It was a very intense time of medical ministry with our church partner (RCB) in Lebanon where we treated 674 patients in various locations throughout the country.
We spent time in a poor area in Beirut where many Syrian and Iraqi refugees have settled. RCB has started a limited medical clinic here with a local doctor and we are partnering with them to launch a full medical Life Center here in the coming months.
Figure 1: Child with Type 1.
A refugee family came into the mobile clinic where the daughter had Type 1 diabetes (Figure 1) and their situation immediately touched me given my own family struggle with this auto-immune disease. To my further dismay, I found out that she had 2 other children with Type 1. This disease is a 24 hour + 7 days/week, relentless disease that can quickly turn deadly without continuous monitoring and insulin availability – all of which is extremely expensive and difficult to find for a refugee family. This family managed to get some limited medical help, but the medicines are very expensive and the family simply cannot afford it. We were able to provide a month’s additional supply of all their necessary medicines - insulin, BG strips, etc. We hope to follow-up with them through our permanent Life Center that will be located in the area.
Figure 2: Dr Pierre w/ one of the patients.
We also went to the northern border where we plan to launch a 2nd Medical Life Center with another church partner. We treated 400 patients in the north alone. In addition to acute and chronic medical issues, some of the patients began opening up to our psychiatrist as they were dealing with major trauma, PTSD and other mental health issues from the war. For example, a mother who came in regarding a headache, opened up about losing 3 of her sons due to gunshot and bomb explosions in the last 6 months (Figure 2). Others, including children, witnessed the deaths of their loved ones in front of their eyes. We are praying for these children especially.
Figure 3: Clinic inside refugee homes.
We also spent time in the eastern border camp areas where we did a Medical Clinic inside refugee homes (Figure 3). This was perhaps the most heart-breaking day. As we walked among the makeshift homes, I was reminded of past medical trips I've taken to Sudan during the Darfur crisis or Haiti right after the earthquake or earlier in this region during the Syrian war crisis. The conditions were barely livable - but the people are trying to make the best of it.
Figure 4: Massive tumor on the baby’s back.
We kept trying to close the clinic as we had to leave, but I didn't have the heart to turn away the last few patients. One of these last patients was a child w/ hydrocephalus, which I knew was beyond our capabilities. What I didn’t realize until later as the child was being examined was that the child had a massive tumor on the baby’s back (Figure 4). The poor mom was told it would take $8,000 USD to have surgery to correct it, but there’s no way they had the money. In fact, this seems to be the lot in life for many of the 1 million refugees stuck in limbo here. They’ve steadily run out of the meager savings they had and they have very few ways to earn a living legally. Health care is out of reach for most people, particularly if it's a major procedure. In fact, the government is actively trying to ‘encourage’ them to go back to Syria. They cannot enroll in the public education system for the children, they have very few healthcare subsidies, the UN and NGOs are running out of money to help. It's a difficult situation for everyone - but mostly for the children.
It is our plan to do more to help as many refugee families as possible with their healthcare needs by opening two Medical Life Centers with our partners, expanding access to lab and pharmacy services and expanding our mobile medical clinics in the region as long as we have the funds to enable us.