sick to us. Mainly I do vitals, give oral medications, IM injections, start IVs and in general work as part of a team under Corey’s leadership. At 8 pm we pack up, wait for the night team to arrive and ride home in the Ministry of Health-provided vehicle. Food, Facebook, reading, FaceTime with family and always laughter are the best medicine after a long day.
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