A Spiritually Guided Journey?It's Sunday, 13 March 2011. The manager at Afrique Hotel freaks, ask guests to evacuate immediately and leave the city, no questions asked. We go to Adjidabia Hospital, where, since 7 March, our teams have performed several life saving procedures, treated patients at casualty and in the ward, taught junior doctors and assisted in medical skills transfer in various areas of learning. Dr Jooma, hospital superintendent at Adjidabia Hospital, also advises evacuation to Benghazi as they are doing the same for all patients and medical personnel with immediate effect. As this drama is unfolding, human fingers land on the boot of Dr As'ad Bhorat, our anaesthetist, as he is preparing for a gunshot wound patient. A bomb had just exploded in the hands of a teenager in the hospital passage narrowly missing As'ad and Dr Livan Turino, our orthopaedic surgeon.
Dr Jooma emphasises that we have to evacuate for five main reasons: 1.Gaddafi's forces are 30km outside the city. 2.We have journalists in our team. Journalists are specifically targeted by government forces; an Al Jazira journalist was eliminated in a targeted assasination just days previously, four BBC and four New York Times journalists disappeared, presumed dead. 3.Although we have doctors in our team we are foreign nationals and as such regarded as the enemy. Doctors and ambulances were missing. Hospitals and ambulances were bombed, war casualties treated in wards were shot at point blank range by occupying government troops. 4.We had Libyan doctors from South Africa who were our team members. Their crime; they were from Tripoli in the west and were now "serving" in the east and would be shot on sight as traitors. 5.Gaddafi's supporters spread runours that missiles and other weaponry was hidden in Adjidabia Hospital, a false accusation, and as such was now earmarked to be targeted as an enemy military facility.
Weighing all factors we decided to evacuate our team of 22. 0nly a few hours later the aerial bombardment of Adjidabia commenced and 20 hours later the city was totally besieged by tanks supported by air cover. Our evacuation was timeous as residents are trapped to this day. Men, women and children civilian non combatants maimed, killed and trapped with no access to any form of health care.
In Benghazi our teams treated patients, again mainly civilians, at Haweri Hospital, who have been the real casualties throughout this war. They had arrived days previously from several bombarded areas. On tues,15 March, our teams were rushed to the hospital to attend to some patients who managed to escape Adjidabia. Tragically a 22 year old girl died on the table 30 mins after our team tried to revive her. She died from bullet ruptured arteries and bled to death internally. The time to leave had arrived; we had helped clear the patient load, were a moral boost to the Libyan people, had delivered more than 120 000 USD of medical equipment and supplies, including delivery to the totally besieged city of Masurata. The frontline medical care was now moved to Benghazi. Medical teams from all frontlines had congregated here. With an overload of medical personnel and inaccessible patients trapped in besieged cities, our mission was done.
In the meantime several unsavoury characters were questioning our team at the hotel: where were we from, what were we doing here, what was our occupation, what passports we held and wanted those details. As we departed Benghazi the bombs fell within hours; a few days later our hotel came under sniper fire. For a change, at every moment, we were NOT at the wrong place at the wrong time. Makes you think doesn't it?
The pitiful plight of refugees at the border, the docile nature of ordinary Libyans, their total unpreparedness for war, the poverty, the under development, the terror, the torture, the incarceration and the summary executions, all these are stories for another time.