Please read this message from Dina Khoury Nasser a nurse from Augusta Victoria Hospital volunteering in Gaza. You can support these brave health professionals from AVH here.
Today is day 6 in Gaza, it all starts getting to you. Yesterday we finally had some time to go out for a tour with friends of AVH. Homes were destroyed, our friends’ homes were destroyed, pharmacies, schools; a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions. I was looking out of the car window at all the damage, but was not comprehending all the devastation I was seeing yet. I so tiered from working in the operating rooms I still could not engage. I was decompressing after all the stress, I was still detached.
I went around with my colleague Dr. Haytham accompanied by our friend Dr. Yahia from Gaza. We started the Shajaieh neighborhood and Hay Al-Tuffah. The destruction the smells, I could see his pain. He showed us where he was born and where all is children were born. He said “they wiped out our memories of our own homes and childhood”. I could see him take in a deep breath: “it is enough for today”, he added and went silent for a good while.
All of a sudden, I was back in reality again, I was in the scene, living the scene. Now I can see the destruction all around and even beyond. What will this mean to families and people who lost so much; so much beyond compensation or repair.
Only today I realized what was around the corner from where we worked. We drove past to see the site of a Wafa Hospital: total destruction unrecognizable. The site included the old hospital building , the new hospital building, an old peoples’ home, a disabled children centre, and a nearby a school shelled . What in the world is this? How can it be happening? Next to all this a huge home with the family sitting outside looking, hoping, talking, but the smell of rot and flies is all around. Their faces look anxious reflect bewildered minds: could it be that someone is still under all this? And then mumbling words of denial: maybe it’s the smell of cats or animals crushed beneath.
We reached Shajayieh. It looked like images of Hiroshima. No words can describe the scale of the devastation. I could not focus anymore. It is a scene of human heroism having to withstand the shelling of this civilian area. But it is also a crime scene sanctioned by international silence, complacency, and mediocrity.
As we approached a group of people mostly children ran up to our car thinking we are the ambulance coming to the rescue as they needed to identified body parts. We got out of the car and faced the public we did not dare take out our cameras, people started telling us their stories the children the women until we came to the home of one great-grandmother who had lost her son and all his family. Now they were digging up her daughter who herself was a grandmother. They were sure probably the body of her daughter is next to her; it was: pieces of a body. Hearing the great grandmother relate her story moved the emotions and made me realize that this is the reality of Gaza for the coming weeks. In the OR it was easy to shut out emotions and let the adrenalin work its way into action.
We waited with the people until the ambulances arrived the stench of the site was cruel. I remembered a man sleeping in the hospital who had told me on the first day of arrival: Where do I go? Have you seen Shujaiyeh? Now I have seen, and he will not find a house
The children were proud. One did not have shoes on his feet, but they related the heroic stories of this fight, and how the Israeli army went running and leaving their carriers behind . In fact the borders were just there in front of us, and the camera in the sky was watching us.
We were taken later to a hill in the liberated part of Gaza were Gush Katif once stood. We were thanked for our efforts by the local teams and offered lunch. We met up with our AVH colleagues from the south who had done a similar tour visiting Khuzaa were the many assassinations by the Israelis took place.
We were sweating from the heat in the bus, all we could see was destruction to our left. To our right was the beach of Gaza. It did not look as refreshing and happy as I remember it. The coffee shop was there on the beach, but now it was a site in memoriam to the youth killed while watching the world cup.
We finally got back to Shifa Hospital. I asked my colleague Shabaan to come and meet us as we went out to get something for injured child Hanin to cheer her up . We went to a toy shop, a lady there asked if she could buy something for the hospital children to cheer them up. I showed her what I got. She bought some an gave them to me and to deliver them to the hospital .
We went to see Hanin. Her face looked more swollen and her hands warm. She had a fever. She thanked us for the colorful poster. I hung it up so she can look at it with a balloon hanging there, and a teddy bear, some toys were already there. Once more she asked me about my daughter and wanted to see her picture. I could not pull up one of Haya’s (my daughter) so I promised her to come tomorrow and show it to her. Her dad arrived and she asked him about her injured mom. She said to me: I hope she will be OK . I later found out that Hanin still has a third sister in the hospital being treated from shell burns and she was undergoing surgery tomorrow for a muscle transplant. I hope she does not lose her arm. I asked her dad what is happening. He said they will send her to Scotland for surgery.
I went to say goodbye to my colleagues in the OR and met a boy being brought in for wound debridement. He was in a lot of pain. I looked at his foot; it was gangrenous. I am scared he told me. I asked if it was painful and he said yes. When I asked him his name, he said: Omar (same as my son’s name). I said to him: I am Um Omar 9mother of Omar). I myself a few seconds to recollect my emotions, and I knelt closer to him and assured him that they will give him some medicine in the vain that will put him to sleep and he will not feel the pain.
I stepped out of the theatre and called my friend Shaban hoping he will bring me a balloon and toy for Omar , as soon as Shabaan answered the phone the tears choked me. It was too much too bear. These kids survived the shelling: Omar will lose his limb; Hanin might too. Their pains and disabilities have just started.
I asked Shaaban about Scotland. It will take 6 months for any transfers. I hurried to my computer to find Magda my colleague a surgeon from Scotland I know she will help.
It was time to go back home. Can I really leave? Do I want to leave. Will I ever be able to leave? Will these scenes from Gaza ever be behind me or will they be ahead of me, in my mind’s eye. Everywhere I will see injustice, I will relive my experience in Gaza.
Dina Khoury Nasser, MPH, RN
Posted by: Tom Brook
Community Relations Director