Taking a Refuge to the Hospital in Turkey
[Note: the Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program (IIMP), which receives support from Global Ministries, relies on several volunteers to help migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with their survival needs in Istanbul. Some whom IIMP serve need serious medical care, which is not easy to obtain. Not only do they lack documents, but they also do not know Turkish. IIMP volunteers are often foreigners who are also in Istanbul temporarily and also facing language barriers. The following “diary” of one such volunteer is loosely adapted from an actual case.]
I leave the house on Friday at 6:30 am to pick up the refugee woman, Aisha, at 6:45. I bring along 3 apple muffins and 2 apples to share with her and the translator. It might be a long day at the cardiologist’s clinic.
Aisha and I arrive at the hospital grounds around 8:30. There’s enough time to meet up with the Arabic translator (Aisha speaks only Arabic) and find our building. The hospital is a campus of sorts, containing 10 to 15 buildings, one of which has the cardiac clinic where we have our appointment. We reach the clinic and step into a roomful of waiting people. I approach the secretary and explain our situation: a 35 week pregnant foreigner who is at high risk due to serious heart problems. The secretary speaks with a cardiologist in another room and tells me to come back on Monday at 8:30am. A long trip for nothing! Oh well, at least I can go visit some of the other buildings and collect the lab results from work we did 10 days ago.
When I return to the cardiologist’s clinic after getting most of the test results, I’m told by the translator that Aisha is having labor pains. I immediately direct them to the obstetrics building and tell them to wait there while I visit the labs.
When I finally make it to the obstetrics building I can’t find them! No answer from the translator’s cell phone. Finally the translator is able to call me, and I realize they’ve gone to the wrong building! I’m able to find them, take them to the right building, and go searching for the head nurse to explain the situation. Another ultrasound, stress test, more waiting, making two more payments, and then we’re on our way to the labor and delivery section. Aisha’s now 3-4 cm dilated and is taken into the labor and delivery area.
A while later the nurse in labor and delivery comes to the door where I’m waiting and hands me more blood work, which I’m to take to the emergency lab, and then go fill a prescription at an outside pharmacy for the antibiotic needed for Aisha’s heart problem. I find the lab and then locate a pharmacy outside the hospital, but the medicines aren’t in stock. After checking 4 or 5 more neighborhood pharmacies I finally find one that carries the antibiotic. I bring it back to the labor and delivery building.
Now Aisha’s family doesn’t know the baby is coming, and we have no baby clothes or diapers with us. Aisha has no phone, and someone has to stay with her in the hospital. I decide to make the trip back to her home and get her daughter. When I reach their house, the fun part is using hand signs and so on to tell the other 7 children (ages 1 ½-16) that “baby is coming” and ask about baby clothes. We find some. They are so excited looking through the clothes. I return to the hospital with the 15-year old daughter. It was a 3 hour round trip to their home and back. The apples and muffins are my diet.
When we reach the waiting room we learn that the baby has been born…a normal delivery! The nurses send me to get a couple of toasted cheese sandwiches, juice boxes and water. “Oh and bring a drinking glass.” Now where will I get that? I buy the food and spot some plastic cups, rejoicing in my heart, so thankful to the Lord for the way this has all turned out. I return and learn that it’s a boy! 2 ½ kilos, only 34 weeks — so he’s small. Another nurse lets us look at him through the window and takes the clothes and blanket we have brought.
There’s more blood work to deliver to two different labs, but this time it’s the baby’s blood. I return to the labor and delivery section, where Aisha is being taken to a room in the wards. She’s having a lot of post-delivery cramping. I help the nurse make up the bed and settle Aisha. I then walk to a nearby store and buy some food, diapers, pads, and toilet paper. I return to the ward and deliver the things to Aisha and her daughter. At last I feel I can go home, which takes me more than 2 hours because it’s the rush hour.
I have a quiet evening in front of me to reflect and recover. A trip to a cardiologist ended up in a safe delivery. God took my meager energy and ability and did amazing work.
Ken & Betty Frank