Volunteers Help Refugees with a Variety of Ailments
In this second blog, volunteer nurse Louisa Reade continues recounting her experiences volunteering with Project HOPE at the Gevgelija Transit Center in Macedonia.
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.
Start of the Second Week
Today we had a 2-year-old boy come into the clinic in severe respiratory distress. I gave him the medications that Cory had ordered, observed him for some time and then said yes to being the sole rider with him to the hospital (with his family). Corey asked me to take Epi with me just in case he stopped breathing. We had other patients who needed her.
The boy was lethargic except for the incredible work he was having to do to keep breathing. I kept thinking, “please don’t die, baby.” We got to the hospital, and I hooked him up to oxygen while we waited. The MD I had met previously with another patient arrived. He is kind and soft spoken. I gave the report and left. Back to the transit center for more.
We have many patients who are on some type of medication – for infections, diabetes, inhalers for asthma, etc. When the refugees are crossing the sea, boats capsize or their precious belongings fall overboard. They come to us for medications. It is a process trying to figure out the diagnosis, what they need and what medication they had taken. For instance, if the patient is on an antibiotic, which antibiotic did that person take and for how long? Our patients primarily speak Arabic; some speak Farsi. If there is not someone who speaks English and Arabic, we form a row: the patient, the Arabic-to-Macedonian interpreter, the Macedonian-to-English interpreter, the nurse and the doctor. Can you picture it? A very full examination room!
The Next Day
We arrived at work today, got busy and then a Macedonian doctor/nurse team showed up. The Macedonians staff the clinic when we are not there. So, there was confusion with the schedule. However, it was a non-stop day for us, and we kept them busy running patients to the hospital.
Here is a snapshot of patients we saw today.
- A 13-year-old refugee with fever and developmental delay and weakness had been left with us and that was the last we saw of the person who brought that patient in. There is an organization that connects families that get separated, and they are working on it.
- A man arrived after receiving CPR from the Red Cross out between the border of Greece and Macedonia. We evaluated him and sent him to the hospital.
- Violence in the morning was caused by people having been out in the cold all night, trembling from the chill when they came into the clinic.
- There was a man with a broken arm, and a boy with a major shoulder injury.
- There was a very, very sad woman who had lost THREE children: a baby, a toddler and a young child OVERBOARD. She cried. I cried. She tolder her story in Arabic to me. I didn’t understand a word, but I could sure feel for her. She brought her infant’s socks out from where she had them, tucked beside her breast. Oh the grief!
Pipes were being laid down, and holes were being dug, causing stress from the additional loud noises nonstop all day. Plus there was the additional stressful sound of the refugees chanting. They are very restless. Many people were projectile vomiting. There was lots of diarrhea. So many people just collapsed. The stretcher was used a lot today. There were pregnant women and children with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and ear aches. A toddler tripped an impaled the roof of her mouth on a stick.
And then we went home. The electricity went out, and our landlord brought us roasted chestnuts. How sweet is that?