Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • A Nightmarish Journey from Syria to Greece

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 14, 2016

    Right now in Greece, gifts from donors like you are in action, helping so many refugees who came there for asylum from the terrors of war. Today we share with you the story of one of these people – a young woman named Nermim whose family received refugee health and hygiene kits, thanks to donors like you.

    When the horrors of the brutal conflict in Syria became too dangerous for Nermim and her family, her husband escaped to the Netherlands to jumpstart a new life for them. When he arrived safely, Nermim, her son and her aunt soon followed.

    The journey almost cost them their lives.

    Nermim with her son & aunt in Greece. She suffers from stress-related sores.

    Every refugee has their own unique story of struggle, heartbreak and danger. Nermim's is especially unsual - and terrifying.

    Like thousands of other refugees, Nermim and her son and aunt fled to Turkey to risk the short but perilous journey across the Aegean Sea to Greece. On the day they departed, Nermim and her family joined dozens of other Syrian refugees in a small rubber boat.

    While still in Turkish waters, masked men on jet skis attacked, smashing the boat with sticks. People screamed. The hijackers bashed the boat’s driver with sticks. The rubber vessel rocked violently as the hijackers attempted to capsize it into the deadly sea.

    Terrified, Nermim ducked down, closed her eyes and prayed. She thought she would die and was terrified for what would happen to her son.

    The attackers finally left. No one was killed, but everyone on the boat was soaked, freezing and traumatized. While it’s unclear why, there have been reports in recent months of masked men attacking refugee boats. “God saved us,” Nermim said.

    "God saved us."

    When the family eventually came ashore in Greece, they were ice-cold, wet and filthy. What little belongings they had washed away in the attack.

    Thankfully, donors like you sent refugee health and hygiene kits to care for Nermim and her son. They received the kits when they arrived in Greece. If not for the kits, Nermim’s family would literally have nothing but the soaking clothes on their backs. 

    Because of the care kits donors like you sent, Nermim feels safe. She says it has provided a great comfort after a terrifying ordeal.

    While Nermim is haunted by exposing her son to the danger of the attackers and the sea, she knows she is making the right decision. If they’d stayed in Syria, they would be risking death on a daily basis.

    Nermim and her family now must wait in Greece to be processed and to continue on to the Netherlands. The conditions are unimaginable. Refugees must wait on the islands for their registration process to be complete. The timing of this can greatly vary per island and per situation, from two days to up to two weeks. The intake areas are dirty, busy, disorderly and cramped. Refugee kits help them stay healthy, hygienic and safe.

    Your gift is truly a blessing - sending health and hope to people just like Nermim and her family during such a profoundly dark time.

  • Protecting Siliana from tuberculosis' deadly grasp

    by User Not Found | Jan 11, 2016

    Seventeen-year-old Siliana can still hear the coughs. When her brother returned home to Haiti from the Dominican Republic, he brought with him a deadly companion: tuberculosis. Soon, another brother started coughing, too. She remembers the frailty and sweat that invaded their bodies. Her mother dropped everything to care for her two sons. Before long, Siliana heard her mother coughing. Was it the same illness—and how would this suffering end?

    Siliana’s mother became weaker and weaker. It became so severe that her family admitted her to a local health center. They were desperate, but it was too late. She died soon after returning home. That’s when Siliana heard more coughing. This time, though, the coughs were her own. Siliana was terrified…what if she had the same illness?

    With a diagnosis, Siliana can finally receive the medicine and treatment she needs. Thanks to you, she can finally battle this illness that took her mother and brothers.

    Word of Siliana’s illness spread quickly within her small Haitian community. Judith, a neighbor, heard about the young girl’s condition. Luckily, Judith is more than just a neighbor: Judith is a trained Community Health Agent for Medical Teams International through our partner, the Haiti Foundation of Hope. She rushed to Siliana’s house on a mission: to prevent the disease from spreading and to investigate the death of the family’s mother. 

    When Judith arrived, Siliana’s father revealed just how far his daughter’s illness had progressed. Her coughs shook her entire body, and she struggled to breathe smoothly. Judith confirmed that tuberculosis killed Siliana’s mother and suspected that Siliana was suffering from the same, life-threatening disease. She advised the family to take their daughter to Gros Mornes, a hospital where she could receive screening and treatment.

    The next week, Judith visited Siliana’s house again. She learned that Siliana visited the hospital for a screening but did not have the money to go back for diagnosis and treatment. Judith saw the fear and pain in Siliana’s eyes. She reported the family’s situation to her program manager. They agreed—they had to step-up efforts to help.

    They made a decision: Provide Siliana with enough money so she could afford transportation to the hospital, which was too far for Siliana to travel by foot. That generous offer allowed Siliana to go back to the hospital, and it may have saved her life.

    At the hospital, Siliana learned bad news. She had caught the disease that took the life of her beloved mother: tuberculosis. But—although she is afraid—from bad news came life-saving knowledge.

    With a diagnosis, she can finally receive the treatment and medicine she needs. Judith can now use her training to give Siliana specialized care, and her family learned how to stop the disease from spreading. Finally, she can battle this illness that took her beloved mother and brothers.

    However, the end of Siliana’s story remains unwritten. She is still living with tuberculosis, and is still contagious.

    But, now, there is a key difference.

    The difference is that now Siliana has the tools she needs to get healthier, and her family is able to protect themselves from catching or spreading the disease to others. Judith can give Siliana the care she desperately needs, and is empowered to help her community stay healthy. Donors like you provided the resources to care for Siliana. Without your support, Siliana might never have received any treatment at all.

  • A breath of life for a South Sudanese baby

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 08, 2016

    The following story comes from two volunteer doctors, Dr. Catrina Funk and Dr. Jeff Whittall, who provided training and saw patients at a South Sudan hospital as part of a partnership with World Vision International.

    South Sudan, Clinic 2, March 2015

    The inside of a clinic in South Sudan. Your support provides training and supplies to save the lives of vulnerable mothers and children in a country with among the highest birth-related death rates in the world.

    Through your generosity, volunteer doctors and newly trained health care workers converged to save a baby's life in a country where newborns die at an alarming rate.

    Late last year, Medical Teams International deployed two volunteer doctors to South Sudan. The mission: to train and work alongside hospital staff in an established project with World Vision, the Washington-based nonprofit, located in this newly independent and conflict-ravaged country.

    Medical Teams International and World Vision are partnering to save the lives of mothers and babies by improving the quality of emergency obstetric and newborn care at Kuajok Hospital in Warrap State, South Sudan.  

    It was there that medical professionals came across Amou, a young mother who had been in labor at home for 30 hours. For the recently widowed mother of three, whose previous deliveries had gone smoothly, something was terribly wrong. With the assistance of her family, she arrived at a local hospital in desperate need of assistance.   

    As the hospital midwife examined Amou, the problem became more obvious. The baby’s head was titled in the pelvis. As she scanned the mother's belly with a simple device called a Doppler, the midwife noticed the fetal heart tones were very worrisome.

    It was clear that Amou required an emergency C-section for her baby to survive. The obstetric and anesthesia teams gathered in record time to receive Amou as she was brought to the tiny operating room for a C-section.  

    Medical Teams International volunteers, Dr. Catrina Funk, OB-GYN, and Dr. Jeff Whittall, a pediatrician, arrived at the hospital just a week earlier and had provided in-depth theoretical and hands-on training of 17 hospital staff in emergency obstetric and newborn care.

    Health workers anticipated a severely distressed baby. They were correct. As the baby was lifted out through the incision, it lay limp, motionless, not breathing, with a very slow heartbeat. The baby was barely alive.

    Quickly, following the clamping of the umbilical cord, the newly trained health workers took the baby to a resuscitation room that had just been set up with the guidance the volunteer pediatrician for this very purpose. Working together, they suctioned the airway for the baby and began drying and stimulating it, just like they had learned in class.

    They breathed life back into the baby.

    Soon the heart rate began to increase. After a few minutes, the baby began to breathe on its own. 

    Within half an hour, the baby was crying loudly.

    The newly trained health workers of Kuajok Hospital had successfully brought the baby back from the brink of death. As the MTI volunteers remarked, it was one of those amazing cases that underscores why training in newborn resuscitation is so important.
    The skills require minimal technology but have a dramatic impact. Those skills had been successfully taught and firmly grasped by the hospital staff so that now they are confident to continue the life-saving emergency procedures on their own in this region of the world.

    The following day, Amou expressed her gratitude. The Medical Teams International volunteers, serving in partnership with World Vision, reminded her that it was the local hospital staff, with their new skills, who helped save her and the life of her baby — a baby Amou named Akech.

    Your generous gifts make this partnership possible. You are providing life-saving care to mothers and children around the world. Thank you for your compassion.  

  • 16 Reasons We are Grateful for You!

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 04, 2016
    1. You sent critical medical care and supplies to Syrian refugees
     2. You responded to the devastating Nepal earthquake within 48 hours
     3. You stopped the spread of Ebola in Liberia
     4. You shipped lifesaving medical supplies to clinics in need
     5. You gave babies a healthy start to life
     6. You fought chronic malnutrition in children under five living in rural villages
     7. You gave your neighbors a new start at life with desperately needed dental care
     8. You provided mothers with supplies that could literally mean the difference between life or death during childbirth
     9. You supplied South Sudanese refugee families with urgently needed medicines
     10. You aided the people of Myanmar after deadly flooding
     11. You put faith in action.
     12. You gave local children who have had no dental care a reason to smile
     13. You trained first responders in Cambodia in Emergency Medical Services
     14. You helped fight disease in Uganda.
     15. Your compassion
     16. You demonstrated the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty

    Happy 2016!

  • Tears of relief in a refugee camp

    by User Not Found | Dec 31, 2015

    Sanna’s head throbbed. All she wanted was to embrace her children and prepare them a good meal. Her heart was broken, held hostage to debilitating pain and dizzying anguish.

    After her beloved cousins were killed in Syria, Sanaa and her children fled to a refugee settlement in Lebanon. Although they had escaped the violence and bombs tormenting her native country, their hardships had only just begun. Traumatizing memories of her family’s murder ravaged her mind, barbarous nightmares and flashbacks taking a toll both physically and emotionally. Sanaa experienced paralyzing headaches and relentless heart palpitations.

    Sanaa's only wish is a bright future for her children. Without treatment, her illness made it hard prepare meals or even be around other people.

    She winces as she recounted how her illness enslaved her: “As I look at my poor children, my heart aches. I would often get severe headaches and could not hear them or even prepare their food. When I get high blood pressure, I cannot stand having anyone nearby. The head pain is so severe; I have to send the children outside. This upsets me because it is my duty to provide for them.”

    The desperate mother saw her life, her dreams, and her family in shambles. She mourned the loss of her happy life in Syria. In Syria, her children attended school. They learned to read, and they played outside with their friends. Here in the refugee camp, Sanaa’s only desire is a brighter future for her children. Today, she does not even have 75¢ to buy them a piece of fruit for a treat.

    Your prayers and donations offer Sanaa a breath of relief in the midst of a dark, difficult reality.

    Sanaa and her family enjoy a meal together. Thanks to you, she is able to keep her family fed and healthy.

    Thanks to your support, doctors from Medical Teams International diagnosed Sanaa with hypertension and provided her the medications she needs. Tears of gratitude and relief gather in her eyes, as Sanaa serves her children a humble meal in her tent. She shares: “When they give me my medication, I feel much better. They are great doctors, and I thank them from my heart.”

    Thousands of mothers, families and children--especially refugees--experience similar struggles every day. Our brothers and sisters are living amidst death, sorrow, and poverty. With your help, lifesaving care can reach those in need around the world.