July 21, 2018
Our mission has been filled with joys and tears.
The joys of having provided medical care in a compassionate and dignified manner to more than 1200 patients; of singing, clapping and giggling with the children in the camps, and reveling at their innocence and ebullience; of bonding with our remarkable co-mission workers from Cornell, Columbia, NYU, Northwell, Univ. of Colorado; and our dedicated team of interpreters and local SAMS staff. We were surprised to find out that one of our doctors is a new mom who was pumping during the mission to resume breastfeeding her 9-month old baby back in NY after returning home. Now... that’s dedication!
We also shed tears at the helplessness we felt after several patient encounters. One of our pediatric colleagues cared for a 7yo child with metastatic glioblastoma, an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer. The family knows the grim prognosis but was desperate for palliative care, which sadly they cannot afford. Another family brought their 8-year-old son with MDS, a form of severe bone marrow suppression, who failed therapies. His only chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant, which is prohibitively expensive. The parents were so despondent that they asked the doctor to take their son to America for treatment. “Please take him with you!” they begged. Such heartbreaking stories brought a flood of emotions and complex questions: what do you do as a physician when you can’t do much? How do you best provide comfort to a child and his family? How do you not succumb to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness? Thankfully, one of our colleagues happens to be a pediatric hospice specialist. He adeptly provided kindness and comfort to our distraught colleague.
Other noteworthy stories and events:
- A 14 yo refugee girl who dreams of becoming a doctor, assisted one of our internists. She learned the cardiopulmonary exam and together they did obstetric ultrasounds! We all root for her despite the significant challenges, and hope she is inspired to be able to overcome them (see photo of the budding doc)
- An elderly woman who planted a beautiful garden near her refugee camp tent in a barren setting told us that her greatest joy was to sip her coffee in the morning while admiring her garden. Being close to nature restores humanity and heals (see photo of garden)
- Our local SAMS mission leader lost his brother in law in a barrel bomb attack near his hometown of Deraa 3 days ago. His parents, sister and two young brothers fled, and are stranded in the desert between Southern Syria and the Golan Heights. Yet, he showed up every morning with his kind and discreet smile, and carried on with what needed to be done.
So many stories, so many reflections...
This mission has been a powerful life-changing experience for many of us.
In trying to gauge the impact of our work, I believe that we gained more than we gave. However, we are committed to continue adovcating for refugees and for the most vulnerable, beyond our time here.