My sister is under siege in a Gaza hospital

Al-Amal hospital serves as the headquarters of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. 

Saher Alghorra ZUMA Press Wire

I am very worried about my sister Duaa.

She is a patient at al-Amal hospital. Located in Khan Younis southern Gaza, the hospital has been under Israeli siege for more than two weeks.

The hospital – which serves as headquarters for the Palestine Red Crescent Society – has little fuel left and has completely run out of some medicines.

Duaa has been paralyzed because of an Israeli attack on al-Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza, in October.

She needs surgery outside Gaza. But the siege on the hospital means that she cannot leave.

I spent two weeks in al-Amal hospital during November.

While I was there, Duaa managed to describe what had happened to her. This is what she said:

It was 11.30 at night. I had put my kids to sleep around me.

Usually, two of them would sleep in their grandparents’ room on the lower floor. That day, though, Aisha quarrelled with her younger sister Leen, so fate determined that all of them would sleep in my room.

My husband, my four daughters and I were all in one room, and next to me was my newborn daughter Zaina, who was only 20 days old. I prayed to God to protect them from any harm and to grant us another morning alive.

The atmosphere was disturbing. The sounds of shelling and missile strikes were terrifying.

We, however, managed to endure these sounds and let our eyes close.

By midnight, we hadn’t really slept, we had just dozed off. I didn’t hear anything but I woke up to the sound of my husband calling my name, “Duaa, Duaa.”

He was surrounded by his siblings, trying to rescue him from under the rubble. I tried to breathe in and out and told myself that the time to depart had come.

I fainted, expecting that I would move on to the other world. I was convinced it was the end.

But for some reason, it wasn’t.

I woke up again, lying on the side of the road, wrapped in a blanket. Someone was asking me, “Are you still alive?”

I nodded my head, indicating that yes, I was still alive.

I waited a long time for an ambulance. My hands began to numb, a strange sensation.

When the ambulance arrived, I woke up again. I told the medics that my hands were getting numb, something strange was happening in my body.

I reached the hospital and started asking if my family members were okay. I didn’t pay much attention to my own condition; I was only inquiring about my kids and my husband.

Miraculously, we were all alive. God did save us all.

Then my journey of suffering began. I was moved between different parts of the hospital, unable to understand what was going on around me.

The entire hospital was chaotic, filled with the wounded, martyrs and those grieving for their loved ones.

When I was examined, they found that a displacement in the fifth and sixth vertebrae of my spine had bruised the spinal cord, causing quadriplegia.

I wasn’t shocked. I don’t know why.

I needed surgery but the necessary tools were not available in the hospital. I waited, perhaps for 10 hours or more, until they transferred me to the European Gaza Hospital near Khan Younis to perform the operation.

I was so privileged to have had this surgery done, to receive treatment and to have shelter as I heard about so many wounded people being left under the rubble, bleeding to death with no one to rescue them.

My spinal cord was damaged and paralysis had occurred. The staff at the hospital expressed a hope that perhaps, with six months of treatment and rehabilitation, I could return to my normal life.

I didn’t believe in this hope.

The profound ache within me wasn’t the result of my injuries. The true anguish was the separation from my little daughter who hadn’t even become a month old.

My eldest daughter Aisha asked her father, “Did my mother die?” It was heartbreaking to hear that.

All my kids are so little. None of them can fend for themselves. They all need me.

My husband has said comforting things. But there are many sorrows that I am suppressing.

I am holding my tears until I will have someone to wipe them away for me. Because I cannot do that myself.

Neither am I able to brush my daughters’ hair nor carry my little newborn Zaina. I can’t lean in to kiss them or hug them.

I am a teacher. But I don’t know when I’ll hold some chalk in my fingers again, when I will enter a classroom, when I will hear a school bell again. If I ever will.

They stole from me the lifeblood of being a parent and a teacher, the most precious things I had.

I have now been transferred to al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis to receive some physical therapy until the opportunity to travel abroad for treatment arises. I need another operation on my neck and intensive physical therapy.

Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I just wait.

Each day we check a list of 20 to 30 names of patients allowed to depart for treatment. Each day, despair strangles us.

Our chance to get out of here looks farther and farther away.

The intensification of the attacks on Khan Younis makes it feel like death is approaching.

The window is supposed to give me some sunlight and – when it’s opened – some air. But it keeps shaking many times a day.

I am getting weaker.

Sondos Alfayoumi is a writer and translator in Gaza.