I want to be able to say it will be alright

It is Saturday night, I just came off the phone with people back home who are ready to go to a birthday party. Other friends are going to a party in the city centre. And I am going to one of the most degrading places of Europe, to Moria. What a contrast. But I’m in good company, joining up with two friendly doctors and a nurse. I will be the crowd controller tonight, which means I receive people who want to see a doctor, write down their information and try to make conversation with them.
The night starts off quiet. Like all the other times, I notice that people are glad to have our presence in the camp. Not just for a doctor’s visit, but also for a bit of conversation and for someone who listens to them. Thanks to the translators, we are able to have conversations and for there to be mutual respect. As usual, someone is getting coffee and tea for us while the night slowly becomes darker and busier.

Then, all of a sudden I hear a lot of noise and I see a group of men running towards me, carrying an old stretcher with a young man on it. He does not look good so I alert a doctor for the stretcher to be brought inside the medical cabin. A few of the men go in to the cabin along with the translator. But there are too many people inside for such a small cabin, so after some discussion most of the men went outside along with the old, now broken stretcher. I close the door and take a seat on the big rock in front of the door, enabling me to control who goes in and out. I am the crowd controller for a reason.

I start to write down some more information of the patients waiting in line when I realize there’s an unnatural silence around me. I look up and see at least twelve pair of dark eyes looking at me. And I see so much emotion…fear, recognition, panic. Behind me in the cabin, I can hear that the medical team is working hard. I feel powerless because I am not able to do anything. I want to be able to say it will be alright but I don’t know that. And if it will be alright, it would not mean anything for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

These people are here for months on end, some even more than a year following a difficult journey and what happened to them before that. I would want to say that they will be well taken care of but I can’t do that either. The doctors at the camp try their utmost but the facilities at hand are not sufficient. Not just in the camp but even further inland, the facilities are insufficient. I would really like to say something but there’s nothing to say to men who don’t know how their friend, brother or cousin is doing, a seemingly tough and strong young man. But across from me are sitting the men who are worried, who have to inform their friends and family if something really serious has happened. I can’t say anything, I can only just be. So that’s what I’ll do. A kind of contact without words, that is the only thing I can do.

After a while, the door opens and the doctor emerges, saying the young man is doing better. It will be alright. He had a panic attack, a common thing for people in the camp. Fortunately, nothing life threatening has happened but it still has a big impact; I can feel the relief around me. A few men leave and they thank us. After half an hour, the patient is also allowed to leave while being supported by his friends. He still looks a bit shaky but he is already making jokes, so that’s a good sign. He thanks us as well and an appointment is made for him to return the next day. That will enable the doctors to check in on him, one of the few things they can do (and at the same time it is a lot). And then things are quiet at the medical cabin again. After a while, someone picks up the old stretcher. It turns out that is the young man’s bed…

Blog: Manon Mol
Photo: Henk van Lambalgen