Syrian and MSF personnel also need support

I worked with a Syrian psychologist who sees all the hospital’s patients and is responsible for their treatment...

She started working two weeks before I arrived (my mission began in mid-April). She’s the one who’s there when a patient has to be told: “Your wife is not going to live.” Her support is invaluable.

She gets on well with MSF’s Syrian personnel who also turn to her for help because they face the same problems as their patients and need support too. Death, loss and suffering, as much physical as psychological, are as integral to their everyday lives at the hospital as they are to their patients’. Then they have to go home to their own families and communities and confront the same death, loss and suffering all over again. The cases they see over and over reflect their own sorrows, and it’s hard for them to keep the perspective they so badly need.

I set up discussion groups, particularly for our interpreters. They have the gruelling task of listening all day long to the traumatic stories told by patients and then having to repeat them as they translate them. They have to translate all exchanges with international MSF staff working in the hospital so they hear and see a lot, they are in the operating theatre, they’re with the patients, they’re everywhere. They aren’t trained for it and they really get hit hard.

I’m trained, it’s my job, and it gets to me. So for them…. It’s not the same for the doctors and nurses who have their own coping mechanisms. But it can be complicated for them too, especially when really little kids are involved, as there’s a huge emotional impact that’s difficult to cope with.