“Testimony gives recognition and dignity to the patient”

Testimony collection is an essential element in the data collection work of the Network members. This is how Network members acquire real world stories, necessary to illustrate the quantitative data that we present, in order to achieve positive social change.

Collecting testimonies from service users and health professionals helps to communicate effectively the reality of the service users we meet. They tell us about their difficulties in accessing healthcare because of administrative, financial, language barriers and so many other social issues.

You will find in this section a series of testimonies collected throughout the Network by volunteers in the field for the European Network observatory report “Access to healthcare for people facing multiple health vulnerabilities – obstacles in access to care for children and pregnant women in Europe”.

We will publish one testimony per week, so do not hesitate to come back

Two years ago when she was still in Bulgaria, Ioana, a 35 years old Bulgarian Turkish Roma, noticed a knot in her breast. She did not see a doctor, hoping that it was not serious.

“I went to school until the 8th grade, after that I worked in a factory. During the crisis the company broke down and I lost my job and my health insurance.”

Since then she only worked occasionally in harvesting and as a nanny. In the meantime, the knot in her breast got bigger.

I worried, but did not have the courage to go to a doctor, I was so afraid to hear a negative diagnosis”.

The knot developed into a wound on the outside of the breast, opening and bleeding each time she took a shower.

In the summer of 2015 Ioana came to Germany to look for a better job and stayed with her brother’s family. When they saw the wound, they took her to the Hoffnungsorte and MdM clinic in Hamburg: she was diagnosed with breast cancer, with a high risk of metastasis. She could not believe it, and the team took a lot of time to help her see the need for a treatment. Together with an interpreter and a social worker they organized the necessary papers to receive the reimbursement of the operation costs.

After [the operation] I want to find a job so that I can finance a health insurance again.”

Testimony collected by MdM Germany – Hamburg – December 2015

Lili comes from South East Asia and is 35 years old. She has been living for several years in Munich without papers, working as a nanny for a family from her country of origin. She has a child of her own that she had to leave behind and hasn’t seen for many years.

The first time we saw her, she was very shy and had a lot of fear. She told us that she hadn’t seen a doctor in the last five years and had pain in her whole body: abdominal pain, dental pain, headaches. We arranged several appointments with a dentist and a gynecologist and her health situation could improve. By chance, she also met another patient from her home country with a similar story.

Having a place to turn to and knowing that she is not the only one in this situation, has helped Lili building up confidence. She is currently intending to get her residence permit with the help of our partner organization Café 104.

Testimony collected by MdM Germany – Munich – August 2015

Lisy, 28, arrived in Switzerland from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in September (2015). She was held by soldiers from late May to late August.

‘‘They put me in a small windowless room and constantly raped me, sometimes several soldiers at a time, with my hands bound.’’

She said that the day of her kidnapping, her mother was raped and killed right in front of her and her father executed. Overcome by extreme sorrow, Lisy cries continuously during the consultation. She demonstrates the clinical manifestations of trauma, but expresses difficulty following a specialised treatment routine:

I have nightmares and the feeling that I’m reliving all of that… I avoid talking about it because they ask a lot of questions to find out if I can get asylum but I draw blanks… Do you believe me?

Testimony collected by MdM Switzerland – Neuchâtel – December 2015

Habeeba comes from Nigeria and is 27 years old.

When I arrived in Belgium, I discovered I had been walking around with a tumor in my uterus for 2 years. It had gotten so big that the doctors initially thought I was pregnant. I tried to get financial coverage for an operation through the Public Social Action Center (CPAS), but they refused to help me because I couldn’t prove that I lived in Antwerp. I postponed medical care, and in the end, things got so bad that I had to be admitted to the emergency room for immediate operation.  Afterwards, I got a gigantic bill but fortunately, the people from Doctors of the World mediated with the CPAS and I finally got the medical coverage that I was entitled to. We’re 3 years later now and I’m still tumor free. I almost lost my uterus, luck was on my side.”

Testimony collected by MdM Belgique – Antwerp – May 2015

The Nasri are undocumented migrants from Morocco living in Belgium since 2009. Their youngest daughter has a severe mental and physical handicap. Despite the fact that she is entitled to receive care through the Urgent Medical Help Procedure, the local authorities deny this access.

Djamila is 8 years old. She’s not able to walk or talk. Screaming and pulling her hair are her main means for expression. The doctors [MdM Antwerp] told us she needs to see a neurologist, psychiatrist and needs different scans. But the CPAS refuses to pay for the medical examinations, claiming we don’t cooperate enough with the social investigation.

The regularisation on medical grounds was refused, arguing that Djamila was already handicapped before we came to Belgium.

Our daughter needs professional help. Help that we can’t provide. Help that is being refused again and again by the authorities.  My husband has become suicidal, says we should all just jump under a train, that there is no future for us anymore.  I’m scared for my family, scared for my child.”

Testimony collected by MdM Belgique – Antwerp – May 2015

Wissem, 21, fled Iraq.

I left my country because you couldn’t do anything there due to Daesh. The army had been present in my city, then one day I woke up and Daesh had replaced the army in the streets. They controlled everything, including the roads. No more university. No more anything. When I told my family I wanted to leave, they told me not to do it, that it was too dangerous, but I left anyways. A man got me some clothes, like the kind Daesh wears. I disguised myself and was able to get out.

Wissem had to make two attempts to cross the Serbian-Hungarian border and spent several hundred euros on smugglers.

I spent 12 hours in the woods at the Serbian-Hungarian border. A Serbian police car stopped me. The officer said, ‘If you help me, I’ll help you.’ He wanted €300 to let me go. He gave me directions, saying I could avoid the Hungarian authorities by going a certain way. But it was a lie; after four hours, I reached a Serbian village! The police caught me and took me right back to where I started.

The next day, a Syrian refugee offered to help us. He had already crossed the border and knew a way to get through. He demanded €200 a person to take us across. I paid along with eight other men. But once we got to the border, the man disappeared. I suggested that we break up into two groups to be less conspicuous. We hid in the woods. A police officer shouted, ‘I see you!’ So we stayed hidden and waited for the right moment to take a run for it. We finally reached a village in Hungary, which was empty – a ghost village. There we found a taxi for Vienna. But the other group went to Budapest. We all ended up together in Vienna.

In Vienna, Wissem and his companion received help: someone gave them shelter then bought them bus tickets, which allowed them to reach Brussels without any problems.

Testimony collected by MdM Belgium – Parc Maximilien – September 2015

My boat sank somewhere between Turkey and Greece and we stayed in the water for an hour, including families with young children, before being rescued. The police took us back to Turkey and we had to start over. I saved my friend’s life who didn’t know how to swim.”

Faiz, 20, left everything behind to travel from Iraq to Belgium except for his cellphone and some money that he hid in his underwear.

When you are on the road, the only thing you want is to arrive as soon as possible. You don’t care about where you sleep, how you sleep, what you eat and whether you eat or not. You’ll have time to rest later. You need to move forward. It took me 17 days to get here.

Testimony collected by MdM Belgium – Parc Maximilien – September 2015

Tarik and Manel, an Iraqi couple in their 30s, fled the violence of war.

Manel: “Daesh killed my little brother. He was 26 years old. My brother was very handsome. My father died from grief after his death.”

It took them two months to reach Parc Maximilien after travelling through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany. The boat they took between Turkey and Greece sank.

Tarik: ‘‘My wife doesn’t know how to swim. I had to hold her up so I swallowed large amounts of seawater. After we were saved by the Greek police, we went to Athens, where I was refused medical care when I went to hospital because I didn’t have the necessary papers. I did, however, have serious kidney problems from the boat sinking and drinking salty water. Here in Belgium, I’m too afraid to go to the health facilities because I don’t know how much it’s going to cost.

Testimony collected by MdM Belgium – Parc Maximilien – September 2015

Amin is a 17-year-old Somalian

“I have been in Europe for five months. I left from Somalia. There, no security, Boko Haram, Daesh, terrorism. You know… From Somalia, I passed through Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Libya, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium. It’s been two months that I am in Belgium. But because they took my fingerprints in Italy first, I was deported there. I just got back. I do not want to live in Italy.”

Between February and April 2015, Amin was locked up in a detention camp in Libya.

“It was overcrowded. We were 600 or 700 people in the same room. We sleep on the floor. And they give you a loaf of bread a day. It is managed by private militias. Not by the government. There are women and children. And no medical help. I was beaten, yes. Above all, do not say you’re sick. Otherwise you will be taken outside and killed. They do it outside. You can die every day. I don’t have a home anymore. And I am without hope for my future. My life is not going to get better here. ”

Testimony collected by MdM Belgium – Parc Maximilien – September 2015

Sami, a 33-year-old Iraqi, left his country to flee Daesh

The militias make the law; the army is everywhere, and the Iranian secret services, too. We hid on a boat between Turkey and Greece for six hours with 55 people before the Turkish smugglers allowed us to set foot on land on a Greek island. They abandoned us there, so we called for help after a few hours. We had no water or food and I waited three days for help with my other travel companions, including women and children. When the police arrived on the third day, I was weak and dehydrated.”

Sami’s back problems grew worse during the trip and he only got limited care at the makeshift “camp” where he and his companions were taken

Forced to leave by the police the next day, I reached Athens, where I went directly to a pharmacy. I didn’t want to go to a hospital out of fear of being arrested. The pharmacist wouldn’t let me pay.

Testimony collected by MdM Belgium – Parc Maximilien – September 2015