August 5, 2014
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, 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? The stories one hears about entire families being annihilated, completely erased from the national registers of citizenship makes your hair stand on end! But still, it does not sink in. Perhaps because I am in the operation room and used to seeing people injured. Then reality hits when the shelling in Jabalia starts. At ten in the evening we receive a lady in her sixties. She is full of dust, full of earth and full of holes throughout her body. Head lacerated, thighs lacerated, leg crushed. I think of where she could have been sitting, what were her thoughts when the shell hit… I thought of mom, I thought of all the older women I know.
When the bombing started this morning, it was children. Our first patient was a little boy around six years old. He had massive lacerations to his groin, abdomen, face and head. He had burns all over his body as well. We were able to manage him in the theatre. I wait to see how he is doing. 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 oedema and the burns to her face. I approached her and held her, and greeted her, and informed her of 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, 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 is her name. I said Haya. She said that is a pretty name.
It was a tough day that ended with hopeful news. The plane up above, called zanana (drone) keeps buzzing all around. My colleagues from Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem arrived today with supplies. I felt proud to greet them. The Hospital had done an excellent job sending supplies and individual packs to each of us. They were greeted and their support appreciated. Being there is all that matters. On a personal level, I feel responsible for a big group now. It is very nice to have Dr. Haytham here; he is a wonderful professional colleague. My other colleagues are in Nasser Hospital in Rafah (South of Gaza), treating the injured and witnessing the toll of martyrs. One other colleague is at Al Aqsa Hospital working in surgery.
The smell of blood and death is around the young and the old. Each day we are greeted with the car coming to take the martyrs. Our room is close to the mortuary. You look at the faces of people here - they are all stunned. A nurse on duty looks deeply sad - her son comes with her to work. My friend Bassam from Gaza came to visit me and brought me a lot of goodies to eat. I distributed them among our team and colleagues. I was worried when I looked into his eyes and saw how red they were. The strain on his face was apparent. His son had a close call, and his nephew has ben injured. They are children. They were playing in the street and had just stepped into the house….
The nursing director had to take a deep breath as he recalled all the children that he had seen. We will need time to heal she said, the pain will take time. The stories are overwhelming and the loss has not yet stopped.