From Chicago to Kabul– Part 4

We would like to thank Kathy Kelly, Chicago based humanitarian worker and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, for joining EMERGENCY USA as a guest blog author. After traveling to the EMERGENCY Surgical Center in Kabul, Kelly reflected on her experience in a piece entitled “In EMERGENCY,” which was published on Telesur English on August 13th.

This is the fourth of a five part series (read part 1, read part 2, read part 3in which Kelly reports on the life-saving care provided at the Kabul Surgical Center. By sharing her personal view of EMERGENCY’s impact in Afghanistan, Kelly joins Khaled Hoseini and many other EMERGENCY USA supporters who believe that high quality healthcare is a basic human right. 

Check back next Wednesday for part 5.  

Before donating blood, we visited an EMERGENCY ward where we paused at the bedsides of Farshaid and Jamshaid, twelve-year-old boys who were injured when a suicide bomber attacked NATO troops and Afghan police near the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan’s Parwan province. Ten civilians, four Czech soldiers and two Afghan police were killed.

The boys had been standing outside their school when the attack happened. Farshaid’s leg was amputated.  At first we thought Jamshaid, his friend, was better off, having suffered a broken leg, but then we learned that he has lost much of his vision.  One of their school friends was discharged the previous day, and he also lost one leg. Jamshaid and Farshaid were sad and listless.


Farshaid, a 12-year-old patient at the EMERGENCY Surgical Center in Kabul

“Ah,” said Michaela Paschetto, a young Italian nurse, “today was a bad day for them. Maybe they miss their friend.” She said she has been affectionately calling them “the gang” because sometimes they race about in their wheelchairs. Then she paused.  “Really, I don’t ask so many questions,” she continued.  “It becomes too much.” Over the past five years working with EMERGENCY in Afghanistan, she has seen so many broken-hearted young boys whose bodies are maimed by war.

We asked Giacomo how he and the staff cope with the stress involved in their work. He recalled a day, not long ago, when the hospital received 46 new patients in one half hour.  100 family members were outside the gate.  One of them became like a superhero and made his way past Giacomo and four security guards trying to restrain him.  He wasn’t an attacker; he was only desperate to find his children.  “We see so much trauma and death,” he said.  “We need breaks.”

EMERGENCY recommends its staff take a 15-day holiday every six months.  But they must also find daily ways to disconnect.  It’s hard because they must always have a live radio with them, ready to order them into surgery.  Giacomo watches films or reads books.  Too often they must remind each other to stop talking constantly about “the work.”  “Play ping pong,” says Giacomo, “have a Bar-B-Q, have one free day every week.  You have to balance the bad energy.”

To learn more about EMERGENCY’s programs in Afghanistan, click here. If you would like to join Kathy Kelly in supporting Afghan civilian victims of war, please click here to donate today

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