Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Notes from the field: Fleeing ISIS, seeking safety.

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 15, 2016

    There are thousands of refugees in Greece in need of help, of hope, and someone to care for them. One of many urgent needs is the lack of health care. And this need only increases as more refugees join the thousands in Greece unable to continue their journeys as the European borders have closed.

    Sharon Tissell, a Medical Teams International RN volunteer, shared stories with us from her time serving Syrian refugees this summer. Check out her other stories here: Live in Diavata | Helping Syrian refugees

    By Sharon Tissell, RN

    This camp is only about two months old and houses roughly 1,200 Syrian refugees who were stuck at the border when it closed to further immigration into Europe. The refugees are housed in voluminous canvas tents inside a large warehouse.

    Despite war and extreme loss, and an empty warehouse as a new "home," refugee children still find ways to be kids.

    Today we met Ahmed, 25, who came into the clinic for treatment for a torn ligament in his knee. While we treated him, we spoke to him about his journey out of Syria.

    When ISIS came to Kobani, he feared for his safety and made the difficult decision to leave Syria with his wife.

    They travelled to Turkey where they stayed for some time and where their first son was born in a refugee camp there. In a desperate search for a future for his family, he paid a "smuggler" to take the family across to Greece. The smuggler required 2,500 Euros to take them across the Aegean, and then charged them another 800 euros for life jackets.

    Searching for a better life for his family, Ahmed has risked his life, spent his fortune and now is at the mercy of those willing to assist in this crisis.
    Nurse Sharon meets with refugee patients.

    They have no options now and the discouragement is plain on his face. Searching for a better life for his family, Ahmed has risked his life, spent his fortune and now is at the mercy of those willing to assist in this crisis. I am so grateful that Medical Teams International can be here to give tangible support through medical care for Ahmed and his family.

    The harrowing journey began with 85 refugees on a small rubber boat. Ahmed feared for their lives until they were rescued by the coast patrols and taken into Greece. Their journey continued to the border into Macedonia, but when the border closed Ahmed and his family were returned to Greece and now wonder what their future will hold and what they should do next.

  • Jasmine: Seeking Relief for a Child

    by Sarah Austria | Sep 14, 2016

    Ask any adult who has experienced tooth pain to describe the feeling and you’ll likely see them wince and shake their head in memory. Now consider a child enduring that same pain. For young Jasmine and her family, it was a reality.

    Recently relocated from California to Oregon, the family was without dental insurance and unable to afford a dental visit. Jasmine complained that her teeth hurt.

    With nowhere to turn to ease his daughter's pain, a feeling of desperation was setting in for Jasmine’s father.

    Then he heard a commercial on the radio advertising a Medical Teams International Mobile Dental van.

    Untreated dental pain is an all too common complaint in the United States. Many turn to hospital emergency rooms seeking relief. In fact, an estimated 30% of emergency rooms visits would have been better served in a dental office.

    Jasmine’s father decided it was worth the 120-mile round trip for the chance that his daughter’s dental pain could be treated. The family arrived at Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental van at 10am. They were last in the long line. Four hours later they were still waiting to be seen - but the clinic hours ended before their turn. Her father, as any father would, pleaded with staff for his daughter to be seen. Thankfully, the volunteer dentist was graciously able to see her.

    For those that don’t have access to dental care and in desperation visit hospital emergency rooms, the results are rarely successful. Emergency rooms are not equipped and staffed to handle dental care. And ER visits for dental pain are expensive - averaging $765. Thanks to your support, the average cost for a patient to visit the Medical Teams International Mobile Dental van is about $100.

    Jasmine was diagnosed with 8 cavities. Due to her young age and a fear of needles, the dentist chose to begin her treatment slowly, and fill just the 2 cavities that were causing her the most pain. But Jasmine will be able to finish her treatment - thanks to you. The Mobile Dental van manager gave Jasmine’s father a phone number to schedule the rest of his daughter’s dental care with another of Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental vans - this time closer to their home.

    Jasmine’s father was incredibly grateful for the treatment Jasmine received that day - and the referral to care for the rest of her dental needs. Your support of Medical Teams International took away the dental pain of one little girl, and gave her father peace of mind.

  • Petrona's Story: Good hygiene and a healthy life

    by Hannah Beighle | Sep 09, 2016

    Life is hard when your children are constantly sick. This is the challenge Petrona faced in the town of Senahu, Guatemala—Petrona’s two children were sick so often, but she didn’t know why.

    What she didn’t realize was that the answer was right outside her door. Petrona and her family live on a small home cut into the rural hillside. Without the money to build an outhouse, they used a hole in the ground up a small path from the house to go to the bathroom. When it rained, the path would become too slippery and muddy for Petrona to take her children up, so they would just use the land near their home -- the same area where the kids would play when the rains stopped.

    Petrona_Family_Guatemala_HomePetrona had another problem, too—their family’s water came from a nearby stream, and the water wasn’t clean. Petrona wanted to keep her children healthy, but she didn’t know how.

    Then, one day, Petrona heard the mothers in her community talking about Medical Teams International, who had begun working there.  She was very curious about the organization. Soon, one of the mother counselors who had been trained by Medical Teams came to Petrona’s home. She told Petrona that her children’s illness might be caused by the dirty water they were drinking, the dirty conditions outside the house, and the lack of handwashing in the family.

    She took the advice to heart. The very next day, Petrona went to her neighbor’s house and received permission to share their water source so her family could have access to clean water. Within a few months, she heard that Medical Teams would be installing latrines in her community. She met with the community health coordinators, and was thrilled when they told her she could have a latrine.

    Petrona_Family_Guatemala_Latrine_Community_Health“When I learned that I could get a latrine, I was very happy because I wouldn’t have to take the children far away or have them going in the yard,” she said. “I hoped they would be healthier.”

    Petrona said the team members who came to install the latrine were friendly and played with her children, and she and her husband prayed with them after the work was finished. The team also provided a Tippy Tap—a bucket with a spigot and bar of soap—for the family to wash their hands. 

    Now, Petrona’s children are healthy and she is teaching them how important it is to wash their hands before they eat and after they use the latrine. The new handwashing bucket and the latrine have truly changed her family’s life.

  • Nola's journey: What it's like flee your home

    by User Not Found | Sep 02, 2016

    It’s terrifying and painful to imagine our neighborhoods and communities turning into areas where kidnappings, rapes, and looting are a constant threat. However, this scenario became a reality for Nola. Nola recounted to Medical Teams International a glimpse into what forced her to flee her home in South Sudan, “Soldiers wait outside your house leaning on a tree, and then when you go out to use the bathroom they take you away.” Nola knew her family had to escape to Uganda.


    Nola’s story is not rare. Thousands of have reported looting, burning of homes, and murders of civilians. These horrifying daily realities have caused a mass exodus to Uganda. In the first three weeks of fighting, more refugees arrived in Uganda than during the entire first half of 2016. Ninety percent of the refugees entering Uganda are women and children.

    “Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands or fathers by armed groups, who are reportedly forcibly recruiting men into their ranks and preventing them from crossing the border.”

    "Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands or fathers by armed groups, who are reportedly forcibly recruiting men into their ranks and preventing them from crossing the border." reported Adrian Edwards of the UNHCR.

    We are proud to be partnering with UNHCR at refugee camps across Uganda - providing medical care for refugees who have nowhere else to go. So many like Nola need help - it’s because of your support that her family will have access to medical care when they need it.

  • Preparing Emergency Responders

    by User Not Found | Aug 26, 2016

    In many places in rural Cambodia, emergency medical services work differently than they do in the U.S. Years of violence and destruction from the Khmer Rouge has taken a serious toll on this country’s development. Instead of an ambulance quickly arriving at the site of an accident and providing care, emergency vehicles may show up under-equipped and responders may not have the training they need to save the victim’s life - triage, how to treat patients at the scene of an accident, or even how to safely administer CPR. The need is urgent - roads are developing quickly, putting even greater strain on a system that is already struggling to recover.

    Medical Teams International has a solution for this growing complication in Cambodia. In several provinces, we have taken action to improve emergency medical services, or put services into place where there were none. To do this, we are training people at all levels: doctors, nurses, physicians and first responders. We're also helping provide equipment and technical support in some areas. This program is providing education to improve the quality of medical care in emergency situations.

    Emergency training in action: Dr. Tam

    Dr. Tam is a doctor in Cambodia and an inspiring example of how this training changes lives in the hands of local medical staff. With the provided training, Tam says he feels “refreshed” and is now confident in emergency situations. He learned how to assign degrees of urgency of the wounded or ill when there are a large number of patients, how to perform patient assessment, how to do CPR as well as learning how to treat a patient at the scene of an accident. Tam says his training “fills the gap” in what Cambodian doctors and nurses know to do, and he is immensely happy about what he has learned. During the training, he was one of Medical Teams International’s best students and is now training other doctors in the hospital where he works.

    Before, medical responders wouldn’t have known what to do. They would have thrown the patient into the back of the vehicle and transported them to the hospital, but with his training, Dr. Tam knew what to do.

    Tam’s training is already saving lives. Not long ago, Dr. Tam arrived at the scene of a car accident where one person was severely injured. Before, medical responders wouldn’t have known what to do. They would have thrown the patient into the back of the vehicle and transported them to the hospital, but with his training, Dr. Tam knew what to do. This time, he was confident about his actions. He performed a rapid assessment on the bleeding and unconscious patient and was able to stabilize him. Tam then transported the patient to a hospital, monitoring his condition along the way. Upon arrival, Tam’s staff hooked the patient up to an IV to supply medicine, before the patient was rushed to emergency surgery.

    Reflecting on his training, before and after, Tam said, “Without MTI, those patients die on the scene. Because of this knowledge, the ability to save lives is increasing.” With his training, Dr. Tam Harklang is giving other first responders in Cambodia the tools to save lives.