This story is from the words of Dr. Hossam Hamdan, a doctor in Ghouta, about his painful experience today:
“It is a cry I hear every day, but today was different than any other day.
A 14 year old, expressionless is trying to manage the pain he is feeling because part of his intestines were blown out of his stomach.
He looked at me and asked, “Are you going to do my surgery?”
I told him yes.
He said, “Please take extra good care of me, my mother is waiting outside and I promised her I would return quickly.”
I asked him, “Where is your father?”
He replied: “He was killed two months ago, along with all of my siblings in the market bombing. My mother is waiting for me, I am her only family.”
I had no words to say… nothing but silence… I started to anesthetize him for the surgery. As I held my scalpel, an overwhelming feeling took over me. I felt as if I was opening the stomachs of a whole family, and I was sewing a torn father’s body, along with all of his children, and that I was transferring the blood to the soul of the last remaining child of this family, as the mother anxiously awaits her son to emerge from the surgery. My hand starts shaking as my heart envisions his mother’s eyes as they are filled with tears of oppression... of feeling overwhelmed with pain and helplessness. I literally hear the beats of her heart as she anxiously waits for me to let her know her last remaining child is going to be OK. I tried to finish as fast as I could to let her know he was going to survive.
I finished the surgery, my feet racing before me to tell his mother the surgery ended and was a success. I did not see her anywhere, I couldn’t find her anywhere in the building; not in the crowded waiting rooms, not in the hallways or corridors; she was nowhere to be found.
I ran to the street… I finally found her, under a broken tree much like her broken heart. This is not how I imagined I would find her. Her clothes were covered in dust from the bombings as she was calmly kneeling in prayer, weeping quietly with such pain and anguish in her voice. She was repeating how her son told her he was wounded in the road, “Oh mother I have been wounded in the road!” She was raising her hands to the sky because she knew no one else would respond, the whole world turned a blind eye and abandoned them. She was praying for her son, when she finally saw me she said, “ I know my son is OK, thank you so much for everything, may God reward you.”
"Hanan" has already been through so much at the tender age of 2...she has felt the pains of war since she was born. She knows what it feels like to travel for a whole month just to find a safe shelter to live...the struggle is real, and her pain is real. Her tiny body was neglected as she was forced to endure the kind of suffering no child should ever have to experience.
UOSSM's Psychosocial Support team visited and examined "Hanan" which showed that the sweet baby was suffering from extreme malnutrition.
She was immediately admitted to UOSSM's Primary Health Care Center in Jisr Al-Shaghoor. Hanan has been under UOSSM's care and we are happy to report that she has gained some weight and the level of malnutrition has decreased.
This is one of thousands of untold stories of the children of Syria, these children have paid the ultimate price for the brutal war. Please don't forget their suffering...it is what keeps us going, remembering how much work there is to be done, and how many people need our help. We can do this! Because together, we are saving lives and building hope.
At times of war, and in areas of war zones, it is very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we all need stories of hope and success to keep moving forward and to continue this mission to help save lives. I met with a doctor who was working in the hospitals in Syria. He shared stories of hope with me. This is one of them...
A young four year old boy was brought into UOSSM's Bab Al-Hawa Hospital, along with his sibling who was killed. Their family had been ripped apart by the war. The father was detained five years earlier. The little boy's leg was hurt in an attack and he needed to have his leg amputated. The boy's mother plead with the doctor, saying, please he is all I have left, please don't amputate his leg! The doctors could not ignore the cries of the desperate mother and decided to try and save the young boy's leg, it was a long shot but they felt obligated to do whatever they could.
The surgery lasted for hours... inserting rods, reconnecting tissue and reconstructing the leg, but after the surgery they weren't sure it would be a success.
The boy would have to receive physical therapy, he would have to work very hard. He would endure months of physical therapy and care.
After several months the defining moment for the doctor came, when they saw the young boy stand alone on his own two feet. By some amazing miracle the surgery and the attempt to save his leg was a success and the boy walked again!
These stories of hope provide strength to those working on the ground, knowing that they can make a difference and were able to save that boy along with the countless others is what keeps these doctors going under extreme stress and pressure. Ultimately saving lives and building hope is why they are doing what they do.
Young Aisha was in the comfort of her own home in Daraya with her 39 year old mother, when all of a sudden she heard the sounds of armed forces forcing their way into neighboring homes along with loud screams and the piercing sound of bullets being fired. This was repeated from house to house in the area, the noises kept getting closer and closer, Aisha was more terrified than she had ever felt in her life.
Helplessness and fear took over her body as the forces came closer and closer to her home. She was afraid of being detained or even worse shot and killed, when the sound of the forces came to her door she ran to the attic to seek refuge and hide.
But she could still hear everything…the sounds of the forces breaking into her home, her mother screaming, yelling and cursing at the intruders and the sudden sound of a round of bullets being fired, her mother’s voice was suddenly quiet. She heard the intruders move from room to room in her home until finally she heard quiet as they left.
After about 36 hours people from the neighborhood started to search from house to house to find survivors of the attacks. They found young Aisha sitting next to the body of her dead mother. She had been sitting there since the attack. She probably remained in the attic for some time until she finally felt it was safe to come down, yet she remained in her home out of fear.
The child stayed with a family in a safe place in Damascus, Aisha started showing signs of mental distress, and she hardly slept because she would constantly see nightmares. She became very distant, did not want to leave the house for any reason, and did not want to play like a normal child of her age. Aisha lost her appetite, and she would have temper tantrums and then burst into tears uncontrollably for the most insignificant reasons. She was very moody and distant and would start uncontrollably shaking and crying and it became increasingly difficult to deal with the little girl.
The family decided to take her in for a psychiatric evaluation with Besher, one of UOSSM’s therapists, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. It took eight sessions for the therapist to earn Aisha’s trust. She had different sessions at the center including how to express herself, her feelings and emotions, through drawings and dialog boxes. Her family was also taught how to help them cope with her and how to let her cope with her feelings and fears. After a few months her condition started to improve, but unfortunately her family became displaced again and her treatment was abruptly stopped.
Children that experience this type of trauma and terror need treatment and help to deal with their feelings of despair and fear. This is what the war has done to Syria’s children.
The children in Syria have witnessed too many atrocities in the past five years. No child should ever have to bear witness a scene so brutal, so violent, that it could literally cause one to go into a state of shock from fear and distress. But yet again, a young child has been a part of a horrific, terrifying ordeal.
Omran is a nine year old boy from Dayr al Zour in Syria. One night when he was asleep with his family in his home, armed forces broke into the boy’s home in search of his father, once they found him they took and detained him. Out of fear of the return of the armed forces the rest of the family left the home and ran away to another area nearby.
The scene that left a scar on this child’s heart… the unforgettable scene that caused an unlimited amount of pain, fear, and terror was when young Omran witnessed the same armed forces that had detained his father, cutting off people’s heads and then dumping their lifeless bodies on top of each other, into cars.…
Imagine your child witnessing something so brutal. How would you feel? How would your child feel?
Time would pass and Omran’s father would be released, which led the family to seek refuge in Turkey. After a while Omran’s family started noticing patterns of distress and instability and signs of mental issues. Omran was taken to UOSSM’s Mental Health and Psycho Social Support Center in Reyhanli, Turkey. Young Omran was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome and has and is still receiving treatment and support from the center.
Time will only tell if Omran will be able to fully get past the violent scene he witnessed but with your help and support, UOSSM’s dedicated staff will do everything they can to help heal this young boy from this terrible ordeal.
Among all those burns you can still see her smile light up a room, despite her pain and agony, she is still smiling. This is a story of hope… a story of triumph over tragedy… this is the story of Kauthar.
It was March 15, 2015, the 15 month old baby was sleeping in her home while her mother, Ruwaidahaa, was outside hanging laundry to dry, when all of a sudden the familiar and scary sound of a warplane was overhead. Kauthar’s five brothers got scared and ran out of the house to their mom, in that same moment the warplane dropped an explosive barrel on the house, causing the roof to collapse. The explosion of the barrel caused the gas canister to explode, their home was on fire.
The desperate mother ran inside the burning home to save her child and found Kauthar’s body engulfed in flames. Completely forgetting about her own health and safety, Ruwaidahaa grabbed her child and ran outside the house and tried to put out the flames on Kauthar’s small body. Then, all of a sudden the mother collapsed and lost consciousness.
Ruwaidahaa regained consciousness after a few hours and found herself in a hospital in Gaziantep, Turkey, she found out that her baby was transported to another hospital in Adna. Kauthar sustained second and third degree burns on 70% of her small body. She did not have any surgery of any kind only changing of her bandages. The only part of Kauthar’s face that was not burnt was her mouth. This helped her to drink and eat somewhat normally.
After almost a month the mother and her child were reunited. Ruwaidahaa knew the sound of the little girl, whose body was covered in bandages, she could hear her cry and ran to her to hold her and comfort her.
Kauthar was admitted to Syrian Medical Center (Dar al Esthfaa) where she would stay for 10 days as representatives from UOSSM connected with a humanitarian organization in the US to arrange for her reconstructive surgeries and treatment.
Kauthar is currently in Galveston, TX along with her mother and will get treatment from Shriners Hospital for Children. It is estimated that her treatment will require between 4-6 months.
While young Kauthar was in Dar al Estshfaa she would point to her mouth and say it doesn’t hurt, she would say she can still eat, say some words and even smile. She doesn’t even realize that most of her body is scarred from the burns, she just smiles and lights up the room.
This is the story of Fatima, she suffered pain that no mother should ever have to endure. This is one of many stories of a mother’s pain and agony in war-torn Syria.
Fatima, 24, is from the southern Aleppo countryside, she is married and has two children, and she was carrying her third child. She has lived with her small family in Aleppo for many years now. Her husband used to work in construction. Fatima was in her ninth month of pregnancy, it was almost her due date and she was thinking with her husband about which hospital she would deliver her baby, the hospital near them was nearly destroyed as a result of the war. They decided to go back to their village because there is a new maternity and pediatric hospital there.
The day she would give birth arrived. Fatima went to the hospital along with her husband and mother in law. She had to have a C-Section, it took almost two hours for her to regain consciousness from the anesthesia. She carried her newborn baby girl for the first time and then the nurse put her baby in the bed next to Fatima.
Fatima said, “ After a few minutes I started to hear the sound of a warplane overhead, fear started to set in peoples’ eyes, then, after a few seconds the whole ground shook under me, the walls collapsed and all the medical equipment in the hospital was destroyed…dust was everywhere…shrapnel was flying all around us. I felt something penetrate my legs, I raised my left leg and saw blood gushing out from my extremities. I lost consciousness, when I regained consciousness I found myself in Bab al Hawa Hospital. I looked at my left leg and saw it was in a brace and both legs were wrapped from top to bottom. My mother in law was next to me I asked her where is my baby?”
Her mother in law gave her the horrible news that her newborn baby died, her tiny body and lungs couldn’t handle the dust flying everywhere and choked to death. One can only imagine the distress as Fatima heard those horrible words. The young, grieving mother was severely injured and needed her strength to recover and go back to her family.
Her doctor Abd al Wahab, an orthopedic surgeon, said, “Fatima got here and both legs were extremely injured, which caused several open breaks in her bones, she was taken immediately to the operating room. We put an external brace on the bottom of her left leg and metal plates in the bottom of her right leg, we gave her a blood transfusion because she lost a lot of blood from the injuries.”
It took a while to recover but we are happy to report that Fatima’s health is now in excellent condition. As for her mental state, she is not doing so well. She is feeling a lot of grief over the loss of her baby and the trauma and stress she experienced on that horrible day.
UOSSM provides all types of health care, physical and mental and will hopefully help Fatima and the many mothers like her, to a full recovery.
This story is one of many… different name same story. Some stories have better endings and many have worse. The problem is still the same though, young children who have lost their childhood to war, death and destruction and are always afraid.
Five year old Zainab is from a small village in the southern suburbs of Aleppo. She comes from a family of six; three girls, one boy and their parents. Just like many families in Syria, they were just trying to survive. In October 2015, their village came under fire. It was so bad that the family had to flee, they stayed at a relative’s home outside of their village in hopes of escaping the bloodshed. But that was not the case, there were so many airstrikes in the area and one struck the home they were seeking refuge in. Everyone in the family was wounded. Aisha, Zainab’s seven year old big sister lost her precious life on the way to the hospital, Zainab along with her mother and baby sister were transported to UOSSM’s Bab al Hawa Hospital, they were all in serious to critical condition. They were all taken into surgery to stop the bleeding from wounds and injuries sustained by shrapnel. After surgery they were taken into intensive care.
The injuries of Reem (the younger sister) were very complicated and she was in a lot of pain. She had to be transferred to a hospital in Turkey for treatment. Her small body could not handle the pain inflicted on her.
Zainab started to improve somewhat after two days. Doctor Firas, a thoracic surgeon at BHH performed emergency surgery to remove shrapnel that was lodged into her small body and inserted a chest tube to remove blood and fluids from her lungs.
After one week, Zainab’s condition started to improve. She always asks about her sisters. She still doesn’t know that her big sister was killed and that her little sister is still in Turkey for treatment. Many would say this story is one of the better ones, after all she still has all of her limbs and body parts, and most of her family is still alive. Maybe that is relatively speaking, is it too much to ask for a child to grow up in a safe environment? This is not just another story, it is the story of Zainab and her family in war torn Syria.
Dr. Raphael Pitti is one of the many who have helped Syria’s medical community recover from the collapse of the medical infrastructure. Dr. Pitti is a physician from France that specialized in Emergency Medicine in War Zones. He has provided many training courses to medically treat and deal with injuries and circumstances in war-torn Syria. Dr. Pitti supported the UOSSM in establishing the first medical training center in Bab al Hawa Hospital. Over 7000 trainees were trained since the program began in 2013.
Protect Hospitals & Health Workers in Syria Conference.
The Protect Hospitals and Health Workers in Syria Conference was on December 11. There were two discussion panels, the first discussion was: Syrian NGOs and On the Ground Challenges. Dr. Anas al Kassm, President of UOSSM Canada made the presentation.
You can watch the whole conference here.