Farah released her first cry under bombardment. Her cry joined with those of her father and mother. But now, for the first time since the revolution started in the Syrian city of Deir az-Zor, their cries are a sign of pleasure, as they greet a new member in their family and after losing so many.
Farah is not the only newborn in Qahtan Hospital in the liberated quarter of Sheikh Yaseen; she was preceded by more than 30 other children, all born with the help of nurse Kawakeb, who has run the hospital since the outbreak of the revolution.
Despite the heavy bombardment, the light of hope each new born child carries was enough for Kawakeb to continue. She might be inexperienced in the field of obstetrics, but her fame spread to several liberated regions after working in the national hospital as a nurse for thirteen years despite her experience in obstetrics being no more than three years at al-Bassel hospital in the north-east of the province.
Many have left the city, but Kawakeb, who lost her parents, two sisters and three others explained the reason for her staying.
“Those guys on the front line who are fighting to prevent regime's forces from storming the liberated regions and the families decided to stay despite the enormous destruction the city suffers from. They all deserve to go ahead on the path we chose,” she explains.
Despite the sign hanging on the wall of the bombarded building that states its existence as a hospital, the site is almost devoid of all other signs of a hospital facility. There are no medical crew, no anesthetic equipment and even the operation rooms have been destroyed by shelling.
Nonetheless, thanks to a dedicated team, the hospital is still running. The team includes nurse Kawakeb, obstetrician Sahar and Um Ali with her two children, Ali and Abdul Qader, as well as the ambulance driver Osman (or the unknown soldier, as Kawakeb describes him) who transports the critical cases to the Hospital of the liberated city of Mayadeen.
A nine-year-old nurse
Abdul Qader didn’t expect that the imaginary injections he used to give two years ago while playing his favorite game, ‘doctor and the patient’ would become real. Nor did he expect to be practicing the profession by the age of nine
Abdul Qader's family fled from the bombardment and took shelter in the hospital, where they met Kawakeb who was working alone. She taught them first aid and divided tasks among them. Umm Ali was in charge of logistic matters in the hospital, while Abdul Qader and Ali learned how to hang serums and give injections.
Their mission doesn’t stop there. They are also responsible for providing the hospital with different medicines from the pharmacies still working in the liberated regions. The sounds of shells don’t frighten Abdul Qader and Ali; the only voice that terrifies them is those of the planes.
“The sound of the flying plane which was once a source for happiness for them became a source of horror,” their mother says.
“They know well what damage the missiles and explosive barrels will cause. Whenever they hear the planes, they run to a corner in the hospital and cover their ears."
Despite the difficult circumstances, Umm Ali refuses to leave because leaving is humiliating, she says.
"We might be surrounded by death, but the life created between the walls of this hospital created a bigger hope for tomorrow inside us", she says.
Threats from escaped doctors
Every type of work has its difficulties, especially in times of war. Kawakeb says: "The doctors of the city escaped despite our need for their help. We asked them to come back through TV channels because it is not logical that these liberated regions don’t have a gynecologist or a pediatrician. But the doctors were the first to leave and move their work to more secure regions. Money is dear to them.”
But the real problem for Kawakeb and her humble medical crew is not the absence of a specialized doctor but the threat from doctors living in the regions under regime's control in Deir az-Zor. They ask Kawakeb to transfer pregnancy cases to their clinics – something she refuses totally because "it is impossible to rescue with the life of the pregnant woman and her embryo because moving from a quarter to another is as difficult as moving from a country to another.”
“We offer her a full care for free as our experience helped us to supervise natural birth cases. The only cases transferred to the liberated city of Mayadeen are caesarean births."
"We have all lost our money and our jobs but we should join hands and not exploit each other. What hurts me is the exploitation of a pregnant women and convincing them that there should a caesarean birth… all this for money."
Relatives moved, husband remarried
Sahar also works in Qahtan hospital as an obstetrician.
She introduced herself saying "I married the revolution so my husband married another woman. I moved to live in the hospital. His marriage didn’t weaken my morale because saving lives is compensation for all that I have suffered from, especially because all my relatives have moved over a year ago".
In this hospital because they are willing to respond to any call for help, even from the nearby field hospitals, and they have donated blood many times.
"I have an anemia because I donated blood a lot of times. Many people blamed me for this but the idea of someone dying because of the need to blood pushes me to donate," she says.
Furthermore, the team has organized a vaccination campaign against pregnancy tetanus included thirty women and 750 children.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer