Week 6 – Will not be forgotten

Over three hundred new arrivals landed on the island this week. Early one morning, a message from our scouts went out at 5:00 AM rallying the team to the landing site of a crowded boat packed with thirty-seven people. After enduring over four hours onboard a makeshift boat constructed from thin fiberglass, many of the people exhibited serious symptoms of hypothermia. Emergency blankets were distributed to all, and medical care was given to those in need before a detainment bus arrived to transport all passengers to the main camp. On other landing sites around the island, reports came in of refugees fleeing the scene after they discovered where they were to be taken. On a run this week, I came upon dozens of tattered rafts littered across a remote stretch of the island, once used by countless people to cross the treacherous sea. I cannot even begin to attempt to translate the emotions that the passengers of these rafts must have felt into words.

        Continuing to work in the clinic this week, my tasks consisted of taking down patient information to streamline the current system in place. The camp has recently seen several outbreaks of contagious diseases such as chicken pox and tuberculosis, so quarantine areas were set up to mitigate the risk of transmission between residents while the staff maintained proper personal protection. Directing and transporting patients in a calm manner is a must in a place where emergencies are common and tensions are exacerbated by the stressful environment. Frustration exhibited by those waiting for long spans of time can trigger panic attacks in others, and thus it is a requirement that all volunteers must be trained in Psychological First Aid and Basic Life Support before starting work in the camp. Working with doctors accustomed to the same healthcare system as I am in the United States has highlighted the differences that underserved systems such as Lesvos experience. Lacking many of the resources we take for granted in the United States causes frustration for those without serious or life-threatening medical illnesses, as they are forced to follow a seemingly unending series of referrals to different understaffed clinics around the city of Mytilini to receive more specialized care. Many of the refugees on the island have no money and run out of options when relief organizations do not possess the medications they require. However, the refugee healthcare system on Lesvos is, in many ways, a much less complex system than the one we are used to in the United States.
With more cut and dry problems such as the limited number of volunteers and dwindling stocks of medicine, help that does arrive makes an enormous positive impact for those on the receiving end of the aid. Although we can only hope that in the coming years aid will continue to arrive, the amazing people whom it has been a pleasure working with and I will continue to make sure that the incredible people trapped here on the island will not be forgotten.