03 May 2017

Mohammed– MSF Assistant Surgeon

My name is Mohammed Khalid Taha. I am 38 years old and I work as an assistant surgeon in the operation room here in the trauma center. The work here is really beautiful. I describe it beautiful because the people I work with are intelligent, respectable, and treat me as an equal.

While I work here, I also work in another government hospital in Al-Salmaniyeh. When I’m off from work, I come straight to here to assist in surgeries.

A lot of the patients that we treat have different types of wounds. It ranges from amputations to complicated forms of surgeries. Those we can help come to our operating theater, while others are referred to other hospitals. There was a period in which we had to do a lot of surgeries. You have to save people as quickly as you can in order to move to the next case. You cannot hesitate or be slow because the life of the patient could be at risk.  The most important thing is to save them.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Iraq, South Mosul
Assistant Surgeon Mohammed at the post-operation recovery room. Photo: Alice Martins

Overall, a lot of the cases are very depressing, they’re miserable cases. At my day job [in the government hospital], we mainly treat injuries related to accidents and after a number of years working in such an environment, and you get used to the work. But here, you see different types of injuries in different age groups. The youngest patient I worked on was a seven year old, while the eldest was around 60. It’ll affect you. You will hold yourself together, yet inside you will still be affected.  Many of the cases I have dealt with related to suspected sniper fire or IEDs on the road.

So thankfully the team here is exceptional and cooperative. We are learning a lot from the modes of work. And I do think the various humanitarian groups working in Iraq are helping, including MSF, and they are doing right. We do see horrible

Bilal* - Emergency Room Cleaner

I am 28 years old but the situation we’re facing makes me feel like I am 100 years old. I started working in the trauma center when it opened. I am a cleaner for the emergency room. I clean before the injured come in, and especially when they are taken away.  The work is good. You see hard situations but I am used to this because I worked as a cleaner in other hospitals before. So blood or no blood, I have seen it all.

I have lived in this area my whole life. I never went anywhere. Before ISIS, it was a good and decent life. When ISIS came, and the siege was placed, we had no work. We had no money to buy clothes and had to rely on our savings and whatever we had at home. Then we were liberated and ISIS was gone, and now I work with MSF, so life is better.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Iraq, South Mosul
Bilal* (right), is an Emergency room cleaner at MSF’s Trauma hospital South of Mosul. Photo: Alice Martins

Till now I wouldn’t say I’ve been through many difficulties in my work but yes, we are still bothered by the fact that our community, our family are hurt. Truthfully, the country isn’t secure and the future seems unstable. So internally we aren’t in comfort. 

I don’t have much hope for the future. If these organizations leave, and our work is over, we don’t have much left. There is barely anything left. Yet, I still get up in the morning and I still come to work.

*Name has been changed

Ayman - Caretaker

My wife’s name is Widad and we’ve been married for 7 years. We have only one child who is six months old. Her name is Hadeel. It’s a beautiful name don’t you think?

We lived in the IS controlled district of Yarmouk in Mosul where life was indescribable. There was hunger, fear and terror. ISIS would kidnap people and whatever form of torture you can think of, they did. There were airstrikes on our area and there was shelling. It was death all around. If we didn’t leave you would have died at home.

My lovely wife, during all the fighting and strikes, she would sew things for her child. She would make gloves, scarves, pajamas. Seven years and this is our first child. It was tough for us to conceive a child but we were granted Hadeel. 

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Iraq, South Mosul
Ayman and his wife Widad, who lost her leg due to an explosion while they were fleeing for safey. Photo: Alice Martins

We decided to leave last night (March 30th) at one in the morning with a bunch of people. We were a huge family leaving by foot. They [ISIS] saw us – they were stationed on one of the roof tops -- and then I think they triggered an improvised explosive device. My wife lost her leg. Four children were taken to Erbil for treatment; I think one of them has died. I don’t know. I don’t know about the others who were with us.

We were brought to a medical point where they stopped my wife from bleeding to death. Then they referred us here [MSF Trauma center]. They welcomed us. It was a good reception. Yes they are foreigners, and they came from far away, but they are better than any other humans I’ve known. All I’ve seen was slaughter and death. But here [in the MSF trauma center], there is a sense of safety. They take care of the sick and injured.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Iraq, South Mosul
10 years old Ilham, taken to the operating theatre for surgery on her abdomen. Photo: Alice Martins

They took care of my wife. They treated her but she has no leg. She has no leg and I think this will hurt us in the future. I know this is God’s will, but I don’t understand why this happened. This shouldn’t have happened. I do have hope for the future. I do have hope. Life will return to normal. We will forget this horror. As long as we have hope we can live, without hope, life is over. 

I just hope tomorrow my wife can be better, that she can get up, she can walk, play with her daughter. I have hope. God takes things and give things. I will be by her side and help her, Inshallah. 

MSF opened a field trauma clinic with an emergency room, operating theatre, intensive care unit and in patient department on the 16th February in a village south of Mosul. For more than one month is was been the closest surgical facility to West Mosul. Read up more about MSF's projects in Mosul and surrounding areas. 

Find out about MSF's activities in Iraq