What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

Wars and crises affect whoever comes in their way; they do not differentiate between adults and children, rich and poor, or educated and illiterate…Dr. Rana Turkmani is a Syrian doctor who came to Jordan from Homs fearing for her life and the life of her husband and two year old son. Dr. Turkmani owned a spacious home and had life that she never thought would disappear with a blink of an eye. However, unfortunately, this is what happened.

Dr. Turkmani says: “I used to have a nice life back in Homs; we had a good income equivalent to 5000 JDs per month, between my job as a physio therapist and my husband’s pharmacy. When the crisis started in Syria, all I wanted to do was help anyone who needed medical attention. I didn’t want anything in return, you cannot place a value on people’s lives. However, because of what I did I was threatened more than once until one day my house was bombed and completely destroyed, and my car was crushed under the wheels of a tank. All of this happened in front of my eyes. Even my husband’s pharmacy was bombed to the ground. We had nothing left but to leave this destruction behind us and flee to Jordan.”

Despite all that she has been through, Dr. Turkmani did not give up, on the contrary she invested her time and efforts to help Syrian refugees in Jordan. She started by establishing a center for physio therapy in Irbid, and then decided to start working in Za’atri because of the pressing needs that she perceived are present in the camp. She started working from one caravan on dressing wounds and physio therapy until the project gradually grew to encompass seven caravans. Now, twenty four volunteers from doctors to nurses with various specialties work in the center; their specialties include pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine, and others. They have also added a pharmacy for people to be able to buy medications, and it is stocked from the limited donations that they receive. In addition to supervising this center, Dr. Turkmani oversees patients in Ramtha, Irbid, and Teebeh.

During our conversation on the challenges associated with running the center, Ahmad Raslan (a Syrian refugee who has helped Dr. Turkmani with this initiative from the start) commented by saying: “Dr. Turkmani does her best to keep this place open and ready to receive patients at all times even if she has to fund it herself. We want to keep this center to remain a source of hope for the people living in the camp, especially with the pressure that the hospitals and clinics are facing here where they are unable to treat all the cases.” When he was done talking Dr. Turkmani showed me a receipt for a bank transfer that she received from her family in Saudi Arabia. She told the team that she had used more than half of that money to cover debts accumulated on the center.

Dr. Turkmani insisted on sharing with us another one of her planned projects which she is awaiting funding for by saying: “there are more than 200 cases of severe disabilities which I have diagnosed myself inside the camp. These are all children and some cases suffer mental disabilities that need treatment and care. There aren’t enough qualified doctors to deal with these cases here, even their parents do not know how to handle such cases as these children need special care. What I did is prepare a complete plan covering costs, logistics, and staffing and once I get approval I will begin working on this project right away.”

Dr. Turkmani ended her conversation with the Voice team by saying: “I want to ask the world to see what is happening to the Syrian people; to the sick children, and the mothers worried about their children. We want the world to know that the Syrian people are not hungry, but they need someone to stand on their side, they need someone to mend their souls and their physical pain. We thank Jordan and King Abdullah for hosting us in Jordan during this crisis, and everyone who is assisting us and especially in Za’atri camp. We just ask that each person takes a look at what is happening, acknowledges what we are trying to accomplish with this center and we hope that we can improve it.” Words cannot describe the courage and determination that Dr. Turkmani shows; people like her are rare to find, people who try and transform pain into hope, and despair to optimism that this crisis will end. They prove the saying that goes: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

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