Two Gaza orthopedic surgeons, having treated thousands of people with broken limbs since 2019, are now applying their skills to saving animals in a community where veterinary services focus on more basic interventions.
Many of brothers Mohammad and Youssef al-Khaldi’s human patients have been victims of Israeli army gunfire at border protests, they say.
Their new charges, which they are treating in addition to people following a surge in inquiries from the owners of pets and livestock, generally came by their injuries in more prosaic circumstances. But for animals, they can often prove fatal.
“I turned to this out of compassion,” said Mohammad, noting that around 80 percent of animals with untreated fractures die, after he and Youssef tended to a sheep’s broken leg at their clinic in southern Rafah.
They have also mended bones on cats, dogs and even birds - including falcons - and usually invite a veterinarian to oversee the final stage of setting or prosthetic fitting.
Among recent satisfied customers was 28-year-old Anan al-Bayoumi, whose cat received a cast for a broken paw.
“I raise animals and (up to now).. there had been no institutions to do the casts,” he said. “(But the brothers) ... made it easy for us and they treated the cat.”
Due to poverty and the difficulty in importing goods across the Israeli- and Egyptian-controlled borders, the brothers often have to improvise casts or prosthetics for their animal patients from polyethylene and similar compounds.
“The (normal) materials are not currently available, so we use alternatives. It’s hard to tell someone a cast would cost $100. The casts we make cost 10 shekels or $3, and most of the time the service is free,” Mohammad said.