I met Nurse Salah a couple of years ago when he was volunteering in a local medical center and I had been bitten by a scorpion. He reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, “No time to say “Hello, Goodbye” I'm late! I’m late!” The late of course being for a waiting patient.
Nurse Salah has been part of our team for a year now, and is still lovingly known at The White Rabbit. In addition to running The Hope Medical clinic, giving seminars and workshops on matters of health to our students and those who live in Shariya Camp, he and our play therapist Avya, have partnered to take basic medical support into the camp every Sunday.
Today they share some of their stories.
I grew up in a very poor family. I have 9 siblings and to help support us I had to work as a young boy. Work killed my dream. It died when I was in high school. I wanted to be a biologist, to research and lecture on genetics and hormones. Even as a child I did much research on this subject, it was my passion but my grades were not high enough to be accepted to this department.
One day, I was visiting a hospital and I saw a sick young girl quietly ask a female nurse to help her to go to the bathroom. The nurse was indignant and told her to manage alone as it was not her job. I was very upset. Once home I used Google to research the responsibilities and duties of a nurse. She should have taken her to the bathroom.
I then went to visit another hospital, got chatting with a nurse whom I asked to send me a list of his responsibilities as a nurse. I saw a huge gap between the Google list and reality on the ground. I decided to be a nurse. I miss my dream but am glad that I can make a difference to my community, particularly in this time of ongoing crisis.
When I made this choice it was with total dedication to the health and welfare of all my patients, regardless of who they would be. It was a choice where I committed my time both my formal work time and my free time to their care, putting them before myself.
Two days ago, for example, I had just served myself lunch, and my tent neighbor burst in asking me to come to another neighbor with a psychological condition who was biting himself. I left my food immediately and went to help. Nursing is difficult but lovely work.
Our clinic is small but busy, oftentimes with intense pressure as many medical emergencies that happen in the camp come directly to me. I make small operations, sterilise wounds, make stitches, treat burns. Our clinic opens many first aid and health courses because I want to equip a generation with knowledge and understanding."
“Aware as we may be of the importance of visiting and assisting people who are ill, we still have to overcome our fears and hesitations in order to fulfill this holy role.”
Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson.
Avya and I go to the tents because there is no care for those who can not come to the clinic. No medical care, no personal care. They need both medical care and simple kindness. They always invite us for lunch, we don’t stay because we know that they have just about enough food for that meal…. when that is eaten, there is no more. Poverty, extreme poverty is rampant. They give with generosity but they have nothing. We can not take from that nothing.
My patients will speak with you. I pray that you will hear their voice.
“My name is Kurty Hussein. I am 61. I suffer from chronic diabetes and very high blood pressure. I am very grateful to the Hope Clinic because Nurse Salah takes very good care of me, monitors my blood pressure, and has given me complete health care and dietary information. Changing my diet is hard though, we live on rice and bread. Take it away from me…and…it’s hard for me to change, I am old but I try.
A while back I developed a back problem, so I couldn't walk to the clinic. Salah and Avya continued to visit me and gave me good advice and exercises for my back. Every Sunday they came, sat and chatted with me and gave me information that was new to me which helped me take better care of myself.
Now I can walk to the clinic which makes me very happy. I also use the detox foot bath once a week. I sleep so well after that."
“Maintain the rights of the afflicted and destitute.”
“I attend your clinic because of your detailed and explicit care. You do everything in a scientific way that gives me eternal confidence in you. I feel that it is easy to discuss my illnesses with you because you do not dismiss me, but sit with patience and listen to me.”
Shirin Hussain, 60
“Hello. I am Qassim Hason. I am 76 years old. Every Sunday morning my wife and I visit the Hope Clinic. We know that Nurse Salah would come to our tent but we want the opportunity to go and visit. He takes care of all our medical needs and helps us with everything we need. He actually makes us eat healthy food, because we can not lie to him, we avoid sugar and salt. It’s not easy, but we feel much better. Just going to the Hope Centre and the clinic helps us to forget our great suffering.”
Qassim Hason, 76
“The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.”
“I feel safe with you. I feel safe to share my story with you, to share my pain with you. You are the real deal. When my blood pressure went sky high, you gave me water with lemon and cucumber and told me about foods that are harmful to my health. You have given me my health back. Thank you.”
Gawry Qassim, 71
“Have compassion upon me for I am weak”
“I am old. My days are almost finished. I have no energy to walk but every day my feet find their way to the clinic to check on my health. I receive full medical care from you. You have shown me the beauty of life, and treat me with respect and dignity.”
Naari Munat, 67
"I am one of the first patients of SOHF. I have been visiting several times a week since they opened their doors. They sincerely care about our health and welfare with all of their hearts. They are sincere and respectful and provide all my medical needs. They have constantly opened their hands and opened their hearts. I will never leave them.”
Khudeda Kcho, 73.
“In all honesty, I want to thank you for your constant care and interest in the health and wellbeing of me and my family. You have taken care of all our medical needs, provided sensible information and dietary advice that is easy to follow. After my operation, Nurse Salah was available at all hours on the phone and made an emergency visit to me. They never give up, if they are tired, they don’t show it. They bestow great dignity upon us which helps in managing our diseases.”
Muho Awy, 73
“Hello everyone, I am Avya. I studied Agriculture at the University of Duhok because it was the only opportunity available for me as a girl. My dream, however, was to work with children, and for this I am grateful to Springs of Hope who accepted me to work as kindergarten teacher without any experience. I love my work, I love my children but I greatly look forward to our Sunday visits to the tent people in the camp. Our Sunday time is part of our schedule, but we go other times as needed, especially when there are emergency situations. I chose to go with Nurse Salah, I don't have a stomach for hard medical conditions and yes going into the tents affects me emotionally, but I feel it's important that I connect with the camp community. This has opened a door for me to see the reality of their life, to be close, to listen and to show that I care for them. There is nothing that I can do but I know it's important for them that someone recognizes that they are barely living. Their faces light up when we come, they need us to sit with them, listen, give them a good word and comfort them. They register their children for courses because they want them to get a head start with education so as to have a better life. They are all generous, they make chai, they invite us to eat with them, their welcome is genuine and very open to us. My family fled from the regime of Saddam Hussein, they lost everything but I was a young child so I never really experienced the hardships that my parents and grandparents faced, so its good for me to be a small part of the tent community and to give something back outside of my usual classroom situation. Allow me to share something about some of the people whom I feel particularly close to. Bahar is a survivor of ISIS, she raises her three children alone (they were also in captivity). Her husband is still missing, she has no information on him. Dr Saeed and Miss Lisa have known her since her first day back in Kurdistan and they have been closely involved in her life. She has nothing yet always offers us chai and cookies with her warm smile. She pushes us to stay for lunch but we politely decline knowing that the little food that she has made will go to us and she and her children will remain hungry.
Khanse is 80 years old, she lives with her two children. One son, aged 35 is deaf from birth and he suffers from diabetes. He has had many surgeries, but Khanse is not sure why. She, her son and daughter trust us and treat us as family. They feel comfortable to share their problems and difficulties with us and know that we will respect their privacy and confidentiality.
“Alongside medical treatment we need the touch of another to heal our pain.”
Lord Jonathan Sacks.
“It’s time for our cup of tea now. We love and appreciate you because you deserve all respect. Every time we offer you tea but you politely say no, that you have other waiting patients and no time. Today we are not interested in the other patients. Let them wait. All our life here in the camp is waiting. Today you are ours, we will not let you go. And if you tell us that you don’t drink chai for some important health reason, then you can teach me to make this new smoothie drink you talk about, or you eat lunch. It is your choice, but you are not going anywhere!!”
“We love it when you come to visit, our weather changes and we feel so good. We always invite you for chai and lunch, because we enjoy our time with you and we want you to stay longer with us. You give us wonderful perfect medical care, and very generous attention. We automatically feel healthier and stronger when you are with us. We wait for your visits.”
Bassy Qassim. 45.
“This family really feels like my family. I feel very close to them.”
“Hope is the gift we bring when we visit the sick. We let that person know that they are not forgotten, that the outside world still cares. By bringing information from beyond the four walls of a sick room, we expand the horizons, bringing the enjoyment of a renewed fullness of vision and sense of belonging. Of course, the most precious gift we can offer is our concerned attention. We carry hope, a gift that brings a sense of expectancy and a promise for the future.
Visiting the sick is a confrontation of our fears, and our frailty. It can help us appreciate everyday life as a gift and a blessing and it can bring about a deeper involvement with our communities.”
Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson.
CAN YOU HELP?
Will you help us be the gift of hope to so many who rely on us to care.