Yemen: "We worked through the night"

16 February 2017

Hella Hultin is a surgeon from Sweden. She is currently on assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Khameer, Yemen. Here she blogs about her first night in the hospital, and working at full speed from the start.

On the first night I arrived Khameer, in northern Yemen, I was shown around the hospital.  A little confusing at first, it was hard to find my way around and people swarmed everywhere. The female nurses were indistinguishable from each other, because they were completely covered in black, only their eyes visible. 

We were about do an appendectomy on a girl, but my Yemeni colleague thought I might be tired after the long journey, and did not think I needed to attend. So I sat in the operating room and watched.

Suddenly both of our phones rang. The voice on the other end was stressed, asking me to come straight to the emergency room.

"I quickly lurched on a white coat on and hurried off, so fast that the cats outside ran away frightened in all directions." Photo: Hella Hultin/MSF

"Help! How do I get there?" I thought, while I quickly lurched on a white coat on and hurried off, so fast that the cats outside ran away, frightened, in all directions.

"Emergency?" I asked the attendant outside, and was pointed in the right direction.

When I arrived the emergency room was full of people, both patients and relatives. Many patients were being rolled in on stretchers from the ambulance entrance.

I was told that there had been an air strike just a few hours ago and that more injured people would arrive.

They were all covered with dust and dirt, and almost all had wounds from shrapnel. Several had fractures of the arms or legs, and some had burns on the face and hands.

A desperate husband ran around the room and screamed - when I finally got the interpreter to translate what he was saying, it appeared that he was missing two of his two children who were there when it happened.

It is not hard to imagine his anxiety.

Hella and the team operate. Photo: Hella Hultin/MSF

We worked all night, and all of the patients were admitted to hospital. Two of the most seriously injured we transferred on to a bigger hospital because they needed help we could not provide. 

When I at last lay down in my bed, I felt like I had been here for several weeks.
 

You can read Hella's original post in Swedish here.
 

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