How to Save a Life


How to Save a Life

Source: Medium
Published: July 28th, 2017

Aber Drbi, her husband Essam Turkmani, and their two children arrived in the Chicago June, 2016. On their arrival from the small city of Irbid, Jordan, blood tests in the vetting process showed that Aber had a kidney disease, showing that only 15% of her kidneys were functioning properly. Three months later, both of her kidneys had completely failed, and Aber had begun dialysis treatment, a strenuous and painful medical procedure removing waste and excess water from the blood and is used primarily as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with kidney failure.

In Syria, Essam was a soccer player and later a coach for the Wasby football club in Homs before the war. Aber was a well respected wedding planner in the city. The family fled their homes to Jordan once the violence erupted.

Aber’s medical condition has made the transition process very difficult. Essam drives Aber 30 minutes to the clinic three times a week for her dialysis treatment, which last 4 hours each visit. She is prescribed over 20 different medicines for her illness and must be hooked up to a machine at all times. The family has visited the emergency room 14 times this year due to illnesses contracted from Aber’s kidneys.

When she is not having her treatments, Aber is bedridden, unable to work due to contracting sickness, but Essam will often take her to the lake to get some fresh air. Essam is unable to work in order to take care of Aber but receives rental assistance from SCN.

In order to discontinue Aber’s illness and dialysis treatments, she needs a kidney transplant. Essam took blood tests to see if he would be a suitable match for his wife, but the results came back negative. Aber is now on a waitlist for kidney transplants which ranges from 1 to 10 years to find an available kidney, an ominous wait for such an urgent situation.

Her immediate options rely on family outside of the U.S.: her nephew in Lebanon who has already been granted refugee status by the UN and her sister who remains in Syria and would have to apply for a tourist VISA to enter the U.S..

Aber’s nephew is still going through the UN vetting process, which can range from 1–2 years, but is unsure if he is a positive match or not. Due to Trump’s recent third installment of the travel ban on muslim majority countries, Aber’s sister is unsure if she will be granted a tourist VISA. This new version of the travel ban is in effect until October when it will be up for another revision, but in the meantime it applies only to foreigners with no connections to America and not to those “who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship” here.

The ambiguity and vagueness inevitably helps the president and not the people stranded at borders waiting for it all to be worked out at the courts, and certainly not families like Aber’s. The Supreme Court allowed portions of the original ban to continue through the revised versions, including a 50,000 cap on refugees allowed into the U.S. — a number reached earlier this month, meaning many can be turned away.

Aber’s situation is just one example of the many vulnerable families who are being affected by this implemented travel ban. As thousands of refugee families continuously wait to receive refugee status, Aber is left in a state of uncertainty and physical pain. If Aber’s nephew is not a match or her sister is unable to come to the states, she says that she is willing to travel back to Homs, Syria for the operation, which is both a dangerous and expensive trip to make.


The ban affects many families like Aber’s who face similar, dire circumstances. Everytime Aber goes through her dialysis, she is exhausted and feels close to death due to the physical pain she endures from the treatment. Imagine if you or a family member were in Aber’s situation, incapacitated from medical treatment to not be able to work and lacking the support systems such as family to provide the necessary care for her and her children.

When Aber does find a match for her operation and becomes healthy enough, she wishes to work again, hopefully as a wedding planner once more. Essam hopes to return to work as well, making enough time to hopefully return to coaching one day. The call to welcome refugees into the U.S. is not only a call for justice for all but also to help the many vulnerable families like Aber’s.

If you or someone you know would like to take a blood test to see if you are a match for Aber, please contact Syrian Community Network by emailing

If you would like to make a donation to help support Aber and Essam’s financial assistance, make a donation here.

If you would like to “adopt” the Turkmani family and provide services to help them and their difficult transition, volunteer here.

1 Response

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