April 10, 2017
Every day is a new experience on a SAMS mission, as we rotate through different areas of the country serving those in need. Going to bed last night, I also tried to put to bed some of the emotions from the day before. The schedule moves on forward, and therefore we must as well. Today’s rotation brought me to a small clinic in the other side of Amman. Nidaa Al-Khayr is a small clinic of 3 rooms run by a local Islamic Charity. With a dedicated staff, it has been a mainstay for care to local Syrians and Jordanians, and has been a regular for SAMS missions here for over a year.
With the population in Amman having somewhat better access to coverage than that of Mafraq, our day was more measured in pace and level in intensity. It allowed me to settle in a more familiar routine discussing with the parents the nature of their child’s illness; I even managed to discuss preventative care with a few.
It was about midday when I received what always makes me nervous on a mission: a regular phone call. I have a local SIM card, and the only people who know it are the members of the mission. If I’m getting a call during the day, something’s up.
On the other end of the line was our hard-working pediatrician in the city of Irbid, 90 kilometers north. Over the phone, she told me her situation: a 3 year old girl with severe developmental delays and a history of recurrent infections was in her office. Blind, mute, and an only child, she was febrile and ill appearing with an elevated heart rate. Her parents informed us that they had taken the child to the local emergency room the night before where admission was recommended, but the parents refused. They simply could not afford to pay.
We both knew what this child’s situation was. A bacterial infection in a child with disabilities is more likely to spread to the blood and become life threatening – and it was possible that she was now past this point. She needed more evaluation and care than we could safely provide, and the only place for this was the ER that they had left. We needed to determine what SAMS could do for this child.
I called Mohammad Hareri, the office staffer in charge of medical missions. He informed me that while we had arrangements with hospitals in Amman, in Irbid we had none. After consulting with our US Medical Missions manager and the pediatrician, we informed the family that SAMS would cover the cost of a return ER visit in order to have the child evaluated.
After a couple of hours as I neared the end of my clinic day, I called the pediatrician back to find out what had happened. To my surprise, she informed me that one of the doctors who had evaluated the girl the night before actually came to the SAMS clinic to check on her himself. He and the pediatrician discussed the child and the doctor was able to provide relevant history; more importantly, he indicated that she was clinically improved. The two doctors and the child’s parents then struck a plan whereby the family could continue their current course of care while watching for signs of worsening; if they appeared, the family would go to the ER and contact SAMS. We took the family’s information in order to follow the illness, but also to determine what services this child could receive to prevent further infections. I choose to hope that there is something that can be done.
Thank you all for your kind words of support. Tomorrow is day 3, and I will go to the city of Irbid.
Pediatrician Dr. Jihad Shoshara is leading the current SAMS Medical Relief mission to Jordan from April 7 – April 14. The mission will provide care to Syrian refugees and the local Jordanian community, focusing on pediatric orthopedics and neurosurgery, a first time for our Jordan missions. We will be providing 50 surgeries in just five days. Dr. Jihad Shoshara, a pediatrician from Chicago, will be sharing live updates with us every day.