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Nurse in Gaza: "The most difficult dressings are the ones for the small children."
Sarah Woznick is an intensive care nurse. She arrived in Gaza six months ago from Denver, Colorado. The operation “Protective Edge” began on what should have been the last day of her assignment. She decided to stay to support the team to maintain Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)’s medical activities in Gaza.
The first day there were lots of air strikes in our area. It’s a strange feeling when you realize that one is falling not far from you.
You know that you are safe because MSF is not a target, but your body doesn’t know that and releases lots of adrenaline, your heart is beating faster, it puts you on high alert. Now I’m a little bit more accustomed, but it does still make me jump occasionally.
Mostly, all of us think about our Palestinian colleagues, we worry about them. The MSF compound is a safe place, but their homes might not be.
Since the war started, I took on the role of helping to manage the post-operative clinic and to prepare the emergency stocks in the pharmacy for donations to hospitals.
Work goes on
We were able to have the clinic running nearly every day, bringing a basic team of one physiotherapist, one nurse and one admission officer who all live nearby the clinic.
We organize their transport with an MSF car picking them up from their home and taking them back there, so that they don’t have to walk.
My role is more of supervising the activities, but on days when the clinic has been closed because of the bombings being too intense, some patients would still come to our office, so I would change their dressings myself.
The difficult dressings are the ones for the small children, because you know they don’t understand, and they look at you wondering what you’re going to do to them.
About 40% of the new cases we had since the war started are children of 5 years or younger. I remember a five year-old girl who had been burnt all down her back by hot water – which we see often – but she got the burn when running away from a shelling into hot water.
I remember her parents consoling her as she was crying, the scared look she had on her face… I wonder how she is now, because unfortunately, the family has not been back to the clinic for follow up.
I remember another girl of 10 or 11 years old. She had a domestic accident with hot tea that spilled on her arm.
She came to the clinic by herself. Nicolas, the MSF field coordinator asked her “aren’t you afraid walking alone in the street?” and she replied “You know we’re all going to die one day”. I thought to myself that this girl is much older than she should be at this stage of her life.
One of our Palestinian colleagues told me that his kids are hiding under the table as soon as they hear a blast.
Another one said “my children all grab on to me as if I could protect them, but actually, I can’t”. It must be incredibly difficult as a parent to feel that you can’t protect your kids.
Even after the current crisis is over, I’ll think about the friends that I’ve met who are living in a place where they are trapped in so many ways. I wish for so many things for them – freedoms and choices they could have if they were not surrounded by walls.
Find out more about MSF's work in Gaza