Saturday morning brought an emotional encounter with a man who has fled evil, and whose face tells the story.
His name is Agnan Adnidihad, a 62-year-old repairman from Mosul who barely escaped the horrors of ISIS last year. Now he is living in Amman—one of tens of thousands of refugees who are crowding into Jordan seeking sanctuary and clinging, somehow, to hope. He is a Syrian Orthodox who dreams of one day living in the United States with his daughter. Below is my brief conversation with him at the Amman Hospital, where he is being treated for heart ailments and stress. His son-in-law had come to visit. The conversation below is translated by the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Khalid Shammas.
During our morning at the hospital, Dr. Shammas gave us a personal tour of the many units, and never failed to express gratitude to CNEWA for making so much of the hospital’s work possible. Much of that work these days involves caring for refugees who have managed to escape Iraq and Syria. The patient below, for example, is a 30-year-old man who worked as a translator of the U.S. Army in Iraq, but has been debilitated by a stroke and recurring heart ailments. He speaks flawless English. He told us he has been trying for several years to join his family in the United States; he has relatives, he says, in New Haven, Connecticut.
The hospital also has a thriving facility caring for newborns. You’d be hard-pressed to find a neo-natal unit graced with more tenderness, compassion and love.
The Italian Hospital is a marvel in Amman—a center that cares for anyone and everyone, no matter what their economic circumstances or religious background. (It was pointed out to us that every room has a crucifix hanging on the wall; images of Mary abound.)
The Italian Hospital was the first modern health care facility in the country. The Jordan Times tells some of its history:
When the Italian Hospital was built in Amman eight decades ago, it helped make the fledgling city inhabitable by bringing a full range of medical services within reach of its residents, capital dwellers familiar with the town’s history said.
The Italian Hospital, which was constructed by the Association to Succour Italian Missionaries, was the first hospital in the capital, according to Nassim Samawi, the administrative director of the hospital.
Located downtown on a street named after it and better known as Tiliani Hospital, it was also the second in the entire Kingdom after the Old English Hospital in Salt, said Raouf Abu Jaber, chairman of the General Investment Company.
Less known, however, is the story behind the hospital and the Italian doctor, Fausto Tesio, who founded it.
In the 1920s, officials at the hospital did not keep extensive records, Samawi said, so little documentation of its early history exists.
However, Tesio’s descendents and Jordanians who still remember the early years of the hospital provided some insight into the role the facility played in the capital’s small community back then.
Tesio, a father of two, arrived in Jordan in 1921 at the age of 22 and first settled in Salt, said Guido Romero, his grandson.
“He was seconded by an Italian association to build an Italian hospital in Jordan,” the 48-year-old Romero told The Jordan Times.
“He was supposed to come with his father, who was an American officer in the Italian Royal Army at the time, but he settled in Jordan alone because his father passed away few months before.”
The doctor settled in Salt, 35 kilometres northwest of Amman, which was a larger and more lively city at the time, retired police chief Maj. Gen. Hikmat Mihyar recalled, adding that he used to make house calls alongside a contingent of interpreters from the town of Fuheis.
“He performed an operation on me at my father’s home when I was young,” Mihyar told The Jordan Times.
Citing hospital documents, Samawi said the association had planned to build the hospital in Salt and bought a plot of land there, but later decided to establish it in Amman, which had been selected as the capital of Transjordan.
The hospital relies chiefly on grants, donations and charitable contributions to continue its mission in modern Amman. It is offering today a new lease on life to so many who feel forgotten, abandoned and persecuted: people like Agnan Adnidihad. Add him to your prayer list, along with so many other souls who have managed to cling to their faith in spite of almost unimaginable trials.
If you’d like to support the hospital and its invaluable mission, visit this page on CNEWA’s website. You will be helping in some small way to change the world.
And to learn more about the hospital and its work, read “Finding Sanctuary in Jordan” from the Spring 2015 edition of CNEWA’s acclaimed magazine, ONE.