Friday, June 14, 2013

Burmese refugee coping with seizures, struggling with finances

Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013
TruGreen employee Eh Nay Say lays down pine straw in the Westport Community of Leland Thursday, May 2, 2013. Say is a seasonal employee who worked for the company in the fall and was rehired again in March of 2013.
Buy Photo Photo By Matt Born
Stress is the first sign of trouble for Eh Nay Say.
It is worst at night when his mind won't let him stop worrying about money or if he even should have dragged his family thousands of miles from the refugee camps in Thailand to Wilmington. He can't sleep and then a scar on his head starts to hurt, a sure sign that a seizure is next.
And then it happens.
He usually doesn't remember much about the seizure. It is a blank spot in his memory. The last time, about two months ago, a friend found him and called 911. Paramedics took him to the emergency room where he was treated and given medicine to control the seizures. He woke up in the New Hanover Regional Medical Center emergency room.
Say had his first seizure in his 20s when he was at the camps in Thailand. He was on medication, but left the camp almost a year ago without medicine. He always knew at any time the seizures might come back. But he'd also heard a rumor in the camp that if you're sick, you can't go to the United States. Once in Wilmington, he didn't want anyone to know about the seizures.
"If I let them know I was sick, I'd lose my job and they'd send me home," Say said.
And he didn't want to go home.
The Says are Karen, the Burmese ethnic group that the country's government has oppressed for more than a half century. For more than a decade, the family lived in a refugee camp on the Burma-Thailand border. In July, after a 10-year wait, the Says arrived in Wilmington to start a new life. No longer confined to a refugee camp, the Says are slowly finding their way