Uncontrolled chronic diseases
Most patients at MSF’s mobile clinic are babushkas—older women and grandmothers—many living with disabilities such as limited mobility and loss of hearing or sight. Some of these medical conditions are the result of age, others of untreated chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes.
“We are seeing very high levels of blood pressure, such as 200 over 100, compared to a regular blood pressure reading of 120 over 80,” said MSF medical team leader Dr. Gino Manciati. “In another context, these patients would be hospitalized. Here it’s just not possible.”
Untreated hypertension can lead to serious complications, including sight loss, kidney failure, neurological impairment, and even sudden death. The lack of doctors, nurses, and medicines, on top of all the stresses of living through war have caused the medical conditions of many patients to spiral out of control.
“Sadly, we have seen patients with end of organ complications, such as kidney failure,” said Dr. Manciati.
The war has also prevented many people with diabetes from getting hold of medications, while food shortages have prevented them from controlling their diet, leading to problems with mobility, eyesight, and muscle function, and increasing their dependence on other people.
Maria is an elderly woman who has difficulty walking after her diabetes went untreated for months.
“We came here [to the clinic] because of the babushka,” said Maria’s daughter Tonya. “She is shaking and has a headache. We’ve had no medication for her diabetes [for months].”