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PHOTOS: Edgewater Physician Regrets Leaving Syrian Refugees

Kelly Griffin listens to the heartbeat of a young, Greek refugee.
Kelly Griffin listens to the heartbeat of a young, Greek refugee. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
Syrian refugees sleep in tents in Greek factories.
Syrian refugees sleep in tents in Greek factories. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
Clothes lines connect tents inhabited by Syrian refugees.
Clothes lines connect tents inhabited by Syrian refugees. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
Kelly Griffin "pokes fun" at a patient.
Kelly Griffin "pokes fun" at a patient. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
Griffin said some of her patients reminded her of herself and her friends.
Griffin said some of her patients reminded her of herself and her friends. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
Clothes hang to dry at the refugee camps.
Clothes hang to dry at the refugee camps. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin
A future physician.
A future physician. Photo Credit: Kelly Griffin

EDGEWATER, N.J. — It's been two weeks since internist and critical care physician Kelly Griffin of Edgewater returned from a volunteer trip to Greece helping Syrian refugees.

Her thoughts, however, frequently return to the war-weary refugees and all they’ve endured.

Griffin remembers the 6-year-old Syrian boy who was left with a soft spot in his head from a sniper’s bullet. She worries about the ill 30-year-old mother of four who seemed overwhelmed.

She prays for the teenager who was so bored that he took to cutting up his arm.

Mostly, though, Griffin regrets leaving the refugees as they sit and wait their situation to change.

“They didn’t do anything wrong,” said Griffin, who spent a week in early June volunteering with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) at two of the refugee camps.

“We’re still lucky in this country. There’s the possibility that at any given day your government could attack you and a war could be going on outside your door," she said. "And we would leave too.”

More than $8,400 raised on Griffin's GoFundMe site is being used to purchase personal hygiene items for the refugees. Griffin will donate a lump sum to SAMS for medical supplies.

She was compelled to do what she could for the Syrian refugees after learning of their plight almost a decade ago.

Griffin found her way in through a Facebook post in a group for female humanitarians in April. She booked a trip to Greece for June but upon arriving overseas, what seemed like an opportunity to do some good took on a different air.

“It feels terrible,” she said. “For all intent and purposes, they are no different than I am.”

Griffin found highly educated Syrians with once stable and sophisticated lives living in tents in abandoned factories with no clear end in sight.

There were severe cases of pneumonia. There were the times that she dug through bins of donated medication in hopes of finding steroids for infected mosquito bites. Griffin also helped calm countless refugees with physical manifestations of stress.

Given the state of Greece’s economy, there isn’t much that can be done. Returning to America hasn’t necessarily proven to be an answer for Griffin — but she did what she could.

“As a doctor, you don’t abandon your patients,” Griffin said. “You turn the care over to someone else and make sure they’re being cared for.”

Griffin isn’t sure what will be of the boy who cut his arm open. He’ll go to a hospital for treatment but eventually he’ll be back in the camps. To Griffin, that’s not fair.

“Maybe something will happen,” she said. “But we don’t know when.”

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