IRC nurse bringing more than good health to Syrian refugees
December 31, 2012 by Ned Colt
|Nurse Areej Obeidat checks on one of her younger patients at an IRC clinic in Mafraq, Jordan. Photo: Ned Colt/IRC|
MAFRAQ, Jordan -
Areej Obeidat, a 26-year-old Jordanian nurse, has a special relationship with her patients. She takes some of them home with her every night. “How many?” I ask. “Too many to count!” she replies with a bashful grin.
She takes them home as photographs on her mobile phone. Every picture has a story behind it, linked to a warm relationship with a patient.
Areej has worked at the International Rescue Committee’s Mafraq clinic since it opened in June 2012. She sees close to 50 patients a day, all of them Syrian refugees. They come for primary care: Colds, coughs, high blood pressure and diarrhea are their most common complaints. Now and again, someone recovering from a bullet wound appears, looking to have a dressing changed.
Areej and the doctors see to their medical needs, but so many need more than a checkup and a prescription for free medicine. “There was this one lady? I have a special place for her,” she tells me. “She has high blood pressure and came in for treatment. She told me she had 10 children and seven were killed in the fighting in Syria — over the space of just three months. One other child is wounded, and two others are still fighting. Can you imagine?” I certainly can’t.
Areej is especially drawn to the very young and the very old. “The nature of children is to laugh and play, but when they first come to the clinic they’re so tense,” she says. She keeps a small cache of sweets and chocolate to dole out to the young ones who seem particularly anxious. “I asked a five-year-old why he was so sad, and his response? ‘There’s no reason for us to laugh.’ Children are so honest.”
For older patients, just the chance to talk can be therapeutic. “They’re often lonely,” says Areej. “They’ve lost family, friends, all that they know and care for. They frequently cry when I speak with them about their homes and family in Syria. They want so much to talk. I soon understood they’re not just here for medical support—emotional support is so important, too.”
This winter, the IRC is expanding its clinics in Mafraq and Ramtha to provide that emotional support to refugees, with a focus on women and girls. Many faced traumatizing experiences in Syria and now find themselves facing new challenges in a new country. With psychologists and counselors on staff, both clinics can reach out to this particularly vulnerable group of refugees.
“All of these refugees have multiple needs,” says Areej. “This way, we’ll be able to better meet both their medical and emotional requirements.”
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