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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Haiti: Small Acts of Kindness

    by Sarah Austria | Jan 13, 2017

    Medical Teams International’s Mobile Medical Units enable prompt response after a natural disaster strikes, bringing medical care when and where it’s needed most. Here is one story of how a Mobile Medical Unit made a difference after a recent disaster.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, many clinics in Haiti were destroyed or closed. Cholera risk was extremely high, and many people suffered injuries. Especially in isolated, rural areas, locals urgently need a safe place to find help. Thanks to your quick response, Medical Teams International’s Mobile Medical Units were up and running almost immediately, providing relief and working hard to prevent a deadly cholera outbreak.

    Volunteers & staff work together to treat patients in the mobile medical unit.

    Health workers noticed a large crowd assisting an obviously injured man. The hurricane devastated the island, causing injuries and illness. What was wrong with this patient - and would they be able to help him?

    He was immediately brought in to see the physician. Jean, a 39-year-old farmer, had been working to clear hurricane debris from land. He cut his foot while using an ax. A hard-working farmer, he needed to be mobile to make a living. Without treatment, his injury could lead to serious infection. Thankfully, his fields were close to the Mobile Medical Unit and he was immediately brought for treatment. Seriously hobbled by the injury, Jean was treated by Dr. Dave, a physician. A nurse, Teryn, and Humanitarian Team Leader, Frank, both assisted in cleaning and dressing the wound.

    Nurse Teryn describes what happened next. “After dressing his wound, Jean was unable to put his sandal back on due to the bulky dressing. However, in the nature of helping one’s neighbor, Jean’s friend took off his own larger sandals and handed them over to him to use. Sometimes, even a small gesture can mean a lot to someone in times of need, and today we were blessed to witness this selfless act."

    "Sometimes, even a small gesture can mean a lot to someone in times of need, and today we were blessed to witness this selfless act."

    It can be daunting to imagine how to begin the process of rebuilding, but Jean and his friend know exactly what to do. Neighbor helping neighbor with a small, profound act of kindness is a great place to start.

    Jean was fortunate to receive medical care. According to the United Nations, Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Against that backdrop, Hurricane Matthew has only added to Haiti’s recent history of devastating natural disasters. Thanks to you, Medical Teams International is in Haiti providing expert medical care for immediate needs, as well disease prevention and control.

  • Hope Amid the Pain: Tina’s Mobile Dental Story

    by User Not Found | Jan 06, 2017

    "I hang out with the pain as long as I can take it.” This is how Tina describes her life with tooth pain. We met Tina on one of our Mobile Dental Vans, where she has become a frequent visitor. She doesn’t want to have to have all of her teeth extracted, but the pain is unbearable and the risk of infection spreading is high.


    One year ago, she had perfect teeth. After eight back surgeries from an initial ruptured disc, she has to be on pain medication to even get out of bed. A side effect of this essential medicine is dry mouth and rotting teeth. Because of the debilitating pain, there is nothing she can do about it. With ten teeth extractions so far, she said there are moments of bliss after an infected tooth is removed... but the pain-free time in her mouth doesn’t last long.

    With only one molar left, Tina cannot eat normal food. Food gets stuck in the holes where her teeth used to be, and chewing takes a lot of work. It’s all painful. Often, she doesn’t even want to eat.

    Mobile-dental-help-local-medical-reliefTina is depressed and discouraged. She used to love to shop, laugh, and smile and now she doesn’t want to be seen in public. She avoids stores and hides her mouth. She hates that this is happening to her.

    Our Mobile Dental Clinics are her last hope. She is very grateful that she has somewhere to go. On Medicare she has very limited dental insurance and it would be impossible to get all the dental work she needs. Thanks to supporters like you, Tina can get the help she needs.

    “Without this van, my quality of life would be nothing,” Tina said. She wants people to know how important these vans are for people like her, saying “I hope others appreciate it as much as I do.” People don’t realize the difficulty of rotting teeth until they go through it: horrendous pain, not being able to eat, embarrassed in public to smile.

    Tina doesn’t know where she’d be without these Mobile Dental Vans. She wants to extend a big thank you to everyone who makes these  clinics possible. Thanks to your support, we can provide relief for Tina and others like her.

  • Shipment packed and ready for Syria

    by Emily Crowe | Dec 29, 2016

    We are honored to share photos from our recent shipment - over 15,000 pounds of medical supplies for families and victims in Syria's Aleppo province. Our teams are increasing their response to help Syrian refugees as the recent siege of Aleppo has caused even more injuries and deaths. Thanks to your support, this shipment will help many families receive urgently-needed care.

    Much-needed donated medical supplies are packed and ready to ship thanks to the hard work of volunteers in our Tigard-based distribution center.

    The team works to pack the container as tightly as possible. Soon, these supplies will reach patients in urgent need of support in Aleppo province, Syria.

    By the end of the day, over 15,000 pounds of medical supplies were packed and shipped to Syria. 

  • A dream deferred, not forgotten, for Syrian refugee Mariam

    by Tyler Graf | Dec 21, 2016

    Lebanon,  Mariam, Dec. 2016 (6)
    In Syria, Mariam dreamed of becoming a nurse. Now in Lebanon as a refugee, she continues to care for people in her community while longing to return home.

    One thing is keeping Mariam going amid the hardships of life as a Syrian refugee — the thought of home.

    But for Mariam there is no home. Not like before. When ISIS invaded her town of Deir ez-Zor, they destroyed everything. While they killed hundreds, they kidnapped and injured hundreds more. The city became a battlefield in the Syrian civil war, upended by rancor and continuous fighting.

    Mariam, 29, was lucky to escape with her parents and two sisters.

    She left everything behind, including her schooling, which she couldn’t continue because of the war. In Syria, she had dreams for the future, of possibly entering the healthcare field. But when the bombs began dropping, those dreams faded.

    Life in Lebanon is relatively safe, but it comes with its own set of challenges. It’s expensive and difficult for Mariam to make a living. Mariam receives food from the World Food Program and works the field, but she holds out hope of returning to school and receiving her nursing degree.

    Having witnessed unspeakable trauma, Mariam wants to help others. At the settlement, she has received the training and support necessary to do this.

    Mariam is one of 500 Refugee Outreach Volunteers trained by Medical Teams International to help sick and vulnerable refugees connect with primary health care clinics. She is helping to save and improve lives by preventing strokes, heart attacks and diabetes-related complications. Medical Teams International subsidizes the care the refugees receive and provides further health support and education to ensure this care continues.

    In Lebanon, home to an estimated 1.2 million refugees, the needs are urgent. The influx of refugees has strained the country's fragile health system. By addressing preventative and ongoing care using outreach volunteers like Mariam, Medical Teams International plans to bolster the system.

    Although the future is uncertain, Mariam feels proud that she is helping others. Out of the rubble of war, she is working to rebuild lives … including her own. 

  • Liberia: Preventing Another Epidemic

    by Sarah Austria | Dec 14, 2016

    The deaths of Kadiatu’s family members occurred during the height of Liberia’s Ebola epidemic of 2014 - but the pain of her loss is still fresh. Her own survival seems miraculous. But what’s to prevent another Ebola epidemic from occurring in her community? Find out.

    Kadiatu’s story began in 2014 when her husband took care of a community member infected with Ebola in the area of Grand Cape Mount, Liberia. With little knowledge of how the virus spread, Kadiatu then in turn cared for her husband when he became ill.


    There were many myths about Ebola during the epidemic. A common misconception was that hospitals cause Ebola, and that if a person developed the disease it was better to stay home. This misinformation helped the disease spread like wildfire.

    While caring for her sick husband, Kadiatu heard a message on the radio - a message from Medical Teams International. The message explained that Ebola spreads when people come into close contact with those who had been infected. Sick patients must travel to hospitals, where they could be isolated and treated.

    After hearing the information, Kadiatu called an ambulance and her husband was taken to the hospital. Three days later, Kadiatu and her 2-year-old daughter began feeling sick and exhibiting signs of Ebola. She worried about her health, the health of her 2- year-old, and the health of her unborn baby - Kadiatu was in the late stages of pregnancy.

    Once again, she called the ambulance - this time for Kadiatu and her daughter. They briefly visited her husband before seeking treatment themselves. Tragically, it would be the last time Kadiatu saw him - he died just a few days later.

    Doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola for Kadiatu and her daughter. The disease advanced rapidly and her 2-year-old daughter died. Kadiatu miscarried during her own illness. The weight of her sadness is unimaginable. For a time, Kadiatu waited for death, and even welcomed it.

    Powerfully, what Kadiatu remembers about this time is that people prayed for her.

    That gave her hope and courage, and along with her care in the hospital - she miraculously survived.


    Thanks to you, Medical Teams International was present in Liberia prior to the Ebola epidemic. As a result, Medical Teams International was able to act as a first responder during the crisis. Outreach systems already in place made it possible to help dispel Ebola misconceptions during the epidemic - and prevent further deaths.

    During the epidemic of 2014-2015, Liberia had 3,000 confirmed cases of Ebola, and 7,400 suspected or probable cases. Many led to tragedies like Kadiatu’s. New, isolated cases of Ebola continue to occur in Liberia. The virus is still active and permanent eradication is nearly impossible. But thanks to your support, progress has been made.

    Communities have been educated on how to handle new cases, and prevent future epidemics. World Health Organization reports that community education programs are the single most effective way to prevent Ebola. Your support of Medical Teams International makes these programs possible. Community outreach and training provides communities in Liberia with the education and tools to prevent and contain future cases of the deadly disease.

    Kadiatu lost so much. She is thankful for the resources helping to strengthen health systems in the communities hardest hit by the Ebola crisis. Communities throughout Liberia are empowered with the education on how to stop the disease. The message has been received - as a result the people of Liberia are healthier and communities stronger.