Logbook: Medical Shift

3 PM

There’s a lot going on in the volunteer house. People walk around, make sandwiches and prepare the medications which are needed for the medical shift. People put on their work clothes and a BRF t-shirt or vest. This is the first time I am coming along with the medical team for a shift as support crew. I get the advise to take a nap before the shift: I will need all my energy. I comply with this advice.

Photo: Roëlle de Bruin – Boonstra

4:20 PM

The last preparations before the shift take place. Together we do the check-in. We check is we have all the walkie-talkies, medicines, car keys and with how many people we are in this evening’s team. Now we are ready to leave.

4:55 PM

We arrive at camp Moria. After we park our cars in such a way that is safe in case of an evacuation of the camp, we enter Moria. People are already waiting at the entrance of the medical clinic. We walk past them to an entrance at the side of the clinic. We prepare the clinic and the rooms inside. I get a tour around and am briefed about my job for the night. There is an area for triage, an area for sweep and two separate rooms for consultations. The team exists of 4 doctors, a nurse, two translators and two support crew volunteers.

Photo: Kenny Karpov

5 PM

The door is opened for the support crew volunteers to go outside. Armed with two lists, post-its and pens, me and Martin go outside. We ask people who are waiting to form two lines: one for men, one for women and children.  We write down the names of the people who want consultation. A long line develops and people are pushing a little bit. Some are waiting for over an hour. They show me their police papers so I can write down their names properly. Some people come for consultation for their wife and children. That takes up three consultation spots.

5:25 PM

The list for consultations is full. I have to tell the others waiting in line that we are fully booked for appointments this evening. I tell some that the doctor also does short medical checks outside the clinic. People stand around to wait for these short consultations.

Photo: Kenny Karpov

6 PM

The people with a number are waiting on little benches next to the clinic. People are seen by the doctors, but it takes a long time. Every five minutes they come to check with me if I didn’t forget them yet. I point to the list with their name on it and explain that number 41 is at the bottom of the list. I try to explain that he might benefit from coming back in two hours. Because of his number, we will make sure to see him tonight. The man nods as a confirmation, but still, he’s more comfortable waiting here.

7 PM

In the meantime, I have explained to many people that consultations are fully booked, but that they can wait outside for short consultations. The few meters of space in front of the clinic becomes fuller and fuller. People are waiting with friends and family on help by the doctor. Inside the clinic, it’s also very busy.  The doctors work hard to help all the patients.

8 PM

I am in front of a man who does not understand me. He speaks Arabic. Until now, I’ve managed by using the help in translating Farsi of a man who is waiting in line. But an Arabic interpreter is currently not to be found in the medical clinic. Quickly I call for Jack, our volunteer Arabic interpreter. Jack explains to the man who didn’t understand me, that because he has a number or appointment, that the medics will definitely see him tonight. But he has to wait on his appointment.

Photo: Kenny Karpov

9 PM

We are halfway in our shift. It gets darker outside, and the crowdedness keeps increasing. The medical clinic is stationed near the entrance of the camp and next to the compounds with families, minors and single-travelers. Suddenly a boy is carried in with Down Syndrome. He is having a seizure. You can feel the panic of the family. After a while, they return outside. The medics did their job: the boy can walk again and the family is calmed.


The end of the night comes closer. Many people have been helped in the meantime. Every time a person leaves the clinic, they greet us and say thanks to us. There are only four people left waiting outside. The people who stand around me, want to talk with the doctor. People keep arriving with sick children this late in the evening, afraid something is wrong with their baby. There is a mother with a six-year-old girl in her arms. The girl has rashes all over her body. The mother and child were at the clinic yesterday as well and were helped for the allergic reaction. But there is no clarity about where the allergic reaction comes from. Cooling down the rash with water helps, but in the night the water is shut down in Moria. The girl can’t stop crying.

Photo: Tessa Kraan

00:20 AM

The last people are in the clinic for consultations and treatment. The interpreters and support crew already start cleaning up the used stuff, water bottles and benches, and we count how many people have visited the clinic. About 72 people did, including those who just needed new bandages.

01:05 AM

Time to do check out. All patients have now been in consult and the clinic has been cleaned. We check if we have all walkie-talkies and medical tools to bring back. We clap for the team: this night we have been able to help so many people. Also important to realize. We talk about stopping on the way over for ice cream. It is nice to have a moment to talk to each other about the evening and the work we’ve done.

02:30 AM

Finally in bed. I fall asleep immediately.

Text: Roëlle de Bruin – Boonstra