Paralysed after a bullet in the back

Johanna Lassy-Mäntyvaara
Ahmed Abunabut was hit by a bullet in the back. Bilal Al-Harrari is his physician who works for the Qatar Red Crescent Society.
Image: Johanna Lassy-Mäntyvaara

Treating injured victims of the drawn-out and increasingly brutal conflict in Syria are part of everyday life at a hospital in Amman, Jordan. Thanks to the efforts of the Red Crescent, at least some of the tragic stories here will have a happy ending.

An atmosphere of intense apprehension pervades the Islamic Hospital in Amman, whereworried family members await news of relatives, many of whom are patients here after being injured in the violent civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Every day, people injured in the fighting are brought to this hospital in the capital of Jordan.Amman is just one hour’s drive from where so many people are being killed and wounded in the violence.

‘Since June [2012], we have had more than 165 patients come from Syria to this hospital alone, and some five per day have been in need of surgery,’ says Sulaiman Mukahhal, a representative of the Qatar Red Crescent Society in Jordan.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society helps people wounded in war by paying for treatment and by transporting patients from the Syrian border.For many Syrians, this has been a lifesaver as it is the only way they could receive the emergency surgery they need.

The Red Crescent has also employed doctors to work at the hospital and has provided funding for new medical equipment.The hospital building itself is large enough, but does not have enough beds for the increasing number of patients.

Over the past year, the Qatar Red Crescent Society has provided hospital care for Syrian patients at a cost of some USD 1.5 million.

Dreaming of returning home

The stories of the young men being treated at the hospital in Amman are horrifying – many now face a future without a limb or full mobility.

Ahmed Abunabut, 37, after being hit by a bullet in the back, is now quadriplegic.His brother, standing beside the hospital bed looking deeply concerned, is the one who carried Ahmed to safety after he was shot, then managed to get him across the border into Jordan.Thanks to the Red Crescent, Ahmed has had two surgical operations to repair some of his damaged internal organs.

Ahmed has spent eleven days in hospital, but his family is still in Syria.He has one child and another on the way.At present, he does not know exactly where they are.

‘I hope they are safe.I want to return as soon as I can,’ Ahmed says gravely.

His physician Bilal Al-Harrari, who works for the Qatar Red Crescent Society, promises to do his utmost to help Ahmed regain mobility. However, it is not an easy job.The injuries Ahmed sustained, like those of many of his fellow patients, are very serious.

Care within three hours

There are also some hopeful stories.Sulaiman Mukallah tells of a two-year-old boy who, in December 2012, was brought to the hospital, his skull pierced by a sniper’s bullet.

The boy’s father had managed to get his son to a field hospital in Syria. A call went out to the representative of the Qatar Red Crescent and the father proceeded to carry his child across the dangerous border into Jordan, where a Red Crescent car was waiting.Within three hours of being shot, the little boy received the care he needed,and there is hope of recovery for him.

The United Nations estimates that some 600,000 people have already fled from the violence in Syria, and it is feared that the numbers will continue to grow.To date, January 2013, Jordan has taken in more than 170,000 refugees, and the UN suggests that by the summer they could number 300,000.

More and more of the refugees in Jordan are moving from the refugee camps into the cities and towns, where the Jordan Red Crescent Society, the International Red Cross and other neighbouring Red Cross Societies have distributed mattresses, blankets, kitchen equipment, heaters and food.The Finnish Red Cross has provided EUR 500,000 from its Disaster Relief Fund and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland to fund the aid operations in Syria.

Text: Johanna Lassy-Mäntyvaara