For Peter* and his family, there was nothing spectacular about this late-autumn work trip or the drive through Germany on his way home. And then the crash happened, leaving him with a heavy trauma to the neck, fighting for his life in a small-town hospital, thousands of miles from home. In the first hours after learning about the accident, his wife had two main concerns: how will she reach Peter and how will she be able to communicate with his doctors without speaking German?
Being a small and relatively hard to reach town, we had no volunteers there. Still, reaching out to our team proved that nothing’s impossible – our volunteer Bernhard was also on the road at the time and would be in the vicinity as early as the following morning. With his help, Peter’s wife was able to arrange all the details surrounding the emergency care as well as the eventual transfer to Bulgaria once his condition allowed it.
Five-year-old Maya quickly became a favourite of our team in Vienna, Austria with her bright smile and strong spirit despite all she had seen in her short life, with the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. Over the course of more than two years, our volunteers supported this little patient and her family through numerous visits to the local hospitals, from first consultations through therapies and controls all the way to an operation of both hips lasting more than 8 hours.
After Maya’s successful return home, we contacted her mother once more – to check with them and ask for any feedback regarding our work. She echoed what we’d already heard from other patients and their loved ones: “In such a time, there is great comfort to be found in having someone who knows where we come from, literally and emotionally, and who we could fully rely on – even if we start as strangers in a foreign part of Europe.”
The story of 24-year-old Emil, who is suffering from a rare type of cancer, touched the hearts of our volunteers in Munster, Germany. His family contacted us seeking help regarding translation in the hospital that Emil was admitted in. The help when dealing with administrative and bureaucratic challenges on the spot proved to be invaluable for Emil`s family, as they had almost missed a deadline for the submission of a form, which would’ve been critical for the continuing treatment. The situation further demonstrates how important for the patient having detailed information is.
“The gap between people who have never seen each other is bridged within minutes after you arrive at the place”, says Ivailo, one of the volunteers who assisted Emil. “The gratitude and fulfilment that you feel after the work is done is something that cannot be explained with words.”
The strong bond that Ivailo formed with Emil and his family shows how our project helps overcome obstacles, barriers and save lives at the same time. The later puts things into perspective for both our patients and volunteers and helps them think globally.
*all names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.