The Context for Our Health Clinics in Iraq

EMERGENCY-IRAQIn the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are searching for a safe place to be sheltered from the fighting that’s enveloped the area. In order to address the health needs of this growing population, we operate two health clinics in the Arbat IDP camp, one in the Qoratu camp, and one mobile clinic in the Salah-Aga area.

Between 1st January 2014 and 30th April 2015 in ‪‎Iraq, 14,947 civilians lost their lives and 29,189 were wounded.
In the same period, more than 2.8 million people were forced to leave their homes. Of these, 1.3 million were children (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq report).
This is what the refugees we’re treating ‪‎in northern Iraq are fleeing from. And this is the same violence fled by those we help when they land in Augusta, Sicily.

To help provide immediate healthcare free of charge to refugees in Iraq escaping the war

Manila to Khartoum for a Healthy Heart: The Journey of Sarah and Reynaldo

Sarah and Reynaldo Journey Graphic

The story of how siblings Sarah Joy Nilo and Reynaldo Nilo traveled from their home in the Philippines to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan so that Reynaldo could undergo vital heart surgery has received attention across the globe. News sources from The Guardian to Yahoo News all picked up this story of perseverance and compassion. Now that Reynaldo has left our Salam Center after recovering from a successful surgery, we can look back at the long journey that led up to this life-saving procedure.

Their full journey began over 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. 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.

Reynaldo at a relative’s house in Manila before leaving for the Salam Center in Sudan (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)

Since Reynaldo was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, Sarah had done everything in her power to manage his symptoms and look for help. Without surgical intervention, however, most die from the disease at a young age. “We were always worried for him. I was scared he would succumb [to the disease], but I steeled myself, determined to show him that we were not giving up,” says Sarah. “I was desperate to get a job – any job, even as a domestic helper abroad – to pay for the surgery. But I realized it would take more than a lifetime to raise that amount.”

Upon hearing about Reynaldo’s situation, EMERGENCY agreed to fund the necessary heart valve replacement surgery at the Salam Center and pay for other medications that he needed for the rest of his life. Despite the guarantee of the surgery itself, it took considerable effort and time to arrange the trip to Sudan. Our colleagues at EMERGENCY Hong Kong helped the two secure their travel.

On June 8, 2015, the siblings left from Manila to travel to Khartoum. Before leaving, they spoke with AFP about their apprehension, hopes, and gratitude surrounding the trip and the procedure. The two were traveling over 5,000 miles for a surgery that, due to the nature of the procedure and Renaldo’s condition, comes with some risk.

Sarah and Reynaldo arrived at the Salam Center that week in June and Reynaldo underwent open-heart surgery to replace his heart valves on June 16. The surgery was a success, and after a few days recovering in the ICU, Sarah was reunited with her brother.
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Reynaldo spent another month recovering at our state of the art Salam Center, which is designed to be place of serenity, complete with gardens and a multi-denominational meditation hall. Sarah, his constant advocate through it all, supported him along with our dedicated local and international staff. The pair spoke with AFP during the recovery: “I am feeling better, not like before. I feel stronger,” Reynaldo says. “I’m just very happy because I have a second chance in life.”

11745779_498420593656181_3405520039221070723_nOn July 19, Reynaldo was discharged from the hospital fully recovered with a healthy heart. Sarah sent word to EMERGENCY Hong Kong: “Finally after 1 month and 4 days my brother is now out of the hospital! Thank you to all doctors and nurses who took care of my brother very well and to all the staff of EMERGENCY! Thank you very much, thank you for my brother’s 2nd life.. may God bless you more.
Reynaldo, our family and me are very happy”

Thanks to Sarah’s persistence and advocacy, Reynaldo was able to get the surgery he needed free of charge at our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan. He returns home with a healthy heart, access to any followup medications needed, and a second chance at a healthy life.

High standard, free-of-charge surgical care makes the difference not only for the patients whose lives are saved, but also and in the lives of those who cherish them.

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

Reynaldo Leaves Salam Center with a Healthy Heart

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Our colleagues at EMERGENCY Hong Kong have received word from Sarah, who left with her brother Reynaldo from their home in the Philippines to travel to our Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan so that he could receive vital open heart surgery free of charge. Reynaldo’s surgery was a success, he has completely recovered, and now he gets to leave the hospital with a healthy heart and another chance at life. Sarah writes: “Finally after 1 month and 4 days my brother is now out of the hospital! Thank you to all doctors and nurses who took care of my brother very well and to all the staff of EMERGENCY! Thank you very much, thank you for my brother’s 2nd life.. may God bless you more
Reynaldo, our family and me are very happy”

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

2015 National Volunteer Conference

IMG_1416The 2015 National Volunteer Conference, May 10–12 in South Pasedena, CA, was aIMG_1422 stellar weekend and a great success. Volunteers from across the country (and world!) came together to share stories, learn about the latest updates from the field, and share strategies and plans for our mission of engaging people with our message of human rights.

The weekend began at with a celebratory dinner at Shaker’s IMG_1424Restaurant in South Pasadena. Supporters, board members, and staff alike all attended.

On Saturday, everyone gathered at the Fremont Center Theatre to learn about EMERGENCY program updates and larger issues affect the patients who come to our hospitals. The discussion included a brief overview of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone with an emphasis on its current state and its effect on the Sierra Leonean healthcare system. Also included was a screening of the VICE News documentary “What We’re Leaving Behind,” which shows the effect of the current escalating conflict on civilian patients seen at our Lashkar-Gah Surgical Center. Board member Dr. Nafisa Abdullah shared her perspective on the necessity of hope informed by her visits to our programs in Afghanistan.

IMG_1427Volunteers met Sunday to discuss the message of EMERGENCY USA, stories from past volunteer efforts, an plans for the future. All in all it was a very constructive and joyful weekend!

A big thank you to all of our volunteers and supporters who help spread our message of human rights and make our work possible.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities and events in your area

My Heroes, Local Afghan Staff

EMERGENCY-CHIRURGO-LASHKARGAH“Let’s see if it’s possible to write a few lines from Lashkar-Gah without necessarily talking about death, shooting, or wounds to the body and soul. Let’s see if it’s possible to ‘recount’ without having to repeat the painful monotony of events – war, casualties, mass casualty, war, casualties, mass casualty… – that is so typical of every day in this part of Afghanistan. We’ll talk about people, but not about patients. We’ll talk about the lives of the people, without mentioning wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs.

Today I want to tell you about my heroes.

I want to tell you about Shah Wali, Juma Gul, Soraya and Nazu, Salim, and many others with almost identical names – Quadratullah, Esmatullah, Samiullah, Ekhmatullah… They’re our local staff. Today, they’re my heroes.

My heroes are the surgeons who’ve been working here since this hospital opened, and who’ve spent their days and nights over the past 10 years in the operating theater, fixing the damage so often caused by their brothers to their other brothers.
Each one of them has had to operate at least once on a relative, neighbor or friend. Each one of them has found, at least once, that it was too late to operate on a relative, neighbor or friend.

EMERGENCY-INFERMIERE-LASHKARGAHMy heroes are our nurses – those who, as soon as there’s a mass casualty in the city, are here at the hospital gates within just a few minutes of the explosion, even if it’s their day off and nobody has called them. They want to put on their uniforms and lend a hand, straight away. Many of them have turned up at least once at the gates without their uniforms, because they themselves were the victims of the explosion.

EMERGENCY-INFERMIERA-LASHKARGAHMy heroines are our female nurses working in the women’s and pediatric ward, who sometimes even go against their families wishes and demand to be able to work the night shifts, because they know the care in our hospital doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.

EMERGENCY-GIARDINIERE-LASHKARGAH-02My heroes are our gardeners, who are out there even now, as I write, watering and pruning the plants and flowers. And now, as I write, the temperature out there is 48° C. But later, when it’s cooler, the hospital patients like to gather in those gardens of roses, sunflowers and flowering bushes. And those few square meters of color and peace become a meeting place, an escape for the eye and the mind.

EMERGENCY-CUOCO-LASHKARGAHMy heroes are also the cooks who, like everyone else during this month of Ramadan, don’t eat or drink during the day. But during the entire day they prepare rice and vegetables, potatoes and meat, special diets for those who can’t chew and hyperproteic food for those who need it. Because food is no less a part of the treatment than an antibiotics drip. And my heroes know it.

EMERGENCY-GIARDINIERE-LASHKARGAH-01 My heroes are our guards, ‘armed’ only with transceivers, who spend their workdays outside the gate to check who’s coming in and out and to see what sort of air is blowing in the city. We all know this isn’t a quiet area, but the hospital has to be a quiet place, otherwise what kind of refuge would this be for the patients?

EMERGENCY-LAVANDERIA-KABULMy heroines are also the laundry women – oh yes, without a doubt. The ones who bring us packs of snow white sheets every morning, then see them come back red like the roses in our garden. They work their magic every time. And then the cleaners – other heroes armed with cloths and brooms. Some of them have one or two fingers missing, or even a whole hand, because some of them tried out our hospital beds before coming here to clean them.

EMERGENCY-CLEANER-KABUL-01Today, they’re my heroes. There are around 400 of them, here with us. They haven’t got super-muscles or super-powers, but just being able to say you’ve met them somehow helps set the world right.”

– Roberto,
EMERGENCY nurse in Afghanistan

To help support our local Afghan staff as they work tirelessly to create an environment of high standard care for members of their community