The Doctor

11 Jun 2018
Related Countries
Myanmar (Burma)
During the period of Ramadan, we will be running a four-part series to highlight the human face of the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Listen and read Part 4 below.

Part 4: The Doctor
Author: Dr Ian Cross

It wasn't looking good for Azara*. The thin 10-year-old lay in a darkened room at the MSF health facility in Kutupalong, Bangladesh. After fleeing Myanmar with her family 11 days ago, she was admitted with painful spasms in her spinal muscles, lockjaw and inflexible limbs.

This was tetanus, a disease that, as a result of vaccinations, has been virtually eliminated. But not in northwestern Myanmar, Azara’s home. We kept the room quiet and dark to reduce sensory stimulations, which might have triggered another painful bout of spasms.

Her legs were stiff, stretched out with pointed toes. She tried to eat some food yesterday, but her mouth would not open widely enough. She looked at her father who was sitting beside her, cross-legged on the mattress. Tears started to run down his cheeks. We were doing everything possible, but her recovery was slow.

She looked at her father and said something through gritted teeth.
"What did she say? I asked my Bangladeshi colleague Dr Sharma Shila. She wants her father to hold her, she said."

The father looked distraught. He didn't want to set off another painful spasm. I gently lifted the child onto his lap and told him to give her a cuddle.

Looking at Azara in her father's arms, I was astonished. The muscle spasm had reduced enough for her to bend her knees by 60 degrees. Her jaw was no longer clenched and she was smiling properly at her dad.

"I almost burst into tears. Love may not be a drug but it is as powerful as any medicine."

Doctors Without Borders is providing vaccinations for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, many of whom have never had regular access to basic healthcare or vaccinations that will allow them to live without concern for treatable diseases.

Here's what you can do:

Donate now >

This event is licensed by Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (License #: 1064).

*At the request of her family, the patient's name has been changed.