Abd Rahman al-Jedan’s life bears little resemblance to most 20-year-olds. As a young boy in Homs, Syria, he grew slowly and was often ill; by adolescence, he’d begun to lose his eyesight. In 2013, at age 16, he was diagnosed with kidney disease caused by uncontrolled diabetes. As the war in Syria intensified, al-Jedan’s kidneys continued to fail, and before his 18th birthday, he’d gone blind. His doctors informed his family that al-Jedan’s kidney’s had given out completely. From now on, the young man would require dialysis to survive. He began spending three days a week at the hospital, using the days in between to recover. “It is painful, and it makes me very tired,” he said of the procedure, “but that is how I stay alive now.”
Soon after beginning his aggressive treatment, al-Jedan’s father was killed by a mortar blast, and his family fled from Homs to Jordan, joining 5 million other Syrian refugees who have made new lives abroad. In a camp outside Amman, the young man’s desperate condition caught the attention of aid workers who helped his widowed mother connect with medical relief workers. “My son was suffering so much, and I felt helpless” said al-Jedan’s mother, Ibtisam Sayar. “When I heard we would be able to get his dialysis treatment in Amman, I couldn’t believe it. It felt like a miracle.”
Al-Jedan is one of roughly 130 Syrian refugees receiving regular, subsidized dialysis in Jordan, placing him in a small and deeply vulnerable population. Not only does his life depend on the specialized treatment that the aid programs provide, but the availability of such treatment for refugees is erratic at best.
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At the beginning of May, funding for the Jordan dialysis program ran out completely, with patients in Lebanon facing a similar threat. Partners from the Syrian American Medical Society, a humanitarian aid group, are scrambling to keep up treatment for their most critical patients, said Majd Isreb, a nephrologist working with the group in Jordan, but some patients have already been cut back to twice a week. As a doctor, Isreb is horrified by the prospect of ending the program. “Even a small interruption in care can mean great suffering or even death for a patient.”
“Even a small interruption in care can mean great suffering or even death for