Health care, November 20th, 2015

When stuck in bed with a fever and the flu, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. This morning starts poorly as, after a short night, I wake up to go to Schönefeld and find myself unable to get out of my bed. I instantly feel bad thinking about the 600 people expected to arrive today at the station, and about my colleagues who I am letting down today. There are increasing numbers of arrivals again, and rumour has it that there will soon be two trains arriving each day. I reach out to my colleagues, they all tell me to rest and reassure me: they will manage, I don’t have to worry. I know they will, no one is irreplaceable, but still feel very useless. Yet, I’m of no use indeed if sick, what’s more I could even contaminate people who are already arriving in poor conditions. This is utterly frustrating, but fortunately today we have enough volunteers to try and supply refugees with some food, clothes and some hygiene articles.

I want to get some rest but can’t sleep anyway because of the sickness. The phone rings, it’s a Syrian friend of mine who is still not registered in the country because the procedure takes ages, and this friend urgently needs to go to the doctor because she has a high fever and the flu as well.
I reminds me that however poorly I feel just now, I never have to worry about not getting treatment if needed, while my friend isn’t even sure someone would accept to examine her.

In August, at the beginning of the “chaos”, as I call it, I had set up a list of Berlin doctors speaking foreign languages and accepting refugees in their practices. With the help of a few others, this list got completed with names of institutions accepting to examine unregistered people as well. After having found one (out of two we’ve mapped out so far), it is a race against the clock, as the institution closes at 3pm. Since I can barely stand, I can’t drive them there myself and need to find someone who could do that. I spend the next hour on the phone, calling fellow volunteers, asking who has a car, who has the time. A lot of them are sick as well and therefore unable to help. We’re getting exhausted, one after the other, and we don’t see an end to the chaos we try to diminish each day.

I finally manage to reach a fellow volunteer who – despite falling sick himself – still has enough strength to go through town, to first pick up my friend, and her husband who is also sick, and to then bring both of them to the medical institution. They make it just in time to get examined and are given antibiotics. It took them a whole day to reach a doctor, even if they were lucky to be helped by locals. As I rest, feeling useless at home, knowing that there is chaos out there, I wonder how much longer we – refugees and volunteers – will have to be on this razor’s edge.

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