A Week In The Life of: GaniHalilaj, Albanian psychiatrist - Doctor to the living dead of Kosovo

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THURSDAY

I WOKE up at 7am as usual and had coffee - I don't smoke. My patients are waiting for me. I'm the only doctor working in this region and there are 15,000 people. Every day I see 150 to 200 patients.

Today I had the case of a brother and sister who are severely traumatised. The sister is still in a very bad way, she would not say anything except: ``They will kill my brother, they will kill my father.'' She just kept repeating that.

The brother didn't say anything at all, but when I questioned him, eventually he answered. We gave him a sedative. He was terrified there will be another offensive. I can't give too many details because of professional secrecy, but .. everyone fled from his village to the mountains, but the soldiers followed and caught his father - he saw that. Then they came back for the boy and threatened to cut his throat and beat him. The two were held for several days in very bad conditions.Their father survived.

FRIDAY

EVERY DAY has the same rhythm. I work for three hours, then my neighbour brings me a coffee and I carry on until 2pm. I eat upstairs - someone brings lunch, today it is a tin of tuna. The room is filled with humanitarian aid, but we have a corner to eat in. I have 10 minutes, and then I continue working until 6pm. There are six people in my team, including two nurses and a pharmacist. Three of them were health workers before the war, the other three are high-school graduates helping out.

I was promised that a supply of medicines would come today and so many more patients than usual are waiting. But they did not come, so I had many problems. I had promised people there would be drugs, so they were very upset and disappointed. So was I. This was the hardest day since the offensive. I felt terrible about the supplies not coming.

I also had a session with Besnik, one of the last survivors of the Deliu family - more than 20 of them were massacred in Obrinje last month, men,women and children. He responded well to questions, so I felt better about him. At the beginning, he was just gazing into the distance, and would not say anything. He was silent. But now he is OK.He is five years old. Two of his sisters, aged one and three, also survived.

I went back to the clinic until dark. I live in this village, but since the offensive my family has moved to Pristina, and I cannot go to visit them. I haven't seen them for more than two weeks, but we talk on the phone sometimes.

SATURDAY

I DIDN'T do anything special today - every day is a working day. I haven't had a day off in eight months. We don't have electricity, and water comes from a stream on the hill. My house was burnt during the shelling, but the big meeting room was saved, so I live there with my team. The roof was burnt off, so we just share the one room.

SUNDAY

I LISTEN to the news on a small radio, but I'm not very interested in it - I have my own problems. Today there were not so many patients, because they knew we had no medical supplies.

I specialised as a neuro-psychiatrist, but in Albania, so the Serbian government did not accept my qualifications, and I worked for 14 years in this area as a GP, with clinics in several villages. They didn't have much need for a psychiatrist then, but at this moment I am very much in demand. My only relaxation comes from the hope that some day all this will come good, that I will see the Serbian occupying forces go for once and for all.

I could not sustain this kind of work-load if the situation was normal but now it gives me the strength to keep going.

MONDAY

I HAD a lot more work today, normal cases. Well, not normal, but normal for this situation. Most of the children I see have stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydration. I'm no expert in this, but I think it's the cold and the dirt. The food is not fresh and even though they collect water when it rains, the water gets very dirty. And they don't have proper shelter, they live in very cold places. I was very disappointed again I had hoped the medical supplies would come today.

TUESDAY

AT 10am Medecins du Monde and Unicef drove in with a convoy of medical supplies and three teams of doctors - one team stopped at my clinic, a paediatrician and a gynaecologist, French.

They brought needles, antibiotics, rehydration kits, all kinds of stuff, but it will last at most three days. The French doctor said I could work with the team, or I could have a day off. I thanked him and said it would be my first free day for eight months, so I left.

I went further down the hill to a village where they have electricity, to my friend's house, and watched television, to see what the rest of the world was saying about us. The convoy with the medical supplies was on the news.

For the whole day I just drank coffee, and watched television, and had a very nice day.

WEDNESDAY

I SPOKE to my children - I have six, five girls and a boy - by telephone. Usually I get to the clinic at 8am, but today I had to visit two patients so I was late. When I got to the check-point, a man was waiting for me to take me to see his mother-in-law, who has high blood pressure, and I also had to visit some children who had stomach aches, high temperatures and diarrhoea.

I told the father what medicines he needed to buy, but I said that if he could not find them, we had some drugs in the clinic. I'm sure he will come, because he has no money and anyway he is afraid to leave this region to look for them. Then, when I was talking to you, a soldier came and told me we had to go because they had found another body from the Obrinje massacre. So we drove to the village and then walked to the place where some men pulled the body out of a well. I could see his throat had been partly cut, but I don't know if he was alive or dead when he was forced into the well.

I have hope in the world, hope that the situation in Kosovo will be solved. But we must work more and more each day, we and the rest of the world.

Because I think sometimes we are not active enough, we are a bit passive. Not in the military sense, but we cannot solve anything only by military means. Our Kosovar leaders must unite and take all these decisions together.

The inhabitants of Kosovo voted in a referendum for independence, and I think that is the solution.

Emma Daly

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