For the past few years, a shelter outside of Haifa, has opened its doors to women who have fled violence and war in their own countries and have risked their lives to make the dangerous journey across the border into Israel from Egypt. These women come from the prisons, from the streets—broken, hurting, in desperate situations. A number of them come to us pregnant and needing immediate medical attention. The insurance companies will not give coverage for pre-existing conditions (which includes pregnancy!)
One particular story stands out as an example of how the Circle of International Health (COHI) team has dramatically impacted the life of one of the women. Teresa, a Sudanese woman from the Dinka tribe, was sent to the shelter from prison where she and her two year old child had spent a number of months. She was thin for someone who was already in her seventh month and seemed very much under stress as she was worried that her husband was not being released from prison.
Soon after she arrived, the COHI volunteers began their visits to the shelter. Teresa was examined and they detected some minor swelling in her ankles—a sign of possible edema. A few days later, Teresa complained that she was not feeling well. After taking her blood pressure which was extremely high, sent her immediately to the hospital. Clearly the advice to send her to hospital may have saved Teresa's life as she was experiencing preeclampsia and the doctors said that had she arrived any later, her condition would have been critical. The doctors agreed to give her the opportunity to have a natural birth. Unfortunately, as Teresa was brought into the labor room a volunteer came to the rescue to sit with Teresa during the labor. Amazingly the contractions began to speed up and she dilated quickly.
Several more babies have been born since that time and the shelter has been more than grateful that COHI has expanded its services for us—supplying doulas at birth, finding gynecologists to assist in pre-natal care, walking through a multitude of needs specific to each woman, providing counselors to help with breastfeeding. The level of compassion and concern displayed by the COHI team is tremendous. Recently, we had a heartbreaking situation where the husband of one of the refugees died in her arms while crossing the desert. The volunteers od COHI identified some very deep problems in this woman and we were able to act accordingly. Truly they give more than just medical expertise; COHI as exemplified by the team in Israel give fully of themselves to this work and to the women they serve. A HUGE thank you to all who make this possible.