Today went rather smoothly. We decided to limit our visit and saw 40 patients. Spending more time with each, Karen was able to do massage for some who were injured in bomb blasts and Mark did some acupuncture for stress and ptsd. Many just had colds and sinus issues – we gave them Tylenol, tissues and some multi-vitamins. Scabies is rampant. A few had infected throats and some pneumonia. Kids with ear infections. We heard more stories today.
A young man from Syria who was a surgical assistant and then worked as a lab tech translated for us. He obviously had a middle class life, was educated. He said he had to leave very quickly. Imagine leaving your middle class existence, having lost family and friends, all your possessions reduced to a day pack, your clothing now donations you get from a refugee warehouse that may or may not fit and are not your choice, just what is handed to you, and you now live in a flimsy tent with blankets on the floor, and your meals are cold unless you can get in a queue for hot meals.
A man from Iraq suffered injuries from a bomb falling from the sky. He had head trauma, neck, back, and chest trauma and had major ptsd. Karen did some massage work with him but he could barely tolerate touch. He said his wife and child were in the camp but he was not with them because he had lost his mind and hurt them. He was ashamed. He was sad.
So many people have ptsd . Mental health issues are huge here and not being addressed. So many say they cannot sleep and have terrible nightmares. Their reality is a nightmare with no solution in site. They have hopes of getting through the beaurocratic lengthly maze to start their lives again and that dreams becomes more and more a nightmare. Desperation replaces the relief of survival.
We met a man from Cameroon who was a rap singer. His parents were murdered and he had to flee the country. He somehow got on a plane to Iraq and then walked over land for 30 days to Turkey where he was beaten so badly by Turkish police it has left him walking with crutches for over a year. Brian, Dr. Mark’s brother, spent some time with this man they speaking French together and Brian went to the African tent with him. Appalling, there are cages, like large dog kennels that people cover with blankets and sleep inside. I just cannot understand this inhumane treatment. There is no shower in this overflow camp and some people said they had not showered for months. Omar’s Refugee for Refugees warehouse gives them clean clothes but the scabies stay with them.
There were some really touching moments — a Syrian man asked us where we were from, asked us if we were being paid, and when we said from America and we are volunteers he was so surprised and said you came here for helping us? You bring us this medicine? And thanked us profusely. It made Tama cry.
But today was a good day. Mark was able to treat the patients with such warmth and kindness. The sun was shinning on our gorilla van. Tama, again the pharmacist, did a great job. She had the meds organized in labeled baggies ready to distribute. There was some laughter today on the line to see Mark, a few Syrian men sang to me. I could breathe today. We left, restocked for tomorrow, and went to a medicinal hot spring about 10 min from the camp. Our privilege allowed this escape. We decided we will bring some of the men with ptsd to the hot spring as a treatment. To relieve stress. We agonized over doing this for only a few — we cannot do it for all.
Caring for theses refugees takes so much. The UN has set up the camp but the smaller ngos and there are many here have to pick up the slack and there is so much slack. There are volunteers from all over, mostly Europeans who are pissed at the EU for not stepping up but we also met some Brazilians. Many of the volunteers come for several months and many had returned. That is a tribute to our humanity that there are people stepping up from all over the world. What about our governments? Our systems of resource greed and power hungry dictatorships create this mess and then turn their backs on the resulting chaos. Germany had stepped up initially and was an example of an open government and open hearted citizens but they can’t absorb these numbers. Greece should be held in the highest esteem for their sympathy but they are overwhelmed. Their economy has tanked and they do grant asylum but there are no jobs. We will do some work in Athens and will see the next stage of this. My current understanding is that after months or years at the camp some are granted asylum and are moved to old apartments or hotels in Athens. Will see this and know more later.
Meanwhile we are preparing for day 4.