Day 3: There was a huge crowd when we arrived. So many refugees on this island and so little resources. Again, only one doctor in the Greek clinic who is not an MD but a microbiologist and one ngo the Med Equality team from France. There are over 6,500 people here. Alex from Ghana, who has been working with us, took some of the team through the jungle. Absolutely appalling. People are living in really small tents. There are bedbugs and people come in with bites all over themselves. This morning I saw a huge rat and there are snakes. Scabies is rampant and to top it off, there is a chicken pox epidemic.
The miserable conditions are just beyond imagination. Today we saw the first Kurdish family. They arrived a day ago and the young child had a tooth abscess that was so bad the infection came through the outside of his lower jaw. He had been scheduled to have surgery when his home was bombed, forcing the family to leave. An elder Kurdish woman and her daughter arrived 2 days ago. The mother has bad arthritis and walks with a cane. Her and her daughter are alone here. I don’t know about her family, but these two are just devastated. The look of despair and desperation as they try to grasp what has happened and what will happen. They are living in a backpacking tent. They can barely move.
This time at Samos feels even more intense There is great frustration with trying to provide even the most basic medical care. The more complex issues . . . well, there just are no services, no specialists at the hospital. An Afghani man came today. He was in his late 30’s with his wife and three young kids. He had testicular cancer and had surgery in Kabul. He then had to leave Afghanistan and now has swelling above site and likely a return of the cancer. He asked for treatment and there is none. Absolutely nothing will be done for him. When I told him we have no cancer drugs and nowhere to send him he just looked at me, nodded and said thank you. It is just heartbreaking. He knows it is a death sentence.
We are seeing many young men with respiratory problems. Apparently many had worked in a Turkish chemical factory without any protection and now have asthma-like symptoms. They worked there while waiting to get money to pay smugglers to come to Greece and apply for asylum. TB is hard to diagnosis from their symptoms because of the chemical exposure. Many cough up blood but one man presented with papers written in Greece said he was in the hospital for one month with TB and discharged without meds. Well TB’s standard first line treatment is a minimum of six months medication. He was told they did not have the medication on the island ?????? We have to pursue this today because that is really scary.
Tomorrow we are taking a day off to meet with MSF (Médecins sans Frontières) team. We need to figure out some things and also, as I said — this is so much more intense and we need to breathe.