December 10, 2013

“I couldn’t breathe for almost a minute, and then I started screaming and calling my dad. He carried me to the field hospital. I don’t remember anything after that. I was in so much pain, I was hitting my face from the pain.” (Syrian boy, 12, who lost both legs to shelling)

Ramtha is a Jordanian town near the border with southern Syria, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the conflict. The majority of war wounded arriving in Jordan go to the Ramtha Hospital.

MSF’s emergency surgical program at the hospital has two operating theatres and recovery rooms, and two wards with 33 beds. Since opening in September 2013, MSF has conducted 309 lifesaving surgeries on more than 140 patients, including people needing multiple amputations and with severe abdominal, chest and orthopedic injuries. MSF also offers physical therapy, mental health services and general inpatient care.

Most patients are first seen by a field hospital in Syria, operating in the war zone and short on many essential supplies. Patients usually come to MSF through a network of Syrian doctors based in Ramtha providing logistical support to get patients into Jordan, and in direct contact with the field hospitals.

“Patients go through a sort of triage at the border where it is determined if they can come into Jordan,” said Ramtha medical team leader Dr. Amber Alyan. “MSF receives around 80 per cent of the cases. When we started this project, we expected that patients would need one to two surgeries. But many patients are needing four or five surgeries.”

War-wounded patients admitted to Ramtha Hospital are not registered as refugees in Jordan. Once discharged from the hospital, some return to Syria. Others go to one of the refugee camps in Jordan. Or, if they are sponsored by a Jordanian family they are permitted to reside in a host community.

Patient stories

Syrian boy, 11

From the explosion I was thrown up into the sky, and I got stuck on an electricity pole. And then I fell down. People took me by bus to the field hospital. One of my father’s friends was saying ‘’this kid is dead, this kid is dead.” I was aware of everything. I managed to scream and that’s when people realized I was still alive. We went to the field hospital and after that I went into a coma.

What can I do? It’s God’s will. I will stay in Jordan until I get a new hand and leg, then I’ll go back to Syria. I’m afraid to go back to Syria because of all the shelling and bombs. I want to go back because all my friends and family are still there. I have no one here.

My dad is with me now only till I recover. I have four brothers and one sister. I didn’t want to come to Jordan – but my dad told me we’ll stay only for 2 to 3 weeks. Now we have to stay more than 3 months.

Syrian man, 33

Our house was shelled by tanks. Five families had been living in the building. My daughter Ourjwan and I are the only ones still alive. Ourjwan’s mum and her younger sister Yara passed away.

When the rocket hit I thought everyone in the building died, because I didn’t hear any voices or any movement. I wish God had allowed me to die as well. It would be more comfortable than living like this. I will be living in misery. My wife used to tell me “please let us leave Syria.” I was against it. I was always saying that hopefully things would get better, but they didn’t.

When I woke up I felt my leg was amputated, and all my fingers were broken. Fighting was still going on, on the road while we were going to Jordan. It was very difficult for me; I was so much in pain.

When I saw Ourjwan alive I forgot my pain. She’s a kid, what of this is her fault? I need to take care of her. I should’ve fled Syria. Destiny was faster than my decision to leave.

Syrian woman, 20

My dad came to tell us “they are bombing the neighborhood, let’s go inside.” We were bombed before he finished his sentence. I didn’t feel anything in that moment. When I opened my eyes I saw my mum lying severely injured next to me. My younger brother survived – nothing happened to him. But my dad was injured.

I got shrapnel in my back and legs, all over my body. I didn’t feel that I was injured until I got to the field hospital and the doctor was treating me. Then they decided to send me to Jordan because I had injuries all over my body.

So I’m in Ramtha Hospital, and my dad is in another hospital in Jordan, my young brother is still in Syria with my uncle, and my mum passed away. We have gotten used to this. In the beginning when the conflict started we used to get scared at the sound of bombings, but then it became somehow normal to us. Now after being injured, I feel terrified.

The help they provide me here in the hospital is great. I feel like I am surrounded by family. I’m still in pain now, I can’t sit still because I got injured in my back, but I’m feeling much better than before. I have had four surgeries, to take the shrapnel out of my body. I’ve had psychotherapy sessions. I needed the mental health support. It’s not easy to deal with the loss of my mum.