Meeting Jose

This year, Kitrinos Healthcare volunteers have been working alongside NGO Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario in their Chios-based clinic, assisting with healthcare provision for refugees in Vial Camp. Here, Dr. Eliza tells us about one patient, Jose (name changed to protect privacy)...

“I met Jose in the Chios isolation centre, where new arrivals are kept for 14 days to adhere to COVID-19 control measures. Patients are often in good spirits - happy to have arrived in Europe - and in relatively good health. I normally treat them for minor injuries sustained on the journey and for minor ailments such as constipation and gastritis.

This was different. Jose was confused, vomiting and very short of breath. On examination his heart was beating very fast and his legs were swollen from a buildup of fluid. I initially wondered if he had sepsis, then noticed he had an AV fistula: a connection between a vein and artery that is created by a surgeon to allow a patient to have dialysis. Patients have dialysis when their kidneys have become so irreparably damaged that they must be connected a few times a week to a machine that does the work of the kidneys for them. It is a lifesaving intervention - without dialysis these patients are at a critical risk of death. As their kidneys aren’t filtering their blood, toxic chemicals build up causing confusion and nausea. Imbalances in the levels of sodium and potassium can lead to potentially fatal heart arrhythmia, and fluid builds up all over their bodies including their lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

We called an ambulance and he was transferred to hospital to have life-saving dialysis. Blood analysis conducted at the hospital showed that his kidney was functioning at only 7% of that of a perfectly healthy person. His potassium levels were dangerously high.

I saw Jose a few days later when he had been discharged from hospital and he was completely transformed. He explained that he had travelled for 3 weeks from Congo and therefore missed 3 weeks worth of dialysis appointments, which he’d been having three times a week. He was lucky to be alive.”

- Volunteer Dr. Eliza, 2021.

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