By McKenzie Ross
When Michael Talotti arrived in Ramtha, Jordan, last February, he found a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital filled with patients from across the border in Syria, who were suffering from shrapnel wounds and injuries caused by bomb blasts.
"A high percentage of our patients are amputees and missing limbs,” he says. “Many of them will carry those scars, physically and mentally, for the rest of their lives.”
Treating people wounded by a brutal conflict
Talotti is a Canadian project coordinator from Bowmanville, Ontario, who currently oversees the MSF surgical project for war-wounded patients. He and his colleagues in Ramtha — including 137 national Jordanian staff and 12 international staff members — work in a section of a hospital operated by the Jordan ministry of health, where they provide emergency trauma surgery, as well as physiotherapy and mental health support, for war-wounded Syrians. Their patients include men, women and children who have been unable to escape the violence of the Syrian conflict.
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“Kids are often brought to the hospital after being shot while playing with their friends on the street,” Talotti says, “or picking up a landmine in a playground that then explodes. Some of them have missing hands or missing fingers or other parts, and they talk about half of their family being taken out in a bomb blast. The stories that you hear can be unimaginable.”
For some patients, Talotti says, receiving treatment can bring hope as well as care. "In many cases, you see patients weeks or months down the line, and they're smiling and looking forward to going home, and to be reunited with their wives, husbands or children. … The hope is that we're creating an opportunity for families to still be with their loved ones.”
He appreciates the time he has been able to spend with these Syrian patients, especially because it has helped him better understand who they are and what they are enduring.
"They are very strong, nice people, who often have similar jobs as you and I,” Talotti says. “They’re just trying to live their day-to-day lives, and are caught up in the middle of this." As long as the war in Syria continues, he says, his colleagues “will continue to treat patients in need, and to give them an opportunity to have dignity as human beings in a situation that is beyond their control.”