Mafraq, Jordan-The clinic waiting room was already filling up when the young woman walked in, carrying a baby in one arm and holding the hand of a little girl. She looked exhausted and the baby was whimpering as the little girl coughed heavily. Clearly, the entire family was very ill.
A volunteer from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) took the woman’s information and found her a seat, then let the pediatrician know about the baby. As the woman waited I tried to entertain the little girl.
I had come to Jordan with medications from MAP International for Syrian refugees—the $6 billionth donation of medicines to those in need since MAP’s founding. Working with the doctors from SAMS, we set up the pharmacy in a small clinic in Mafraq, Jordan, a border town that had doubled in size because of the refugee population. As the doctors saw patients, I did my best to assist them as I could.
As I played with the little girl, another volunteer filled out more background information. The woman explained that she had been a kindergarten teacher in Syria and had also been studying for an advanced degree when the war broke out. She and her husband fled with their little girl over the border to Jordan but by the time they arrived the refugee camps were full. They were doing their best to survive, but her husband couldn’t find work so had left to find a job in another part of Jordan, leaving her with the children.
The pediatrician was finally able to examine the baby and found, in addition to her cold and ear infection, she was suffering from severe diaper rash. The young mother explained that she had little money to buy diapers so she could only change the baby once during the day and again at night. It was a common story among the refugees who brought their babies in to the clinic. Diapers had become a luxury.
Examining the little girl, the pediatrician diagnosed a respiratory infection and said she needed both cold medication and antibiotics. Then the pediatrician told the woman that she, too, needed to be examined. She seemed hesitant until I gestured that I would hold her baby and play with her little girl. She thanked me and handed over her baby.
After an internist examined the woman she noted that the entire family had a respiratory infection and all needed medications. I was grateful that we had stocked the pharmacy with both children and adult cold medications as well as antibiotics.
When I handed her baby back to the woman, I saw that she had prescriptions for every member of the family. But instead of walking toward the pharmacy, she began to walk out the door. Thinking she was confused, I pointed at the prescription forms and then to the pharmacy.
She looked at me sadly and shook her head, holding out her hand as if to say, “I have no money.” I quickly grabbed a volunteer who could explain the medicine was donated and was free. As the volunteer spoke to the young mother, her eyes widened. She looked at me as if to confirm what she had been told. Then she grabbed me and kissed me on both cheeks. “Shukran! Shukran!” she said, with tears in her eyes.
As she left the clinic, the young mother was smiling. While the medicines were part of MAP’s historic $6 billion donation, for this woman, the medicine represented health and hope for her family.