Since I started working with MSF, I’ve focused on the humanitarian aspect of my job. I’ve aimed to make patients feel as if they were in their own homes, not in a hospital, because I understand that being away from one’s family, home and country is as challenging for the patients as their nasty injuries.
This is even more important to consider as we are talking about war-wounded people who have gone through multiple psychological traumas in addition to their injuries.
For example, dealing with wounded children is particularly delicate. As a care taker of a child, you have to make sure the kid doesn’t sense your worry, and you have to always convince them that they are close to being a normal kid.
This gives them strength, confidence and endurance during the long treatment periods, be it a surgery or a psychological follow-up. I remember many children who lost one of their limbs and who would cheer up when I told them that if they lost an arm they still had their legs, or that it is still possible to get a prosthesis and be able again to play football or hold a coloring pen.
I am very happy with my relationship with the patients, especially the children, they run after me in the hospital corridors and call me by my first name. I’ve realised that this relationship is a vital source of happiness for me and a major incentive to keep doing what I started with MSF in 2006.
Sometimes I cry when they call me “mommy,” but I hide my tears because I am also a mom, and I know what it means for a kid to be away from his/her mother.
I still remember an encounter with a two-year-old female Iraqi patient who lost her mother to a bombing in Iraq, she was also seriously wounded. She was brought to the MSF hospital by her uncle.
One morning, while I was taking care of her in her room and helping her to change her clothes, she said: “take me to your home. Can I move to live with you?” This wasn’t only a request from a girl who had endured the horrors of war but also an indication that the care system provided by MSF through its surgery project in Amman, Jordan is a full and comprehensive one that touches on all aspects of caring for the war-wounded, including medical treatment, mental-health support and patient care.
The MSF hospital in Amman, Jordan
A day as a Patient Caretaker
I start my day early each morning by checking up on all the rooms that I supervise: a total of 15 rooms, including child and adult patients. The tour kicks off at the children’s rooms, where I bathe the kids but not in a conventional way. I have to encourage them to take a bath because their injuries may sometimes be painful. For example, I tell them short stories or give them a doll to get them to bathe. This also applies to older women, but with them I use friendly conversations.
Afterwards, I head to the adult rooms. I assist those who need help to go to other services at the hospital, or to have a cup of tea at the garden. I hand out hygiene kits and collect patients’ clothes that need to be washed. Then, I distribute their food portions, and check their needs and their outpatient, physiotherapy and surgery appointments.
Those patients have special needs compared to other patients that a nurse or assistant might deal with in other health facilities. These are war victims and any member of the MSF team can contribute to their psychological support. In this way, the role of the caretaker complements that of the psychological support team.
Even though I have been working with MSF for years now, this job still provides me with a considerable amount of happiness. I hope that the project will develop to provide care to the war-wounded in other MSF missions, and that the organisation can use the skills of caring for those victims in other countries.
I strongly believe we have reached a level that enables us to share our expertise in medical nursing. I also hope not to see any more war-wounded.