The ‘tem­po­rary’ hos­pi­tal mark­ing its 10th birth­day

▶ A hos­pi­tal opened by Medecins Sans Fron­tieres in Jor­dan to help Iraqi war vic­tims is also treat­ing vic­tims from Syria and Ye­men. Suha Ma’ayeh re­ports

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE -

Rabee’ Ra­joob was on his way to buy bread one spring morn­ing in Homs when a Syr­ian army sniper shot him in the right shoul­der, dam­ag­ing his nerves, tear­ing his lower jaw and shat­ter­ing his teeth.

Mr Ra­joob, 32, who was work­ing as a black­smith, was un­con­scious for five days af­ter the at­tack in March 2012. When he woke up in hos­pi­tal af­ter surgery he thought he had lost the use of his right arm per­ma­nently and his jaw would re­main dis­fig­ured.

“When I woke up, I was de­pressed but I am a per­son who be­lieves in fate,” he said. “One should ac­cept his destiny and ad­just to the sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

Mr Ra­joob had re­peated op­er­a­tions in Syria and then at a hos­pi­tal in Jor­dan. But it wasn’t un­til he be­gan re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at a re­con­struc­tive hos­pi­tal run by Medecins Sans Fron­tieres in Fe­bru­ary 2013 that he saw real im­prove­ment.

“Now I look at my face and I am in high spir­its,” he said from his bed in the Amman hos­pi­tal. “It has re­ally im­proved. I also un­der­went sev­eral op­er­a­tions to re­lease the nerve in my shoul­der and I can move my arm bet­ter.”

The hos­pi­tal where Mr Ra­joob is re­ceiv­ing treat­ment marks its 10-year an­niver­sary this month. Es­tab­lished in 2007, it was orig­i­nally in­tended to treat Iraqi vic­tims of war who were suf­fer­ing from com­plex in­juries such as bone gaps and frac­tures, soft tis­sue and nerve in­juries, and se­vere burns that lim­ited mo­bil­ity.

But as vi­o­lence spread to other parts of the re­gion, the sur­gi­cal pro­gramme ex­panded and the hos­pi­tal opened its doors to pa­tients from Ye­men, Syria and Gaza.

In 2015, it re­lo­cated to a big­ger build­ing in the Jor­da­nian cap­i­tal to cope with the in­creas­ing de­mand. Today, be­tween 500 and 600 pa­tients re­ceive treat­ment at the hos­pi­tal ev­ery year.

Dr Rashid Fakhri, an or­thopaedic sur­geon at the hos­pi­tal, said the types of in­juries for which pa­tients were be­ing treated dif­fered de­pend­ing on what coun­try they came from.

Most of the fa­cil­ity’s Iraqi pa­tients were suf­fer­ing from in­juries caused by car bombs, while its Ye­meni pa­tients were mostly the vic­tims of bomb­ings or shoot­ings.

Most of the Syr­i­ans the hos­pi­tal re­ceived at the start of the Syr­ian war were suf­fer­ing from bul­let wounds. But now, most are the vic­tims of bar­rel bomb­ings.

While all cases are com­plex, Dr Fakhri said pri­or­ity was given to vic­tims suf­fer­ing from nerve in­juries. “It is a se­ri­ous con­di­tion and from a med­i­cal point of view, they should not wait,” he said.

“But pa­tients with non-union in­juries, where a bro­ken bone fails to heal due to a lack of ad­e­quate sta­bil­ity or blood flow, are not a clin­i­cal pri­or­ity since it is an elec­tive surgery that does not re­quire ur­gent treat­ment.”

Dr Fakhri said he be­came emo­tional when he saw his pa­tients in the process of heal­ing, es­pe­cially chil­dren.

“You see that they were dis­abled by their in­juries and af­ter treat­ment they play foot­ball at the hos­pi­tal’s play­ing area and jump around,” he said. “One had mouth in­juries and could not speak, and when I heard him shout­ing for the first time, it was very emo­tional.”

In the hos­pi­tal wards, some pa­tients have am­pu­tated hands and legs, while oth­ers have been badly scarred by ex­plo­sions. Af­ter sev­eral months of treat­ment, many are now able to walk through the hos­pi­tal’s cor­ri­dors with crutches.

Shaje’ Nu’man, a com­puter en­gi­neer from Aden in Ye­men, was shot in his lower right leg in Oc­to­ber 2015 when he tried to stop an un­known gun­man from loot­ing his work­place.

“I fought him but he shot me with a Kalash­nikov,” said Mr Nu’man, 34, who ini­tially re­ceived treat­ment from the med­i­cal char­ity’s staff in Aden.

Un­able to move his right foot, how­ever, he was ad­mit­ted to the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­con­struc­tive surgery hos­pi­tal in Amman in June last year for spe­cial­ist treat­ment.

Af­ter sev­eral op­er­a­tions there, the mo­bil­ity in his foot has im­proved and he can walk on crutches.

“My pain has im­proved,” Mr Nu’man said. “My leg used to hurt all the time.”

He is sched­uled for an­other op­er­a­tion to lengthen the bone.

In a dif­fer­ent room lay Atheer Hameed, 24, from the Iraqi city of Fal­lu­jah, who was in­jured by shrap­nel from a mor­tar shell that landed near his home in Septem­ber 2014.

“I was home and was sup­posed to join my par­ents for lunch at our rel­a­tives,” Mr Hameed said.

“I wrapped wire round my foot to stop the bleed­ing and shouted for help un­til the neigh­bours came.”

De­spite hav­ing surgery in Fal­lu­jah, Mr Hameed was un­able to lift his foot and was de­pen­dent on crutches.

Now, how­ever, re­cu­per­at­ing on his hos­pi­tal bed af­ter surgery at the hos­pi­tal a week be­fore, Mr Hameed looked hope­ful.

“The first thing I want to do when I re­turn home is get mar­ried,” he said. There is no fi­ancee but he has his eye on his cousin.

Laura Hamil­ton-Gor­don, the man­ager of psy­choso­cial care at the Amman hos­pi­tal project, said that al­though many of the pa­tients came from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and back­grounds, their in­juries made them more em­pa­thetic to­wards each other.

Mean­while, see­ing oth­ers in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to them made them open up more about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

This cer­tainly seemed to be true for Mr Ra­joob.

“I try to put a smile on other pa­tient’s faces,” he said.

Alessio Mamo for The Na­tional

Above left and cen­tre, Manal, 11, ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal this year and loves mu­sic lessons; top and above, Yousef, 17, was set alight by masked men in Bagh­dad; be­low, bomb vic­tim Qatada from Aden

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