Doctor Lou: ‘We staff the post all day long’
In addition to Moldova, we have now been active in Poland for almost one month. Here, we provide medical care at the train station in Krakow, where hundreds of people who fled from Ukraine are being cared for. Doctor Lou Bartels was there from the start. A day before his return to the Netherlands, he looks back on the first phase of our Polish mission.
“At the request of the Red Cross, we started working at the train station in Krakow. On arrival, we saw groups of people everywhere. There were hundreds of Ukrainians in the station hall and on the platforms. In the beginning, several trains a day arrived. Recently, the influx was a little less, but people still arrive daily from Lviv, in western Ukraine.
Together with doctor Rob, I started working from a medical post on one of the platforms. There is also a small shelter here where about a hundred people can sleep. We were warmly welcomed by Polish volunteers: local first aiders who do voluntary work in addition to their regular jobs. Most of them have very little medical knowledge. With our medical know-how, Rob and I were very welcome.
We made a schedule in which Rob and I took turns manning the post. From 6am to 2pm and from 2pm to 10pm. The language barrier sometimes makes it difficult: some Polish volunteers speak some English, others Russian or Ukrainian. They act as interpreters. With their help, Google Translate and our hands and feet, we were fortunately able to communicate with our patients.
On average, we see about thirty patients a day. We mainly see women, often with children. We also see many older men and women. Their complaints are often stress-related. For example, stomach ache, headache, diarrhoea, nausea and sore throat. We also see many people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Often they have not been able to take enough medication. We try to help them, so that they can regulate their complaints again.
Sometimes it’s a puzzle how best to help people. We often have to make do with the resources and medication we have. Besides the physical help, we try to build a bond with people in our consultations, and to show understanding and compassion for them. We conclude each consultation with encouraging words and the necessary medication, even if it is only a paracetamol. It’s not a medical miracle cure, but it does make people feel at ease. In a situation like this, this is also extremely important and valuable.”