Medical migrant fled to Ipswich

VIDEO Unoffcial, unpaid carers who devote their days to looking after a relative or friend, are being acknowledged during national Carers Week which runs until Sunday.

By Tracey Sparling

UNOFFICIAL, unpaid carers who devote their days to looking after a relative or friend, are being acknowledged during national Carers Week which runs until Sunday. . Features editor TRACEY SPARLING hears the remarkable story of a medical migrant who needed Britain's help, to save her daughter's life.

LIFE and death hung in the balance, when Farideh Yasbolaghi made the heartwrenching decision to flee her homeland.

She didn't stop to choose a destination, as she clutched her disabled daughter to her chest and set off on a three-month cross-country journey from their troubled homeland of Iran.

At times they travelled by horseback, and their trek took them through Turkey, then on a plane flying to the UK to eventually arrive in Ipswich.

The only thing on Farideh's mind was medicine, to keep 12-year-old Saeedeh alive. She suffers from spina bifida, hydrocephalus - sometimes known as 'water on the brain', and has had a bladder graft and a kidney transplant.

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As the days passed, the small supply of tablets and injections they carried dwindled away, and Farideh, who worked as a nurse in Tehran, was left praying that sickness or the constant risk of infection would not claim her daughter's life.

Today, Farideh's family exists scattered across the world as she builds a new life around caring for Saeedeh, now aged 15, in their small Ipswich flat.

She said: “Three years ago everything in my life changed. Everything stopped. My house was lost, my family broke. I have a daughter living in the UK, another sleeping on friends' floors in Tehran, and my husband is in Turkey,

“There was no time, it was a quick decision to go. It was a very difficult time, but I can't explain this - it comes from my heart.

“I had a disabled child to think about, we couldn't get medicine in Iran and we had a bad situation living in Iran, it was danger. With my husband, we thought about going to another country, we needed somewhere to help us, to live. I didn't know who should go first. We had to think who could go. I thought if I stayed in my country Saeedeh wouldn't get help. She had no time.”

After entering the UK illegally, Farideh, 47, pleaded with a judge and was granted refugee status with Saeedeh, to be allowed to stay.

She said: “I want to thank the Home Office. All different people try to come, but the judge understands me. That day I just wanted him to understand and I prayed to God to beg him to listen. Everything depended on his decision. It was a big risk if I had to go back to Iran.

“I thank him because Saeedeh would get medicine and would not die. I think she die if we don't arrive here. I think about that.”

When they arrived in Ipswich with no money and no food, mother and daughter stayed in Ipswich Hospital for six months until Saeedeh's condition stabilised again.

Today she is wheelchair-bound, and needs 24 hour care from Farideh who changes her catheter every two hours including through the night, measures her protein levels, prepares a special diet to keep her nutrients balanced and constant drinks to flush her kidney with 2,500ml a day.

Farideh cleans the flat with alcohol wipes, administers medicine and takes Saeedeh on hospital visits to Great Ormond Street, Ipswich and Cambridge for blood tests, to cure unavoidable infections and change antibiotics when they cease to be effective.

Farideh said: “It is not difficult for me. I am happy to do this not just because I am her mother - I was nurse in a hospital in Iran many years ago and I know sick people. But in Iran my family helped, so it was easier to look after Saeedeh.”

She added: “I pray to God and ask 'God, please please help us, not just me but people like me.' I know it is a very difficult time in my country but I can't change this, I am just one person.

“The people here are very very helpful to me and a lot of people helped us in the hospital.”

Like many carers Farideh is not paid for the 24-hour work, but she does receive Income Support.

Since coming to Ipswich, the family has been helped by Suffolk Family Carers, where staff's relatives even helped decorate their flat in Kerry Avenue, Ipswich.

Funding has been found for furniture, driving lessons, and respite care.

Farideh attends carer support groups, and has completed a Learn Direct computer course. She learned a new alphabet and the English language to be able to communicate with the doctors in hospital. Saeedeh learned to get by in English, in just two months and has now picked up many colloquialisms.

He mum said: “I want the best for my daughter. She goes to Thomas Wolsey School and she never realised there were other children like her. When she saw she was not alone, it changed her life.

“But I would like to change her school. I want her to go to a normal school like Thurleston for her exams. She likes to study and loves maths, geography and science, and computers, and wants to be a dietician. I know she can do it. Her limits are physical but she is very bright. I want my daughter to live more than me.”

It remains Farideh's greatest dream to have her family reunited, and she would like to return to Iran one day. She said: “I miss my family in my country. I have not seen one of my daughters for two years. I pray for them every day and every night. I would like to speak to them but the telephone it is very expensive.”

Liz Peck, an advocacy and support worker at Suffolk Family Carers, said; “People think refugees come here in search of a wonderful life but Farideh had a lovely life in Iran until the trouble. She was working, had a house and a car, and now she knows she has lost family members. She didn't see her father before he died.

“She wants to be independent and is doing everything she can to build a life here, caring for her daughter. I've found meeting them to be a truly humbling experience.”

Farideh, added: “I like England I have not come here for a happy life. It's important for me to come here because Saeedeh needs it. If I had time I would get a job.”

Many carers put their own health, interests and ambitions aside as daily commitments take over, or feel guilty for trying to pursue them.

If she was not a carer, Farideh would love to open a restaurant as cooking Iranian fare like rice dishes is her passion. “I could cook for 1,000 people and be happy,” she laughed.

She needs an operation for Tennis elbow, which developed as a result of lifting Saeedeh, but won't go into hospital because Saeedeh needs looking after.

She said: “Sometimes when I get a pain in my heart and I wonder what will happen to Saeedeh if I die. Now I teach her to help look after herself.”

Are you a carer who thinks more help should be available? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Iran (formerly known as Persia) remains blighted by political unrest and outbursts of violence.

The capital Tehran regularly sees political demonstrations and public gatherings against the policies of western governments. Anti-government demonstrations are also often broken up with violence.

ACTRESS Joanna Lumley will be the patron of the 20 year Celebration Appeal at Suffolk Family Carers in the run up to the birthday in June 2008.

The appeal kicks off this month and she said: “Family carers are the most important people in the community. They deserve our support and praise at the highest level and I am proud to be Carer Fan Number One.”

Chief executive Jacqui Martin said: “We look forward to reaching out to many more family carers and their families with a burst of high energy fundraising activity. We'll be inviting people to join in with skydives, poetry readings, pamper days and if we are successful, we want to create a new heritage photography and digital imaging project which will trace the history of family carers in Suffolk, and enable them to share their stories with thousands of others.”

Another highlight will be a Summer's Day event at Newmarket Races on August 4, where you can bid for luxury auction lots including a Caribbean holiday and dinner for four at Frankie Dettori's London restaurant Frankie's.

For more details call the helpline for Suffolk family Carers, based at Claydon, on 01473 232679.

Six million voluntary/family carers save Britain an estimated £57 billion each year.

98,000 family carers in Suffolk

4,000 of those are young carers aged over nine.

133 centres are in the Princess Royal Trust for Carers network including Suffolk Family Carers.

One in five of the UK population will be a family carer by 2010, it is estimated.

A quarter of British adults face the prospect of organising care for a relative or friend, and this figure is set to rise.

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