Secret field hospitals are life savers for Syrians


The car screeches to a halt in front of the mosque, the driver jumps out and cries out de4sperately for help. In the back seat, a young man is bleeding to death.

Two men rush, pull him out of the car and carry him into the mosque where a clandestine makeshift field hospital has been set up to treat wounded rebels.

Two men rush, pull him out of the car and carry him into the mosque where a clandestine makeshift field hospital has been set up to treat wounded rebels.

The 20-year-old’s face is contorted with pain, blood flows from his body and streaks the ground.

He was wounded when a sniper opened fire on the vehicle as it was travelling in the Atari region of Aleppo province, in northern Syria, where regime forces and rebels have been squaring off.

The nurses remove his jacket and his blood-soaked vest, revealing the impact of the bullet that pierced his body.

They use scissors to cut his clothes and begin washing the wounds, working quickly out of fear that the patient might not last.

“The bullet entered via the back and come out through the chest. He has a punctured lung and has lost a lot of blood. His condition is critical,” says the 40-year-old doctor, as he puts on a pair of latex gloves.

A trained anesthetist before the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he had has been forced to carry out emergency surgery to treat the most serious case in the absence of qualified medics.

But he cannot always save lives and complains bitterly that he lacks the adequate medical equipment.

“With the tools that we have at our disposal, there’s absolutely nothing we can do. We use spoons as surgical instruments,” he adds, angrily throwing one of the tools at the table.

The spoon serves as a lancet and a skimmer is used to hold open the wound.

The doctor, who asks to remain anonymous, has rigged up an emergency operating theatre at the back of the mosque from whatever he kind find.

“Like this we can’t do anything,” he repeats, as the patient’s blood seeps onto the ground.

He makes an incision with a knife and inserts a plastic catheter, working under the dim light of projectors and two old lamps.

“He has a pneumothorax,” or collapsed lung, the doctor says, as he fixes the tube with stitches, and blood-soaked gauzes pile up.

With the help of his assistants, the doctor manages to stem the internal bleeding, but the young man’s breathing is irregular, and the hardest part remains -- keeping him alive and stitching up his wounds.

“The anesthesia at our disposal is insufficient. We lack many things. No one helps us so all we can do is surrender ourselves to God,” says one of the male nurses.

In one hand she holds a blood bag and grips a lamp with the other.

On a stretcher nearby, men take turns to donate blood, even though the field hospital has no refrigerators to store it in, so that it must be transfused directly.

Villagers wait outside the operating theatre to give their blood.

Everyone here seems willing to help, knowing that tomorrow it could be them needing emergency medical treatment.

Exasperated, the doctor throws his plastic gloves on the table covered in bloody instruments. The young man is still alive, but for how much longer?

“God alone knows,” he says.