“Let’s see if it’s possible to write a few lines from Lashkar-Gah without necessarily talking about death, shooting, or wounds to the body and soul. Let’s see if it’s possible to ‘recount’ without having to repeat the painful monotony of events – war, casualties, mass casualty, war, casualties, mass casualty… – that is so typical of every day in this part of Afghanistan. We’ll talk about people, but not about patients. We’ll talk about the lives of the people, without mentioning wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs.
Today I want to tell you about my heroes.
I want to tell you about Shah Wali, Juma Gul, Soraya and Nazu, Salim, and many others with almost identical names – Quadratullah, Esmatullah, Samiullah, Ekhmatullah… They’re our local staff. Today, they’re my heroes.
My heroes are the surgeons who’ve been working here since this hospital opened, and who’ve spent their days and nights over the past 10 years in the operating theater, fixing the damage so often caused by their brothers to their other brothers.
Each one of them has had to operate at least once on a relative, neighbor or friend. Each one of them has found, at least once, that it was too late to operate on a relative, neighbor or friend.
My heroes are our nurses – those who, as soon as there’s a mass casualty in the city, are here at the hospital gates within just a few minutes of the explosion, even if it’s their day off and nobody has called them. They want to put on their uniforms and lend a hand, straight away. Many of them have turned up at least once at the gates without their uniforms, because they themselves were the victims of the explosion.
My heroines are our female nurses working in the women’s and pediatric ward, who sometimes even go against their families wishes and demand to be able to work the night shifts, because they know the care in our hospital doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.
My heroes are our gardeners, who are out there even now, as I write, watering and pruning the plants and flowers. And now, as I write, the temperature out there is 48° C. But later, when it’s cooler, the hospital patients like to gather in those gardens of roses, sunflowers and flowering bushes. And those few square meters of color and peace become a meeting place, an escape for the eye and the mind.
My heroes are also the cooks who, like everyone else during this month of Ramadan, don’t eat or drink during the day. But during the entire day they prepare rice and vegetables, potatoes and meat, special diets for those who can’t chew and hyperproteic food for those who need it. Because food is no less a part of the treatment than an antibiotics drip. And my heroes know it.
My heroes are our guards, ‘armed’ only with transceivers, who spend their workdays outside the gate to check who’s coming in and out and to see what sort of air is blowing in the city. We all know this isn’t a quiet area, but the hospital has to be a quiet place, otherwise what kind of refuge would this be for the patients?
My heroines are also the laundry women – oh yes, without a doubt. The ones who bring us packs of snow white sheets every morning, then see them come back red like the roses in our garden. They work their magic every time. And then the cleaners – other heroes armed with cloths and brooms. Some of them have one or two fingers missing, or even a whole hand, because some of them tried out our hospital beds before coming here to clean them.
Today, they’re my heroes. There are around 400 of them, here with us. They haven’t got super-muscles or super-powers, but just being able to say you’ve met them somehow helps set the world right.”
EMERGENCY nurse in Afghanistan
To help support our local Afghan staff as they work tirelessly to create an environment of high standard care for members of their community