Palestine: Testimonies from MSF patients in Gaza
20-year Iman is in MSF’s clinic in Khan Younis receiving treatment for the severe burn injuries she sustained when a bomb hit her family’s house during the latest war.
“During the war my whole family – my uncles and the children – would gather in our home. We thought it was safe, as it was in an area that hadn’t been targeted before. At night, we all slept together in one room. On the day the Israeli bomb hit our home, my father had gone out only a minute before. Then I heard someone shouting at us from outside to evacuate the house immediately, but the bomb hit at that very moment.
My brother lost both his legs and my mother who was carrying my 18-month old sibling was also hit. Unconscious, I was taken by ambulance to one hospital and then to another, where I was admitted to the ICU. I have 2nd and 3rd degree burns all over my body and I also lost some bones in my shoulder. My injuries were so severe that I was transferred to Israeli hospitals where I had many operations.
It’s not yet certain that I’ll make a full recovery but I’m going to improve so much that I’ll be able to lead a normal life. I want to get well soon. I’m really getting better. They say I’ll be able to continue my education in about a month. I come to the MSF clinic in Khan Younis since three months three times a week for physiotherapy and follow-up.
I want to go to law school and become a lawyer in Gaza. I never wanted to be a lawyer before. But after what happened to my family, and to me, I wish someone would stand up for me, for our country, for our rights. I lost 13 of my closest relatives. I want the world to know what’s really happening in Gaza. I want the world to know how much we suffer here in Palestine, and that something must be done to stop this suffering. I never wanted to advocate or speak out about what’s really going on here. It’s not easy for me to speak out, but I want to deliver the message to everyone that we are suffering and that we need help to put a stop to it.”
22-year Rasha is in MSF’s tent clinic in Nasser Hospital attending consultations for the first round of surgery on 1 April 2015.
“My name is Rasha. I’m 22-years old and I was injured on 29 July. I was burned all over. It happened in my home. They didn’t warn us, there was no alert. They suddenly shot at us. My father-in-law, mother-in-law and my sister-in-law were injured. And now my question is, ‘why us?’ Why did this happen? And I would like to deliver a message to our peoples – instead of fighting each other, come and look at us.”
20-year Nadir is an old architecture student. During the war, the Israeli army shot at Nadir while he was opening a gas canister, which exploded. He has severe burns on his hands, arms, back and abdomen. He has been approved for surgery on his hands to afford him better movement, and to release his armpits. MSF surgeons have performed surgery on him but he needs follow-up procedures. The next round of surgery, scheduled by MSF for the end of April, had to be postponed. The MSF surgeon, who had already arrived in Jerusalem, was not authorised by Israel to enter Gaza.
“I was injured during the latest conflict, on 29 July, the second day of Eid. I was with my father taking water to our house, and I opened a gas canister. The rocket landed right on it. I remember an explosion and I was burned. I was taken to Nassir Hospital but it didn’t have adequate medical facilities so they referred me to Egypt where I spent 60 days. But it was the same in that hospital too. They didn’t have the medical services required to treat my injuries.
I was operated on once in Jerusalem but it was useless. I should have had a plastic surgeon but the procedure was performed by an orthopaedic surgeon. It was pointless. I returned to Gaza without completing the treatment. In the MSF clinic in Khan Younis I got proper dressings and I started to have physiotherapy. But it’s not sufficient. I need more surgery but of course I can’t get out of Gaza because the borders are closed. I must have further treatment.
I was studying architecture. I’d finished two years of studies, but I can’t continue. With my hands and arms like this I can’t write, I can’t draw, so I just stay at home and do nothing. In the future I wish to be normal, like everyone else. It’s my right.”
20-year Ahmand, from Shaja’iya, in the north of Gaza Strip, is in MSF’s Gaza City clinic.
“I was on my way from my home to the mosque when suddenly I heard an explosion in nearby Shaja’iya, so I ran to see if I could help. I saw a little girl, maybe six-years old, who was dying, so I picked her up. While I was carrying her to the ambulance, there was another explosion and all the people around the ambulance, including me, were injured and some were killed. I was hit by shrapnel, and my left leg and my neck were injured. Now I need surgery and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go abroad for it through MSF. They can’t do this kind of surgery here. I’m told there is no capacity and no skilled surgeons to perform the type of surgery I need.”
34-year Najwa is an old mother from Khan Younis. She was approved for surgery and referred to the MSF reconstructive surgery clinic in Amman, Jordan. But her husband, who is her carer, was not authorised by the Israelis to leave Gaza and accompany her. Before leaving Gaza she said:
“It was during the war. I was targeted and hit by an Israeli bomb on my way home. I’ve contracted a multidrug resistant bacterial infection and I have a 15 cm gap in the bones in my left leg. I know the orthopaedists in the MSF hospital in Amman need to decide if they can perform reconstructive surgery on my leg or if it needs to be amputated.
I’ve been accepted for referral to the MSF hospital in Amman but my husband has been refused authorisation by the Israelis to accompany me. MSF has tried to find another solution to get me across the Egyptian border, but it’s always closed. It’s very difficult for me to leave Gaza and get the treatment I need. MSF provides transportation and medical care at its hospital in Amman, but how can I go without my husband? I don’t have anyone other than him who I trust to care for me.
I’m caught between two choices: long-term treatment or amputation. I’m so worried about the infection I’ve got. I’m infected with multi-drug resistant bacteria, so I’m resistant to most of the available antibiotics. I have to take very strong antibiotics, which can only be obtained in hospitals. And even there, they’re not easy to get.
All I do is sit at home all day, unable to move or to even take care of my youngest, my three-year old son. He’s always asking me to give him things, like milk. I really want to be able to get around and give him what he needs, but I can’t.”
At the end of last April, Najwa was eventually referred to Amman, but without her husband. It was a tough decision for both of them. She hasn’t had surgery yet, but she has had extensive consultations, physiotherapy and follow-up treatment. Her blood test results are excellent and the MSF surgeons say she can start the first round of surgery in mid-July. The surgeons are planning the surgery in three stages. First, a muscle transfer to the knee, to make it strong enough for further bone procedures. Second, more surgery to attach a plate to hold the bones together and, lastly, a bone graft to elongate the bone and compensate for bone-loss.
After three months in Amman, Najwa says: ‘’I miss my family and Ramadan in Gaza. It’s very difficult to spend this time far from my kids but what makes me strong is that I’m away so I can recover and soon I’ll be able to look after them.’’ Najwa has made friends with some of the patients in the MSF hospital: ‘‘my best friend here is Hanan. She’s Iraqi. Her leg was severely injured in Iraq and she’s here for the same reason that brought me here: to recover and be stronger so she can help look after her children.”