Three questions to … Dr. Markus Hohlweck

by LKO,  2015/12/22

The refugee camps in the Lebanon, the typhoon on the Philippines or the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal: in the course of the last years the internist Markus Hohlweg from Bonn took part in nearly all big humedica relief interventions as a volunteer. A few weeks ago his recent assignment took him to the Serbian-Macedonian border to provide medical treatment for weakened refugees.

He illustrates the characteristics of the current situation in the Western Balkans in a short interview:

Markus, what differs the refugee aid in Serbia from other humedica relief interventions, for example after a typhoon or an earthquake?

The support of the refugees in Serbia involved not only medical treatment, but especially human attention. The people, who visited our „small ambulance“ in Presevo during our night shifts were exhausted, hypothermic and unsecure what might happen next.

After the strains of their escape to date we were the first, who talked friendly to them and greeted them with a smile. A blanket, a hot tea, human attention and ten minutes in front of our heating stove were often more important than cough syrup or painkillers.

What did these people suffer from? Were there certain symptoms that needed the most attention?

Many patients had blisters on their feet because they were unaccustomed to walk for days on end- often without suitable footwear. They also had pain within all joints and headaches, which were presumably stress-related. Due to the cold temperatures many adults and children suffered from bronchitis with fever and fits of coughing. Some also had gastrointestinal diseases associated with nausea and vomiting. Luckily only few patients had to be transferred directly to the hospital, mostly because of severe hyperglycaemia or acute abdomen.

Were there special moments or encounters during this assignment that you remember?

On our bitterly cold night shifts there was always a special atmosphere. These are the pictures that stay in your memory forever.

Families, muffled up, wrapped in blankets with nothing but flip-flops on their feet hurrying along the street as if in a trance at three o´clock in the night. Small children without a complaint, without a wail. Parents, each with two plastic bags, which contain all that is left of their former life. Seasoned men crouching somewhere alone on the street, shivering in their blankets, who simply can not bear to go on and wait for the night to pass somehow.

It was good to hear that there are many other volunteers in Presevo, people, who try to receive the refugees as best as possible in the EU. With a smile, hot tea, clothes and the feeling being welcomed.

Thank you very much for these insights, Markus!

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