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Manal Naeimh’s smile is warm and gracious, as she waits for her doctor at a local health clinic. She and her husband Khosy Saleh live together in a two-bedroom apartment in Hamilton with her mother-in-law, Wazeera Al-Qaisi. As they struggle with looming health problems, having access to quality healthcare has stabilized their lives.

“I have had a very good experience with the medical care system in Canada. The thing that strikes me the most is the care for patients. My family doctor is great,” she said.
Being able to access the critical medication Naeimh needs to survive, as well as support her family’s needs, has been crucial to her health.

Since the age of six, Naeimh has been living with rheumatic fever, leaking heart valves, and arthritis. Daily activities such as walking, talking, and working come with extra discomforts and challenges that affect her physical and emotional well-being. Her whole life she has required monthly needle injections to ensure infections do not spread to her heart.

“As they struggle with looming health problems, having access to quality healthcare has stabilized their lives.”

When Naeimh first came to Hamilton through the Government Assisted Refugee Program, she was unable to receive her injection for six months as she was waiting for a specialist appointment. Not having her required medication resulted in two emergency hospital visits for rapid heart beats, difficulty breathing, and pain in her chest. She was provided with oxygen and given substitute medication for the short-term. When her appointment with the specialist came, she was prescribed the proper medication.
Despite her own challenges, Naeimh provides care for her family members, who suffer from their own complex conditions, out of necessity. Her husband has Chronic Ulterative Colitis, and her mother-in-law has demobilizing back and knee problems.

Between school and household chores, she also cares for her husband during periods of severe pain. Together they also care for her mother-in-law, who is confined to a wheelchair. Part of their daily routine includes dressing and feeding her, as well as helping her to the washroom.

Naeimh and her husband also attend English classes daily at the Immigrant Women’s Centre, which she balances between appointments. “I want to learn English better so I can manage my daily life and integrate into society fully,” she explained.

“Accessing medical care is crucial for people like me who have medical conditions,” she continued. “The first time I went to the hospital I had a great experience with the staff; the doctors and nurses lifted up my spirit.”

When asked how she feels about the importance of accessible healthcare for those who come to Canada, Naeimh mentioned with gratitude the care she has received, and the uncertainty she would have had without health coverage.

“Currently, I pay for some of my monthly medication, but I cannot imagine what it would be like if all my medication was not covered. I don’t know what would happen to me.”

Naeimh also finds interpretation services at appointments have been very crucial. “We cannot do it on our own…we hope this work continues as it is an essential service for accessing healthcare.”

Article and Photos by Michelle Drew

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