Two Canadian doctors raise funds for a non-profit organization and shared their experiences of practicing medicine in Palestine on Oct. 19, 2019.
Dr., Ben Thomson, and Dr., Tarek Loubani, the founders of Keys of Health Fellowship, were two of the panelists at the University of Calgary, promoting their non-profit organization to help raise money to help provide medical supplies in Palestine.
“I have this friend her name is Ream and she had a brother named Muhammed in Gaza Strip he was experiencing unusual symptoms,”
“He went to the emergency, and was seen by someone who had no training in emergency medicine,” said Dr., Thomson.
Dr., Thomson explained how there are zero specialists in the emergency rooms and that student doctors are treating critical patients.
Muhammed was sent home and he suffered for weeks and he went back to the emergency room.
“He had some investigations done including a chest X-ray which showed there was a mass in his chest that was enlarged, and there was a worry he might have lymphoma,”
“To diagnose this condition a Respirologist would normally do a test where a biopsy is performed, but there was no lung doctor in Gaza,
Muhammed was sent home once again, he waited another week, then a month Muhammed then noticed swelling in his groin which wasn’t there before and Muhammad went back to the emergency room once again, said Dr., Thomson.
“Muhammed saw a General Surgeon, he took a sample from his groin, and he sent It for testing it came back a positive for lymphoma, but the surgeon couldn’t tell which kind,” said Dr., Thomson.
To tell what kind of lymphoma Muhammed had, he needed a blood Cancer specialist.
“There is no blood Cancer specialist in Gaza,”
“Instead there was [a] doctor trying to learn and [they] suggested chemotherapy,” Said Dr., Thomson.
There was no confirmation of the diagnosis, but they treated it with a blind eye, this a regular process in Gaza.
“Muhammed received his chemotherapy, but he had a complication and as a result of the complication he required dialysis which a family doctor had to treat because there are no dialysis specialists in Gaza,” said Dr., Thomson.
The family doctor tried her best to help Muhammad because, “This is the way Palestinian people work determination, resilience.”
Muhammad’s dialysis process was a disaster, he suffered each session and ended up getting a serious infection, his chemotherapy had to be stopped because of the infection unfortunately he died in 2015.
Muhammad’s story is just an example of what people go through in Palestine every single day, because there is no specialist settled in the area.
“What do we do about this,”
“I think Palestinians want a health care system,”
“By Palestinians for Palestinians,” said Dr., Thomson.
Both doctors observed blackouts happening in hospitals and wanted to help restore power to keep the patients safe.
This problem was presented to the Islamic Relief Foundation in 2017 which started the Empower Gaza campaign.
Many people donated to this campaign and because of that now four hospitals have uninterrupted power in Gaza.
“In brief the relationship, we have with the health care authority in Palestine since 2012,”
A list Is drafted of sub-specialties that they need in that year and presented to the Keys of Health Fellowship,” said Dr., Thomson.
Both Dr., Thomson and Dr., Loubani coordinate with universities in Canada to try and identify programs, that will take on Palestinian physicians for additional training.
Palestinian physicians become leaders and go back to train physicians.
“I want to start by telling you a bit of a story when I was shot.
“The person who rescued me his name was Musa Abuhassanin, a paramedic who I worked with quite a bit during [my] training,” said Dr., Loubani.
Dr., Loubani was shot in both legs back in May of 2018 while providing medical care during the 2018 border protest in the Gaza Strip.
Abuhassanin rushed to the field to help Dr., Loubani while working to save Dr., Loubani he was ultimately shot himself by an Israeli soldier.
“When he went down just by a quirk of fate his mother was right beside him
“She watched him die,”
Dr., Loubani said Abuhassanin’s mother watched as her son went down.
“Until he took his last breath,” said Dr., Loubani.
Their position was pinned by the Israeli government anyone who was trying to help Abuhassanin was being fired at.
“He had a radio, and he was radioing out to the other paramedics,”
“Saying he can’t breathe,”
“The bullet had hit his lungs which had created a leak,” said Dr., Loubani.
Dr., Loubani couldn’t give his condolences to Abuhassanins family since he had to come back to Canada to get treatment from being shot.
It took a full year for the Israeli government to allow Dr., Loubani to go back to the Gaza Strip.
May 2019, Dr., Loubani went back to the Gaza Strip to see Abuhassanins family his wife didn’t want to see Dr., Loubani because she was still upset about what had happened.
“Why did Musa die and you did not, he has kids you do not, he had so much responsibility why not you,” Dr., Loubani told the audience what Abuhassanins wife had to say.
Dr., Loubani was shaken up he couldn’t answer her.
Dr. Loubani got to meet Abuhassanins mother, father, and children.
One Abuhassanin’s son approached Dr., Loubani, and said: “Are you the one my father saved.”
Dr., Loubani replied “One of the many,”
Abuhassanin’s son said, “Well when I grow up I want to be a fighter for Palestine.”
Dr., Loubani asked how will you fight for Palestine, and he said that he will become a doctor so when someone like my dad gets shot I can save them.
Dr., Loubani didn’t bother telling him that he was a doctor, and that he couldn’t save Abuhassanin, and he was heartbroken.
Dr., Loubani, and Dr., Thomson then ended up getting inspired by their experiences, and launched Keys of Health Fellowship in 2013.
The organization’s funders wanted to see results right away after they launched Keys of Health Fellowship, but both doctors explained that if this fellowship is planned out correctly we would see results in a matter of ten years.
“Funders wanted to know what they can see tomorrow, but this is not that kind of project,
“This is the kind of project where you need to plant a seed and show up and water the seeds every single day,
“Knowing that this will not benefit us, rather it will benefit the future generation,” said Dr., Loubani.
At the end of the night, both doctors asked the people in the audience to donate whatever they can to help out the Keys of Health Fellowship and provide medical supplies in Palestine.
“A strong Calgary equals A Strong Palestine, to help you can donate money, time, and spread awareness,” said Dr., Loubani.
35 people had attended the event that night, and The Islamic Relief Foundation ended up raising $30,800 for the non-profit organization Keys of Health Fellowship, and Jerusalem Shawarma generously donated dinner.