Reclaiming their voices: Gaza doctor’s treatment attracts patients

30 July 2012

30 July 2012
Gaza

Ahmed Al-Jadbah is an ear, nose, and throat specialist who has been working at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital for the past 12 years. During that time, he has successfully restored the speaking abilities of two patients, after they had turned to him for help when other doctors couldn’t cure their ailments.

A 64-year-old Palestine refugee living in Beach camp, Al-Haja Nazmeia lost her ability to speak 14 years ago. Her daughter contacted Dr. Al-Jadbah, who diagnosed her with an old speculum – in such poor condition that it probably would not have been used in other hospitals, he said. Nevertheless, he carried on.

The doctor spent three hours examining and talking to his new patient, taking the time to understand what had happened, how her ailment had manifested itself, and the treatment he could offer with his limited resources.

Necessity breeds ingenuity

He demonstrated several exercises to loosen her vocal chords, and by the end of the first session she was able to whisper different sounds. At first, she spoke like a small child. With training, her voice became stronger and louder, and she eventually started to sound the way she did before the accident.

More than just benefitting Al-Haja, the success of the treatment was welcome news for other Palestine refugees like her. With movement restrictions often preventing patients from seeking medical treatment outside of the blockaded territory, the breakthrough gave hope to others in Gaza in need of health care.

Local media were captivated by the story, reporting widely on the remarkable success of his treatment – eventually capturing the interest of a woman in Jericho, whose husband suffered from a similar problem.

Treatment garners attention in the West Bank

After inhaling toxic gas in the workplace 14 months previously, Muhammad Awajnah lost his ability to speak and could barely make sounds. Despite several visits to hospitals in the West Bank and Israel, no specialist was able to help him regain his speech. Yet his wife convinced him to go see Dr. Al-Jadbah, whom she had seen on television.

To make the trip between the two Palestinian cities, they had to travel from the West Bank to Jordan and then Egypt, finally crossing into the Gaza Strip. Awajnah stayed in Gaza for ten days of daily therapy, seven hours each day. He surprised his family in Jericho with a phone call, expressing his happiness that a doctor was finally able to help him speak again.

When asked about his success, Dr. Al-Jadbah said that his secret goes beyond medical treatments themselves. The most important element of health care, he says, is the relationship a doctor fosters with his patients, and the trust that grows between them.

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