Carried the Baby of Her Patient on Her Back During the Operation

Nurse Mülkiye, who helps those in need in the countries she travels to as a volunteer, attended the operation of a woman in Niger, where she went for the 22nd Niger Health Operation that took place with the support from R.T. Prime Ministry, Ministry of Health, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) and Turkish Airlines. She carried the 10-month old baby of the woman on her back during the operation since the helpless woman was all alone.

Operating room nurse Okyay, who continues to be engaged in the profession she started 25 years ago with the same passion at Eyüp State Hospital, says, “Whoever needs us, we will be there” and completely overcomes the issues such as locations or borders.

Mülkiye Okyay has traveled to 43 countries so far and served as a volunteer nurse, working day and night to help people in need with their health problems. Her final stop was the “22nd Niger Health Operation” that took place with 55 health volunteers and with the support from the Prime Ministry, Ministry of Health, TİKA and Turkish Airlines.

“What If the Baby Falls and Something Bad Happens”

About the last country she visited as part of the project, Okyay says they were in Niger to perform operations, and she tells the story of her patient and the baby she carried on her back during the operation.

“We were 2 nurses that day and we were trying to get patients on 4 beds. A woman appeared with a paper in her hand. One of our friends was outside, taking care of the pre-operational procedures. Unlike here, there were no scheduled operation dates there, as soon as the procedures are completed, operation starts. The patients arrive at the door with their clothes on. This patient had a very large, 15-20 centimeter lump on her arm. She arrived at the operation room door, with her clothes on and her baby on her back.

The translator said that the women would be in an operation. I told her that she could not enter with her baby and she had to leave the baby out. The woman said she had nobody to leave the baby to and that she had walked 50 kilometers to be operated. My friends were sick, if I were to take the baby, I had nobody to leave it to; I had no pillows or quilts for the baby to lie down. The woman said, ‘Let’s tie the baby to you, let it stay on your back.' I said, 'Okay.’ We had a similar story in Chad as well. The woman tied the baby on my back, I checked if it was secure. When I kept checking the baby with my hand to make sure it doesn’t fall off, the woman said, 'Relax, it is asleep.’ That’s how we performed the operation.”

Mülkiye Okyay says the patient hugged her and thanked her after the operation as she was leaving, “You have a baby on your back, you are trying to make sure it doesn’t fall; you also have a patient and you are trying to go through an operation. These are extraordinary feelings. You feel the need to protect the baby, you are always afraid of what if it falls, if anything goes wrong. It was such a moment, an unbelievably different feeling. As a woman, there is also the motherly instinct. You protect the baby. It suddenly becomes a part of you.”

Mülkiye Okyay states that she will continue to be a part of volunteer activities in the future as well; lately, she is preparing for new road maps and projects.

"The Spiritual Gains of This Job are Too Many to Count”

Nurse Okyay says she started her volunteering activities with the Marmara Earthquake.  She has visited 43 countries so far, 16 of which was in Africa: “Africa is a very difficult place. The moment you land, the humidity captures you; you get a lump in your throat and fail to breathe. People look at you strangely because you are different from them; they are very anxious. Initially, the children run away from you, they get used to it in 1-2 days, they understand what is going on; you help them first, only then they come to your side. I love being there. I love Africa. I want to go there at least 1-2 times a year. When I cannot, I just break down and cry, I get angry, I ask, “Why not me?” This is completely voluntary. You go as a volunteer, you have no financial gain from it but the spiritual gains are too many to count.”

Okyay explains that people in Africa do not have vehicles to come together with volunteer health officials that travel there; they come from far off parts of the country, on foot, under very difficult conditions, “When we go there, the hospital yard is always filled with patients.”  Mülkiye Okyay says that they receive great love especially in Africa, and she had attended thousands of operations so far.