[Photo, top: Dr. Belquis Al-Jailani]
One of the top award winners of the CIA Medical 2019 Scholarship honoring healthcare heroes is Sami Al-Jailani, a student studying engineering at Kent State University.
Sami’s winning essay focuses on Dr. Belquis, a doctor in war torn Yemen, a country where most medical care is non-existent. A selfless pillar of hope in the community, Dr. Belquis show deep compassion in tending to poverty-striken patients in a time of political unrest.
Healthcare heroes exist across the globe, tending to the needs of others on a daily basis. We are deeply touched by Sami’s story and are grateful for his inspirational account of a healthcare worker going above and beyond the call of duty.
CIA Medical is proud to present Sami’s 2019 Scholarship Award winning essay on Dr. Belquis.
Dr. Belquis – a Doctor of Inspiration and Hope
An essay by Sami Al-Jailani
A 19-year-old girl lays on the couch, clutching her abdomen and groaning in agony. She needs a doctor, but she lives in Yemen. War has consumed the country for several years, and most hospitals, doctors, and medical care are non-existent. But she is lucky. The couch on which she is writhing in pain, screaming for help is not her own. It belongs to Dr. Belquis. The scared young woman looks up as Belquis enters the living room. Relief and joy suffuse the girl, tempering the fear and pain.
Most people in Yemen struggle with extreme poverty, so they cannot get medical care even from the few providers who have remained throughout the rampant fighting and daily bombings. Even though Belquis trained in gynecology, neighbors and strangers come from far and wide for assistance for all kinds of medical problems – and she helps every one, never turning anyone away.
She frequently uses her living room couch as an examination table. She investigates their ailments, and if they need specialized care elsewhere, she sends them off with some money to pay for the costs. For those with minor aches and complaints, she dispenses medicine free of charge since medicine prices, with the current political and economic situation, are far too expensive for most. I witnessed time and time again our neighbors arriving, saddled with pain and anguish, but leaving full of relief and hope. She taught me, through her selfless actions, how much joy and hope blossom and grow from just a tiny act of help and compassion.
“She comes from humble beginnings herself, and she understands the struggles many of her patients endure. Her poorer patients never need to worry about the costs of health care. She refuses to take money from them. Grateful, her patients repay her with their prayers.”
Her clinic is well-renowned, not only in Sana’a, but in other provinces as well. She helps patients from Hudaidah, Aden, Baidah, and other provinces daily. Most of these patients are poverty-stricken, struggling to provide even the most basic necessities for their families. Many are literally starving or have had children who already succumbed to starvation. Yet, my aunt turns no one away – not even those who haven’t a penny to pay. She comes from humble beginnings herself, and she understands the struggles many of her patients endure. Her poorer patients never need to worry about the costs of health care. She refuses to take money from them. Grateful, her patients repay her with their prayers.
Dr. Belquis was never one to let others do all the hard work. She wakes up before the sun rises, cooks the day’s meals for her family, and then heads off to seek and help others. Weariness and fatigue never prevent her from listening intently to each of her patients’ complaints. She diligently listens, examines, tends and treats, making sure each patient has fully expressed their concerns and had every ailment addressed. Even on weekends or late at night, she accepts calls from patients, always dispensing advice and reassurances. She has never taken a vacation.
Her strength and fortitude surpass anyone else I have ever met. Belquis goes to a hospital in Sana’a every day where she witnesses unspeakable tragedies and heart-wrenching cases. Still, she stays and helps each person until the wee hours of the morning when the weariness overtakes her. Her feet swell, her back hurts, and the haunting images of horror repeatedly reverberate throughout her mind. Only then does she leave to get some rest.
Obstetrical and gynecological patients risk everything to come from other provinces. They traverse arduous routes to seek help after an obstructed labor. They sacrifice everything to come and deal with complications from a difficult labor. One special complaint, though, involves fistulas.
Many young girls in Yemen are forced to marry and have children before their bodies are ready. Fistulas often occur as a result. When a young girl has a fistula, she can have urine running down her legs 24/7 with no control to stop it. She usually stinks. Her husband may shun her. Her family and community may shun her. She is consumed by despair and shame.
However, Belquis is one of the very few doctors in Yemen who can successfully perform fistula surgeries. She has attended multiple training courses in some of the poorest countries of Africa to come back and treat the women of her own country. And many can’t even pay.
I remember her coming home after each successful operation with a smile beaming from her face as she shared the story of a woman from a rural area miles away, miserable from the morbidity that has agonized her life, waking up to a new reality – a reality in which she is no longer ashamed of leaving her home or afraid of interacting with people.
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Belquis always finds time to teach. Those who have learned from her attest that she is one of the best teachers in her field. She takes the time to show, step by step, what they need to do to serve others and how to do it with compassion. She prepares, inspires, and educates the next generation of doctors, so that when she retires, the women of Yemen will have medical care. With adequate medical care, they can survive and thrive, enabling them to care for themselves, their families, and indirectly, help Yemen become the great country it once was.
Her experiences and stories have opened my eyes to the suffering of others. I realized that, although I lived in a safe haven, protected from the misfortunes our harsh world has bestowed on others, many other children weren’t as lucky.
Her stories weren’t the only way she taught me about the world. Her demeanor, her actions, her compassion, and the totality of her example taches far more than words ever could. I am forever grateful to have her as my role model, my teacher, and my aunt. She has made an enormous impact on my perspectives, my worldview, and my personal goals. She inspires me to do good everywhere I tread and to sacrifice and venture out of my way to help others.
I only wish that everyone could personally know my aunt so they could learn the lessons she taught me. If every one of the 7+ billion people sharing our planet today exemplified the same selfless concern and tireless dedication to helping others as Belquis, our world would be a far better place. There would be more hope, less suffering, and more inspiration for young people as they grow and choose what kind of person they will be in life.
About the Author: Sami Al-Jailani
Sami is a student at Kent State University in Ohio and wants to study engineering so that he will be able to create products and systems that bring the world’s people closer together and make their lives better. He enjoys playing chess and table tennis in his spare time.
References: In Yemen, Ending Fistula under Armed Conflict. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from https://www.figo.org/news/yemen-ending-fistula-under-armed-conflict-0016197
Apply for CIA Medical’s Scholarship Today
CIA Medical is committed to supporting high achieving students with their education. Our annual scholarship is an opportunity to the healthcare heroes and the positive impact they have on the lives of their patients and those around them.