I wish I had not been in that Syrian hospital. I wish I had not seen what I saw after the Duoma air attacks

As a doctor I know that when the rescue operations end, that's where the crisis in Syria begins. In this case, that terrifies me

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The Independent Online

When I arrived at the Intensive Care Unit, minutes after the air raid, a man stopped me. "Don’t go in because there’s no space left in the ICU except for the wounded,” he said. Another man interrupted: “Let him in, he’s a doctor.”

I wish I had not been in that hospital on Sunday. I wish I had not seen what I saw - a sea of blood with the wounded, doctors and medics were swimming in it.

I moved through rows of injured people, all lying on the ground in a critical condition, and each tried to muster some strength to move their hands or to whimper, anything to express their pain. As I come to the realisation that we had all reached breaking point in that wretched hospital room, a voice came through the speakers.  We all listened attentively to this voice hoping it will say something to calm people. "Guys, empty the Intensive Care Unit.. the warplane has launched a second strike, and a third, and... and a tenth.”

I began to see the injuries multiplying, the number of dead growing. And I realised there was no more blood for transfusions, no more sanitized medical equipment and no more serum bags, but we continue working as if it’s the end of the world.

Even the wounded looked with the eyes of those who have been condemned to hope. As soon as you're done with an injured civilian, another looks at you with pleading eyes that are saying “my fate depends on you.”

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As I’m heading towards one of the victims, another one lying prostrate on the ground right next to him takes hold of your arm and pleads: “Doctor I swear I was here before him. I arrived right after the first strike.”  I wished I could be shattered into hundreds of pieces so that each piece could treat someone’s brother or mother or father.  

As I turn around, I see an ophthalmologist who came from Ghouta to share my burden and carry out the duty thrust upon him. It's the same with the pediatrician and the same with the neurologist who arrived at the hospital to help. Syrians are one people. They see all the wounded as family.

Hours after the air raids, I look across the Intensive Care Unit. The injured have been moved but all the beds are still all occupied. The Syria Civil Defense teams have documented more than 100 deaths - 100 families who have lost a member.

I move through the operation rooms and see exhausted doctors who have performed more than 70 surgeries during the past few hours. They have seen guts spilled out, amputated legs, dislodged eyes, slashed necks —- their green scrubs are a dark blood from the blood.

This is when the rescue operations end and the catastrophe begin. For me, I want the world to act to stop the killing. I don’t know how else to say it.

The writer is a doctor who responded to the air attack on Douma, near Damascus on Sunday. His words were translated from the original Arabic by Hania Mourtada