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To Jordan with Love
Miriam cardiac physician provides lifesaving care to Syrian refugees during medical mission
He couldn’t help but be moved by the masses of Syrian refugees desperate for medical care, especially since they had fled across the border to his homeland. So, when Wael Al-Husami, M.D., had an opportunity to return to Jordan on a medical mission, The Miriam Hospital physician jumped at the chance.
As an interventional cardiologist, he knew he could literally save lives.
Take the middle-aged woman who lost her entire family to violence in war-torn Syria and suffered frequent, severe pain in her chest. When he performed a cardiac catheterization on her, Dr. Al-Husami didn’t like what he saw: three coronary arteries badly blocked.
“Without us doing this procedure, she could have had a sudden death anytime,” he says, recounting how she was rushed to a cardiac surgeon for bypass surgery.
Then there was the 64-year-old man who told of fleeing to Damascus after a bomb blew up at the bus stop where his son had been standing minutes earlier. He said his other son was pulled over at gunpoint by soldiers and harassed simply because the word freedom was spelled out in the dust on his car.
The man said he had been unable to get help for his chest pain until he visited with Dr. Al-Husami and his team. During a delicate procedure, a key blocked coronary artery was opened with a stent and then the patient was provided follow-up care and enough blood-thinning drug to last a year.
“I was tearful many times,” says Dr. Al-Husami, in recounting the care he provided. “It’s tough. I am an emotional guy.”
Dr. Al-Husami, a private physician who enjoys privileges at The Miriam and serves on the faculty of Brown University, attended medical school in Jordan before moving to New York. He was 26 and eager to come to the United State to pursue his medical career and raise his family.
Over the years, he volunteered at health clinics for the poor. And he has paid close attention to the political turmoil in Syria that has sent an estimated 1.4 million refugees to Jordan.
Dr. Al-Husami was among 55 volunteers from five countries treating Syrian refugees at 13 locations in Jordan.
“Massive humanitarian needs,” he says, describing how refugees suffer from depression, stress and anxiety, which, when combined with smoking and sedentary lifestyles, make them prone to cardiac conditions. So, when he learned that the Syrian American Medical Society was organizing a medical mission to Jordan, he eagerly volunteered -- even though it meant paying his own way and taking a week out of work.
“They are close cultures,” he says, describing both his homeland and Syria as “beautiful countries.”
The medical mission involved 55 volunteers from five countries working at 13 locations.
Al-Husami took charge of the cardiology team, which was dispatched to Gardens Hospital in Amman to operate a catheterization lab. Patients were screened in advance and then bused to the capital for further evaluation and, if needed, treatment at no cost. Many came from the Zaatari Refugee Camp, which has grown into a near permanent settlement of 80,000 Syrians since opening in 2012.
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a nonpolitical, nonprofit medical relief organization that is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria and neighboring countries to alleviate suffering and save lives.
SAMS provides medical care and treatment to every patient in need.
Some Syrians came from poor Jordanian neighborhoods where they have settled but lack medical care.
In one week, Dr. Al-Husami’s team performed 79 coronary procedures, about 14 a day.
“When you get there, you don’t want to leave any patients behind,” he says. “We worked from 6 in the morning until 10 at night for six days.”
Dr. Al-Husami, who has returned to seeing his cardiac patients at The Miriam, already has plans to join two more missions to Syria later in 2017.
“It’s more emotional because you are from that part of the world, but now I feel I am ready to go to any part of the world because humans are humans,” he says “I have this motivation to help needy people.”