Extra!

The story of a little refugee’s wound.

Every time I go to “Tahaddi” clinic I know that a new story will touch me. “Tahaddi” is an Arabic word that means “challenge”. It is a local non-profit organization that serves the extremely poor and socially vulnerable population. I go there as part of my Family Medicine residency at the American University Of Beirut Medical Center.

But that day was different.

The chief resident asked me to take an “extra” clinic there due to the high load of patients at that time. I was seeing patients in the “extra” room usually assigned for the nurse.

Suddenly the nurse entered holding a 3 year old child barefoot, wearing only a T-shirt that obviously fits a 30 year old man.

The baby started crying as she was put on the examination table where the nurse wanted to care for her wound.

That wound was like no wound I saw before during my training. It was a large burn over the buttocks area after the girl accidentally sat on the grill. Of course, the grill is not at her so called “home”, because she barely has the essentials of life at her “home” or maybe she has nothing at all! The grill was at her neighbour's house where she went searching for food.

I didn’t know what to do at that moment. Should I help in the wound care? Shall I ask the grandma accompanying her about possible abuse? Shall I talk to the child to calm her down while the nurse continues the wound care?

The story of that miserable child has a beginning.

Her family recently came from Syria fleeing the deadly war. Her father has chronic renal failure, he is on dialysis. She has another brother with no clothes as well waiting at home. Her grandma started crying and stated that they ate no food since yesterday. I knew nothing about her mom at that time.

I really did not need all this information, or maybe I did.

The social worker joined us in that “extra” room and started asking more questions.

She opened the closet and searched for suitable clothes to dress the slim body of that little girl. She loved her new clothes; her eyes suddenly started shining with joy. She was handed a new toy. She started talking to it. The workers also gave the grandma clothes for the brother. Then they arranged a home visit to the family to help as much as possible.

Everything on that day was extra! Extra clinic, extra room, extra emotions, extra information, and extra lessons!

I wish that I was stronger. From now on I need to be stronger for the sake of these kids! They need us and we need them.

As much as this family needs help I think they helped me as well. They showed me the other aspect of life and medicine. They taught me a lesson about the blessings I have that I sometimes take “for granted”. They taught me that in the face of all this misery and despair, a simple act of kindness can transform tears into smiles.

I hope the wound of that child would heal soon although she has more wounds that no one knows if they will heal!

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