AVH Medical Team Returns to Jerusalem
Augusta Victoria Hospital medical team returns from #Gaza
The Augusta Victoria Hospital medical team returned from Gaza Strip today after a one-week stay during which they helped the Gaza medical teams in several hospitals.The team was welcomed by Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, AVH CEO, accompanied by Rev. Mark Brown, Regional Representative of the Lutheran World Federation, and Maher Dudin, the Head of the AVH workers Union.
Dr. Tawfiq thanked the team for their efforts during this period, mentioning that this step was decided on because of the need to help the Gaza medical teams overwhelmed by the huge number of casualties. Dr. Nasser also mentioned the continuous services that AVH is giving Gaza patients in the Oncology field.
Mrs. Dina Nasser, an OR and Infection Control Nurse and one of the team members talked about her experience in Gaza (see excerpts below) stating that what she saw there was different to what someone can see through the TV or cameras. She also mentioned that she saw and heard stories that she will never forget, especially the ones related to children.
Mrs. Nasser said that the treatment process started after the war ended due to the enormous number of casualties and its psychological effects on children and the medical team. She mentioned that she had visited Gaza in May and left very happy by what she saw there, while this time she left Gaza feeling very sad from the images and memories that show the extent to which international law was violated.
Dr. Murad Karajeh, an ICU and ER Doctor and head of the AVH Mission Team to Gaza, talked about the enormous number of casualties he saw and the lack of places in hospitals that forced them to treat ICU patients on floors.
Dr. Karajeh started in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City [then he moved to Rafah and Khan Younis]. Dr. Karajeh praised the Gaza medical team who had to work around the clock and not leave to their homes in order to be able to treat the patients.
The AVH medical team was welcomed by the Gaza medical teams who considered this AVH initiative to be of great practical and psychological support.
Dina Khoury Nasser, an OR and Infection Control Nurse and one of the team members, talked about her experience in Gaza to the staff gathered at AVH to welcome the team back.
Reflections from Dina Khoury Nasser, MPH, RN:
Today was day four in Gaza. The first two days were like limbo. We felt we were in Gaza but not yet feeling what was happening around. We live in the hospital compound: eat in the compound, work in the compound, and sleep in the compound. We see the injured, hear the ambulances, see the bodies and people strewn around everywhere – still it does not sink in. Yesterday evening things started to get real when I saw a child sleeping with his father in the open air on a piece of cardboard. He was there in the morning, there in the evening, and again this morning and this evening. I wonder where is his mother, where is his family?
Then comes Haneen. She is an eight year old; my colleague from the emergency room, Dr. Haytham informed me that a child is coming up with her hand hanging on her side. I went up to Haneen who was waiting calmly in the holding bay. Her eyes were closed. She had a bandage across her head; her eyes were closed because of the swelling from the edema and the burns to her face. I approached her and held her, and greeted her, and told her my name. I held her little hand on the injured side. I told her that I will be with her – she held my fingers. She informed me that her hand hurts. I told her that it was injured and that we will try and fix it. She then asked me about her father and two sisters. I told her that her father was waiting for her. I could not tell her that her sister had died. I still could not tell her that later that evening when her other sister was brought in dead from under the rubble…they were both less than four years old.
I saw Haneen in the ICU later. She was awake and extubated. I greeted her and told her that I was Dina. One eye was now open. She asked me if I had a daughter, I said yes. She asked me what her name is. I said Haya. She said that is a pretty name.
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, still not comprehending all the devastation. I was so tired from working in the operating rooms I still could not engage.
Only today I realized what was around the corner from where we worked. We drove to the site of Wafa Hospital: total destruction, unrecognizable. 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 anxious faces reflecting bewilderment: 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 finally got back to Shifa Hospital. I asked my colleague Shabaan to come and meet us as we went out to get something to cheer up Haneen, an injured child at the hospital. We went to a toy shop, a lady at the store asked if she could buy something for the hospital children to cheer them up. I showed her what I had got. She bought some more for me to deliver at the hospital.
We went to see Haneen. 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. She asked me about my daughter and wanted to see her picture. 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 Haneen 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 (mother 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 van 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; Haneen might too. Their pains and disabilities have just started.
I asked Shaaban about Scotland. It will take 6 months for any transfers.
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