Reynaldo Recovers After Life-Saving Surgery at our Salam Center in Sudan

Sarah Reynaldo

Reynaldo recovers at our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan on July 1, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Last month siblings Sarah Joy Nilo and Reynaldo Nilo left their home in the Philippines to travel over 5,000 miles to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan so that Reynaldo could receive necessary cardiac surgery free of charge. We are happy to share that the surgery was a success and Reynaldo is recovering happily under the care of our dedicated staff at the center!

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(AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

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(AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Sarah and Reynaldo’s journey began a year ago when Sarah saw the 2013 Oscar Nominated short documentary Open Heart, which tells the story of eight Rwandan children who travel to the Salam Center outside of Khartoum, Sudan to receive open-heart surgery.

“I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life”

The children featured in the film suffered from rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated childhood strep throat and is the same disease that had weakened the heart valves of Sarah’s 17-year-old brother Reynaldo. Sarah saw a chance for Reynaldo to receive the cardiac surgery he needed, which, in the Philippines, was cost prohibitive and inaccessible through charitable avenues. She contacted Kief Davidson, director of the film, explaining her brother’s need and asking for help. Kief brought in producer Cori Stern, who put her in touch with EMERGENCY.

Since its opening in 2007, the Salam Center has performed over 5,766 surgical interventions and has seen patients from 25 countries. Upon hearing about Reynaldo’s situation, EMERGENCY agreed to fund the necessary heart valve replacement surgery at the Center and pay for other medications that he needed for the rest of his life.

Reynaldo underwent surgery on June 16.

“I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life,” Reynaldo told AFP.

The procedure came with some risk, but Reynaldo was accompanied by Sarah, his sister and constant advocate, who will continue to support him through the recovery process.

To help more kids like Reynaldo receive the life-saving cardiac surgery they need at our world class Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery

The Unfortunate ‘Usualness’ of June 30th Mass Casualty Attack in Lashkar-Gah

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Last Tuesday a truck loaded with explosives was used in a suicide attack against the police headquarters in Lashkar-Gah, Afghanistan. Casualties from the attack were taken to our Surgical Center in the city. Roberto, a nurse at the center, updates us on the situation:

“How’s it going over there?”
“Pretty much as usual.” That’s more or less what I say when someone back home asks what’s happening here.

I’ve been away from Lashkar-gah in Afghanistan for three years, and it’s true that things are as usual.
It’s just that “as usual” in Lashkar-gah means what happened this morning:

At 9.30 am (again, the “usual” time), while doing the rounds of the patients, there was an explosion. The earth trembles. The walls tremble. Your whole insides tremble.

Just two seconds to remain motionless and look at each other. Then everyone began moving like robots, as if they’d never done anything else in their entire lives. Dimitra, the Medical Coordinator, ran to the hospital gate and then quickly announced via radio the activation of the Mass Casualty Plan. A few more minutes are spent waiting for the patients to arrive. The tents outside the ER ready, each staff member in his or her place, the play room requisitioned as a ward for the less serious patients, to make room for the new ones.

“How many?” It’s the question on everyone’s lips in those long minutes of waiting. No one answers. No one knows. A lorry-bomb was blown up just a few kilometers from here, near a police station. There’s a school next door. A never-ending time in our minds, but just a few minutes on the clock in reality.

Then movement. Organised chaos, with everyone knowing exactly what to do. The first to come in was a little 9-year-old girl with shrapnel in her head. Right after that, a woman with shrapnel in her abdomen.

Then it became impossible to distinguish one from the other. Bodies, wounded bodies. Bodies to be examined, to be put on the waiting list for the operating theater, to be taken to the ward, to be stitched up, to be treated. Then I suddenly realized that most of them were children – only after a few hours did I remember the school. You’ve been caught up in it all, little ones. You’re one of the many “collateral damages.”

In the end, 35 people arrived. Surgery was needed for 11 of them, while the others got off with some emergency treatment. Now they’ll go home, out there, outside the white and red gate of the hospital, back to where they came from. I don’t know if they really “got away from it” though.

At 12.30 the mass casualty situation ended and a patient arrived from the district of Sangin with a bullet in his abdomen. He was brought in by the boys of one of our First Aid Posts. Soon after, a 12-year old body with shrapnel in his groin… and the silent procession starts up again.

“How’s it going in Lashkar-gah?”
“As usual… pretty much as usual.”

– Roberto,
EMERGENCY nurse
Lashkar-gah, Afghanistan

To help Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire of growing violence receive lifesaving surgical care at our Lashkar-Gah Surgical Center

The Humans Behind the Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

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Photo credit: Dario Bosio/Metrography Agency

“I’ve been working with EMERGENCY for nearly three years now, formerly as a logistician for our program in Afghanistan. Last April I came to Iraq as a Program Manager for our program addressing the humanitarian crisis in this country.

The numbers were there and I studied them before heading out: 6 million people fleeing their homes because of the war with basic needs that have to be met – water, food, shelter and health above all else. Numbers, statistics, charts – all useful information, but they still left room in my head for curiosity and a touch of fear. The project was very clear: two health clinics – plus one under construction – in Arbat and two in Kalar. All of them in camps for refugees or displaced persons. But, as I said, these were just numbers.

When I arrived in Arbat at the IDP camp (internally displaced Iraqis), the situation became clear straight away: a camp made up of tents housing over 3,000 families (more than 18,000 people), poor conditions for hygiene and health, resignation and anger in the eyes of many. Our clinic inside the camp was inundated with people looking for someone who could take care of them and their relatives. I went around the camp, amongst the tents, the children playing in the puddles, and the adults trying to give their spaces some semblance of a home. They weren’t just numbers any more. They were real people.

This is what EMERGENCY does: it takes care of people, offering free, high quality healthcare. Our clinics in the camps look after people who’ve lost their homes as a result of the war and have travelled long distances, finding themselves at the end of their journey in a tent and having to restart their lives all over again from scratch.

The people involved in this crisis currently number 8.2 million. 90% of them are living outside the camps. Since January, we’ve examined almost 40,000 people in our clinics. More than a third of them were children. And day by day the conflict increases the number of families escaping from their homes in search of a better future.

Every day there are new arrivals needing help. And every day we do just that: we offer free, high quality care.

It’s not a slogan, and these aren’t numbers. It’s reality, and these are real people.”

– Giacomo
EMERGENCY Humanitarian Response Program Manager in Iraq

World Refugee Day and Our New Health Promotion Program in the Qoratu Camp

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Photo: Dario Bosio/Metrography

Today is World Refugee Day, a day to draw attention to the state of refugees all over the world.

In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have come in search of a safe place to be sheltered from the fighting that’s enveloped the area. They’re escaping the war in Syria or the advance of ISIS in Iraq, leaving behind their homes and facing journeys that are often hard and dangerous.

In order to address the health needs of this growing population, we operate two health clinics in the Arbat camp, a mobile clinic, and a health clinic in the Qoratu camp. Marina, EMERGENCY Medical Coordinator in Iraq, updates us on the Qoratu camp:

“The refugee camp in Qoratu is gradually turning into a little town with 2,500 inhabitants. Everyone knows each other now. Each family has tried to recreate some semblance of their old home in and around their tent. The women make bread, the children play, some men set up a businesses, opening small food stores or repair shops…

Meanwhile, our work continues in the clinic that we’ve opened inside the camp and out in the surrounding areas with our mobile clinic. At the moment we’re selecting the volunteers who’ll be helping us with the Health Promotion program we aim to launch in the camp. After being trained by us, they’ll visit each tent in a health information campaign to promote healthy practices and give advice about hygiene and health. The first campaign will begin next week, dealing with problems linked with dehydration and diarrhea. A lot of people showed up for an interview. Naser, Kalid, Shabri … There’s the chemistry professor, the mechanical engineer, the factory worker, the student… Each one of them has a story, a life that has had to be abandoned. They ask for nothing, only to be able to begin again and, if possible, to lend a hand. That’s why they want to be volunteers with EMERGENCY and help others in the camp.

During the interview they tell their stories with sincerity and dignity. Many stories, each one different from the others but all bearing a terrible mark: the mark of war.”

– Marina
EMERGENCY Medical Coordinator
Kalar, Iraq

To help deliver free-of-charge healthcare to refugees forced from their homes and livelihoods in Iraqi-Kurdistan

Support Healthcare for Refugees and Learn Italian with Cultural Stars

51-Le8JbCILEMERGENCY USA supporter Diana Silverman has just released her book Stellare: Learning Italian with Cultural Stars, an Italian language introduction with Italian art, old and new. All profits from the sale of the book will go to our program in Sicily to provide healthcare free of charge to refugees and immigrants.

Full description: “An introduction to Italian for art lovers, this book offers language lessons in the form of fun cultural experiences, including a recipe by the great Lidia Bastianich, the classic photography of Gianni Berengo Gardin and Letizia Battaglia, films by Nanni Moretti and Fred Kuwornu, a moving song by Gianmaria Testa, and paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Whether as a self-study guide for travelers, or as a supplement to a college grammar text book, this volume’s engaging cultural journey presents a path to lasting comprehension. All profits from this book are assigned to the organization, EMERGENCY USA, to fund medical care for refugees in Sicily.”

Stellare: Learning Italian with Cultural Stars

Paperback – June 15, 2015

by Diana C. Silverman Ph.D.

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