Nursing in Gaza: “He was hit by a single bullet, passing through both his lower legs”

South African nurse Annke is currently on assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near the border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Here, she shares the story of a patient recovering from a gunshot injury he received during the “March of Return” demonstrations in May.

Fadi and Annke at  the Khan Younis Clinic

Early this morning I was woken up by the sound of two explosions in Gaza.

It sounded some distance away, but it was still loud enough to wake me up and rattle the glass sliding door of my room. It took me a few seconds to orientate myself and for my heart rate to go back to normal again.

A bit later, as I sat on the small balcony outside my room with my cup of coffee, where the almost constant hoot-hoot of the taxis below never really quietens down, I thought about the people here – our neighbours and local staff members – who live through this every day.

Explosions and airstrikes are part of their everyday life, but still, life goes on...

The clinic regulars

A few weeks have passed now, and I have been helping to train and guide newly employed nurses at wound care clinics.

The faces of the regular patients are becoming familiar to me. Most days I am the only international team member around and they have started to ask me questions. As my name badge is written in Arabic script, I am often greeted with a loud and friendly: “How are you, Ankie?”

The patients want to know where I am from and why I came to Gaza. It is very nice to be able to introduce myself in Arabic and explain that I am a nurse from South Africa. Sometimes a local staff nurse has to help with some translation, but it is always a good discussion.

Fadi’s story

I noticed a quiet, friendly man that comes to the clinic three times a week and always wears a cap on his head. This week I asked him to tell me his story.

Fadi is his name. He has been a patient of the MSF clinic since 14 May.

He and his friends were protesting at the border when he was hit by a single bullet, passing through both his lower legs. He suffered tibia fractures in both legs and now has external fixators to keep the bone fragments in place to heal properly.

He comes to the Khan Younis clinic three times a week for wound care and physiotherapy. MSF sends an ambulance to pick him up at his home and take him back again after the treatment.

At the clinic, nurses monitor, clean and dress his wounds to prevent infection and promote healing. Then he receives physiotherapy from the team. He gets to do exercises to maintain the range of motion in his joints and to strengthen the muscles in his lower limbs. Then they use the parallel bar to do gait training.

Fadi is married and has one son. He is a salesman with a small roadside tea shop but he cannot work now. He hopes to recover quickly and be able to work in his shop again to provide for his family.

Nurse Siam translated while I listened to Fadi’s story. Fadi smiled when he expressed his gratitude towards MSF for the care he is receiving in the clinic.

“The care is excellent and MSF is just fantastic,” he smiled.

Top image shows Fadi and Annke at the Khan Younis Clinic.