In the days after our last meeting, I accompanied the Syrian to a hospital in Munich hoping they would take care of his war injury. He was examined and it was recommended that he be taken to a clinic specializing in paraplegics. This now needs to be approved by the district office first. In the meantime, he has to persevere in his room at the retirement home.
A few days later he called me desperately. His mood had deteriorated markedly. He told me that he has grave bedsore ulcers that have become worse and worse in the past weeks due to poor care. He sent me a picture, the sight of which troubled me deeply.
I promised to visit him in the next few days. The next day he called me again and told me that he had been taken to a hospital and a doctor had told him that he would have to be operated on. For that purpose, he should come back the next day. That evening I got into my car and drove to him.
He was very happy about my visit, we talked a bit about Syria, about his wife and children in Turkey, furthermore, the attacks in Europe were a topic we discussed. Then our attention returned to his story and he began to tell me the third and final part.
Well, in Ghazi-Antab I got on the plane to Istanbul. My brother accompanied me to look after me, because for him an airline ticket had been booked, too. In Istanbul, I was brought directly to the private clinic of Dr. Mundhir. He personally paid me a visit the next day. He was very kind and seemed to genuinely care about my situation. He promised me to do whatever was in his power to allow me the best possible treatment.
The next day, a Syrian preacher came, son of a prominent preacher. His father was a good man but the son was a liar, as it turned out. He boastfully promised to take care of me. He said: „If you need anything, no matter what, then let me know, I’ll take care of it.“ He had several photos taken of himself together with me and later on gave me the equivalent of € 60 and disappeared. I never saw him again.
Dr. Mundhir, on the other hand, took a lot of trouble. He regularly brought me the food personally and paid it out of his own pocket. He also brought people to me who always handed me the one or other donation. One day he introduced me to a friend. A very kind and generous man. When he came to my bedside, he brought me a catalog in which a very large selection of wheelchairs was advertised. He gave me the catalog and said, „You can certainly make good use of a power wheelchair. Choose one for yourself. I’ll get it for you.“
His generosity made me feel ashamed, and yet I chose a wheelchair. Two days later, my brother fetched it and from then on, I could move somewhat more autonomously.
In this way, a month passed, in which my host was trying to find someone who could treat me. He showed my findings and computer tomography images to a professor of surgery he knew. The latter said: „He has to wait for two years for the wound to heal before we can operate his back. Bring him to me in two years and I’ll do the surgery. In the meantime, he should start with physiotherapy.“
So I returned to my family at the camp in Ghazi-Antab and spent two whole years there. During this time, people from almost all Arabic countries came to see me. Almost all of them, so I realized gradually, were cheaters.
Once, a man promised to help me. He had rented a house not far from the camp and accommodated me there together with other paraplegics. It should be a house for the care of those wounded in the war. Again and again, supporters and organizations came in order to look at the institution. Mostly, they were rich Saudis or Qataris but also Turks and Syrians, who had been living in Europe for some time, were among them. As it turned out, the institution received many donations, but did not pass any of them on to the injured. After two and a half months, I returned to the camp. In those two years, I was brought into similar facilities two more times. On either occasion I hoped that they were serious offers. But both times it was only to collect as many donations as humanly possible. In addition, many came who promised to help me. They took copies of my medical records and disappeared and I never ever heard anything from them any more. Until one day, when someone came to me and told me that with my medical records someone had collected large sums of donations in Saudi Arabia and had then disappeared.
After the two years had passed, I got in touch again with Dr. Mundhir as agreed upon. He said that he would make an appointment for my surgery with the professor of surgery who had promised to treat me and would then contact me again.
A few days later, he got in touch again and said, „I don’t know how I shall deliver this message to you, I myself am still infinitely angry. The professor has refused to operate on you because your case is difficult and they lack the professional skills for it in Turkey. „He promised to look for an alternative. I was annoyed that the professor had made me wait for two years just to tell me then that he would not operate on me after all. A month later, Dr. Mundhir contacted me again and said that he had not found anyone who was willing to take on my case, because in the pictures, a separation of the spinal cord could be seen. Then he said: „You will probably find the best treatment in Germany. I do not promise that they will heal you there but they will do what is best possible for you there.“
So I looked for a way to travel to Germany. Since there was no official way, I turned to a trafficker. In order to pay him, I sold the electric wheelchair and my wife’s remaining gold. All in all I scraped together $ 4,000 and gave it to a man who wanted to take me to Greece in a rubber boat. He asked us to wait in a hotel until he had prepared everything. First a few days went by, then weeks until finally it was two months without any progress. The cost of the hotel crushed me and I demanded my money back. He paid me back 1600 and promised to repay the rest gradually. I buried my travel plans and returned to the camp.
There I was looking for further alternatives and found a hospital in Jordan that had specialized in cases like mine. I contacted them and explained my situation. The costs of approximately $ 45,000 would have been born by Dr. Mundhir. He had promised me so before, but the hurdle of presenting a valid passport made it very difficult to me. I contacted an acquaintance who lived in Jordan, and he told me that many patients there had been deceived and the surgeries generally had little chance of success.
Back in Syria
Then I heard about the Orient clinic near Idlib. They told me that perhaps they could help me there. So I returned to Syria and had a medical examination there. It turned out that my spinal cord was not severed, but was only squeezed by bone splinters. They operated me and removed some splinters to relieve the pressure. After that, I returned to the camp in Turkey.
There I went to a rehabilitation clinic. There are some of them in Turkey; however, most of them are nothing more than another way of enriching themselves at the expense of those wounded during the war. In the institution, I underwent treatment only twice a week for two hours. There was hardly any equipment with which exercise was possible. Thus e.g. the only treadmill was broken. In addition, the staff was poorly trained, not to say not at all. After a month I discontinued my visit.
I tried further to find appropriate medical treatment somewhere and resorted to the hands of several doctors. After about 5 years in Turkey, I set out for Istanbul once again in hopes of finding something there.
Let’s go to Germany
There I met an acquaintance. He advised me to go to Germany because I had exhausted all my options in Turkey and promised me that he would help me with the preparations. I looked for a companion who also wanted to go to Germany, and was willing to help me on the road. I sold the crop of the last olive trees we had left in Syria and looked for a trafficker who would take us to Greece. This time I had more luck than on my first attempt: I came across a trafficker who did not want to be paid by me. Only for my companion did he demand the price of the crossing.
When we got into the boat, someone handed me a life belt. I declined. I did not want to accept a lifejacket either. Most people around me were traveling with children and wives. Should we capsize, I would not have enough strength to hold on to the ring for a long time, and I did not want that someone take care of me, thus endangering his own children. I would rather drown as quickly as possible in this case. But I was lucky and the crossing went smoothly. In Greece, I immediately came into the care of the Red Cross. They provided for my transportation and accompanied me until I reached Austria. Throughout the trip I constantly sat in a wheelchair, which caused an inflammation of my colon. In Austria, I was therefore first operated on, before I was able to continue my trip to Germany by the end of January 2016.
Once he had arrived in Germany, he was taken to a hospital in Erding, where they took care of his bedsore ulcers. Since he is especially in need of care due to his paralysis and his wounds, he was not housed in an emergency shelter like most Syrians, but in a retirement home.
At the retirement home, he is also in good hands in principle. He gets to eat, to drink and the normal nursing staff is kind and helpful in most cases. Unfortunately, there are also some alarming inadequacies verging on neglect.
When I visited him for the first time, he only had one clean T-shirt, even though more than thirty T-shirts had been donated to him. These had been picked up by the staff for washing, but were never returned. Only weeks later, after I had asked, did he get his things back. An explanation for the behavior was never given. Among other minor problems, the main problem there, however, is the medical care.
The dressings of his bedsore ulcers would have to be changed regularly and at short intervals. Unfortunately, this happens all too rarely and his situation deteriorated greatly.
On May 31, 2016 he was re-examined at the Hospital at Erding. The report stated, among other things:
„… The decubitus in the area of both heels after presumably 10 days of failure to change the wound dressing is greasy, foul-smelling…“
How can this be? How can one fail to change a human being’s wound dressings for such a long time that he begins to smell his own odor of decay? How is this possible in a professional institution in Germany?
As a therapy, it was recommended:
„… Change of dressings of all wounds every 2 days. Position change every 2 – 3 hours“.
Yet, neither were the dressings changed in the subsequent period in accordance with the doctor’s instructions, nor did anyone care about the position change. An appointment that should have taken place four weeks later was skipped by the management of the retirement home.
His situation continued to deteriorate. He called me and reported that his wound was getting bigger and bigger. He sent me a picture that I do not want to publish here because it is unbearable. For several days, I could not get it out of my head. He said that sometimes even putrefaction smells rose from his wound to his nose and that the medical staff in charge did not demonstrate any great interest in the situation. He seemed to be suffering increasingly from the situation emotionally, too.
On July 26, 2016 he was again taken to the hospital at Erding, after he had insisted on it himself. The report says:
„In the area of the gluteal decubitus on the right-hand side, a significant deterioration manifests iteself, covering approx. 8 x 5 cm.“
Another episode took place in early July. For several days he complained about internal pain, because the catheter for urine drainage was blocked. A colleague, together with whom I try to help the Syrian, even called the retirement home and asked them to take care of the catheter exchange or to possibly have him taken to a hospital. Only five days later, when he was already suffering from severe pain, was he taken to hospital by ambulance. Every day we received calls by the Syrian until he was finally, after an emergency call, taken to a hospital by the ambulance, where the catheter was changed.
My colleague and I keep trying to help the man; unfortunately, the situation is difficult since he lives in Erding and we have a long way to go. Nevertheless, we are trying to advance his treatment and to get him to a specialized hospital for paraplegics. But we are still waiting for the approval by the district office of Erding. However, the situation at the retirement home and the medical neglect there complicate everything and enhance the effort and the burden resting on us.
Translated by Manuela Hoffmann-Maleki