At 2 p.m. we’re called to the emergency department because three men have just been brought in with bullet wounds: they’re urgent enough cases, bullets having struck arms and legs and causing bleeding severe enough to lead to amputation or even death.
We help our Afghan colleagues, in order to speed things up as much as possible.
Some of us are busy shaving arms and legs, some administering liquids to avoid shock setting in, some taking blood to be analysed, some starting to administer antibiotics, some performing bandaging.
At 2.15 this ‘normal’ war hospital routine is interrupted. We all stop whatever we were doing as we hear the most unexpected sound: not a major explosion nearby, not the usual low-flying combat helicopter shaking every window in the hospital, but a beautiful wail coming from the Intensive Care ward: a baby girl has just been born.
Her mother – Shirina, which means “sweetness” – had arrived yesterday, with a bullet in her stomach, which had fortunately stopped just three centimetres from the womb. She had been immediately operated by our surgeons, with a certain amount of comprehensible apprehension.
During the morning rounds today, Shirina mentioned no pain or unusual movements, so we had fixed an appointment with the local female gynaecologist in the afternoon. However, the little girl, as yet nameless, decided to come into the world during visiting hours, in just ten minutes.
The male nurses in Intensive Care – colleagues capable of calmly treating six cases of multiple mine injuries simultaneously – were plunged into a state of panic when confronted by Shirina’s contractions. Our Afghan female nurses intervened, along with Paola and Katuscia, who were the first to welcome the newborn child, which soon made us all the gift of its first ‘smile’.
Now Shirina has told us that we can choose the little girl’s name, such is her joy that everything has gone off so well. We limited ourselves to wishing the child a good life, which in a country like this would be the most wonderful gift.
(*Medical Coordinator of the Emergency Hospital at Lashkargah, Helmand)