Moses Li, an emergency nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, is used to dealing with challenging medical situations but little could have prepared him for what he saw on a recent trip to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to escape brutal persecution since late August and many of them remain stuck in cramped refugee camps in Bangladesh, requiring medical attention.
Li boarded a plane earlier this fall and headed to Malumghat, where hospitals and NGOs are working around the clock to keep up with health care demands. For several weeks, he volunteered with the surgical centre at a mission hospital there.
“It was a well-run hospital but it was very busy, often over capacity,” he told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.
More than half the patients were children and many of them had never received medical care in a hospital before, Li said.
“The experience was quite frightening [for them], potentially traumatizing because if anyone has ever been in a hospital — the process is not necessarily painless, it’s quite the opposite,” he said.
Despite language barriers, Li said, he and the other international doctors were able to communicate that they cared and establish relationships with the patients.
“There are a lot of stories and a lot of people that I won’t forget,” Li said.
Sense of resilience
One patient in particular, a two-and-half-year old girl who had been hit by a car at a nearby refugee camp, left an impression on Li.
She had a broken leg and, because of the delay in receiving medical help, her injury turned into a life-threatening infection.
“She underwent multiple surgeries and lots of painful care in the hospital but despite everything that we did to her and for her, she still flashed a huge smile every time you went down and sat with her,” Li said.
It was this sense of resilience that struck Li and left him with a message he wanted to share when he returned to Canada.
“There is a great need and there are people who are going through a lot of hard things,” he said. “At the same time, there is hope and people are resilient and they are still letting life go on.”
Li went on the volunteer trip with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international relief organization, and said his faith was one of the motivating reasons behind his desire to help.
He returned to Vancouver last month and is now back to working 12-hour shifts at St. Paul’s Hospital.