At Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, we are no strangers to treating victims of airstrikes over the years. The team all too often must rush into the emergency room, all hands on deck, ready to treat shrapnel wounds, burns and blood loss. In the early days of the current Israel-Hamas conflict, our hospital of only 80 beds was quickly overrun. On Oct. 17, following the explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, we were flooded with dozens of wounded and dying victims. By the next day, our patient roster had grown by nearly 120. We knew it would be another sleepless night, another in a string of far too many since the violence started 10 days earlier.
As many as three to four children had to share single beds, and many more were forced to settle for the floors. Some patients from the hospital explosion came in screaming in pain, but others were silent, in shock or beyond saving. With anesthesia, iodine, alcohol, blood and even gauze running low or entirely gone, we had a dwindling supply of tools to help ease the human suffering. The people who flocked to Kamal Adwan to sleep in our hallways or even the parking lot, believing it safer than their homes, were no doubt as frightened as we were.
As I write this, the hospital is on the precipice of true disaster. We are down to the last gallons of fuel necessary to run the electric generators, despite our most stringent efforts to ration it since the start of hostilities. Lights are off most of the time, elevators are out and patients are carried between floors. When the fuel runs out, we will no longer be able to function at night after the sun goes down. Most of the tools and equipment needed to run a modern hospital like ventilators, defibrillators and our neonatal units will become useless. When the generators fall silent, we will be relegated to practicing medieval-level medicine. Without an urgent resupply of fuel, the lights will go out permanently, and our hospital could turn into a morgue.
Kamal Adwan is far from the only hospital reaching its breaking point, as doctors like myself desperately cry out for more aid to Gaza. I’m a pediatrician at Kamal Adwan, part of a team of nine MedGlobal doctors and humanitarian aid workers that have been on the ground in Gaza since 2018. In that time we’ve seen our share of tragedy, suffering and shortage, but nothing could have prepared us for the horrors of the past few weeks. My team and I have divided our time between caring for patients and locally sourcing and distributing medical supplies, food and fuel to 11 different hospitals — $1.3 million worth of resources since the violence began. And it is still not nearly enough.
Most of us have chosen to remain in northern Gaza, defying the evacuation orders because we’re unwilling to leave behind our patients, for many of whom evacuation would mean certain death. Abandoning them now would be a violation of my Hippocratic oath as well as basic human decency. My wife and six children have also stayed at the hospital with me since the violence began. I’ve tried to convince them to head south, but my wife told me that we will either live or die together. Many Palestinians in north Gaza feel the same, risking their lives at home rather than face the prospect of becoming refugees in the south.
Doctors are no strangers to tragedy or death and are trained to steel themselves against it, but the pressure we’ve been under these past few weeks is beyond any training. One of my colleagues lost his father and brother to an airstrike in the first week of the fighting; another saw his dead son wheeled in by an emergency crew. At a professional level, a personal level and most fundamentally a human level, the people of Gaza and the medics who care for them are at a breaking point. Like our patients, especially the children, this conflict will leave every one of us traumatized.
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