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Blog 2 of 2 (continued on from yesterday’s blog)
We saw many children with viral fevers or skin rashes. Diarrhoea was a common theme throughout the camps, especially with infants. Many people in the camp were afflicted with skin conditions such as fungal infections, scabies and wound infections following sunburn. Other conditions we encountered were simple infections, heat rash, psoriasis, headaches and thermal injury. Without bloods it was difficult to fully assess patients, although we performed basic observations. Fortunately, nobody was ill enough to warrant a hospital visit. My impression is that the majority of these problems were secondary to the poor hygiene and sanitation in the camp.
There were also several chronic conditions that in the UK are easy to treat, however with no money or access to hospitals, were impossible to treat there. For example, we met an elderly lady who was blind from her cataracts. Secondly, an elderly man with a colostomy bag who had a recent operation in Adana, and did not have enough money to visit the hospital for his clinic follow up appointment. He did not have any replacement colostomy bags and was worried about infection. Luckily there was no infection and we arranged to get a supply of replacement bags for him. We met a young girl with Thalassemia Major. She had been very weak, malnourished and developing recurrent skin infections. Fortunately, during our visit, a government hospital in Turkey accepted admission for free treatment.
Finally, we met a young boy with cerebral palsy whose mother complained of his poor swallow. He was severely malnourished. In the UK, this young boy would have had intense MDT input and an acceptable quality of life. He had already aspirated on several occasions and been treated for chest infections, and the reality is that each subsequent infection could potentially be a terminal event.
We reviewed approximately 200 patients during our visit. It was not an easy task given the limited facilities, language barrier, cultural differences and the heat! Furthermore, in between clinics we helped with food packing and distribution.
For anyone contemplating medical humanitarian work, I cannot recommend it enough. It will challenge your skills in practicing medicine outside of your comfort zone, and also give you the opportunity to travel the world and gain a humbling insight into peoples’ lives.
The whole experience was a memorable one. I left Adana with an immense respect for the Syrian people who despite their hardship, persevere with life and do not let their situation affect their spirit, character and kind-heartedness. Although we did as much as possible, I feel they were no more than short-term solutions. UAN have set aside funds for sanitation, hygiene packs, but also empowerment projects where they may be able to become self sustainable through small crafts and businesses.
What distressed me the most was the feeling of helplessness at not being able to do more for these people who found themselves in their circumstances by no fault of their own. Some of the children I met, around the age of eight, will be working in the field next year and so will have no chance of an education and hence a future. This is true in any society afflicted by conflict, poverty and oppression.
I will continue to help in anyway I can and hope to visit soon again. However, as I write this report from the comfort of my home, I know that the beautiful people I had the pleasure of meeting will be in their tents tonight, exposed to the harsh Turkish climate, which in a few months’ time will turn extremely cold. I count my blessings for every day I have food, shelter, and easy access to a quality health service. I only hope that there is a political solution for Syrians, and anyone across the world enduring similar hardships.
You can view a video clip of Dr Wani’s time, here.
(Photo credits to Jake Simkin and Rosie Thom)