It has been more than five years now, five years of a tearing war that smashed all meanings of a peaceful life in Syria. That lovely piece of land that was once listed among the safest places on this planet. When I close my eyes remembering where we used to live, I can only imagine a place of peace, love and fraternization. Maybe all what we need nowadays to overcome the tragedy we’re living in is a handful of love, an act of kindness, and a hand we give to one another. Here, I will just speak my mind and talk about my personal experience as a medical student living a crushing war.
During our med school journey, we have been taught by our professors that we should keep a healthy emotional distance between ourselves and our patients, and that it may be harmful to care too much, but is this really what medicine should be about? Is it possible to lock our human emotions inside our chests, what if the patient was not only sick but also displaced, how would a human soul hold back their tears when the patient is a child that lost his parents? To be honest, deep inside I know it is reasonable, and that it is the right thing to do. However, I believe that, as humans, life will always challenge us with situations where we cannot hide our emotions, where we need to bravely show some humanity and empathy, especially for our patients.
When I was rotating at the emergency Department at Damascus Hospital, I came across this patient, a 70 year-old man who was administered for a problem in his heart. I took his medical history and wrote down his chief complaint in very few countable minutes. I suddenly stopped being busy with filling his chart and noticed the fear and confusion on his face, he was trying to call his family to be with him, but unfortunately no one was responding. He got more and more scared as it was a morning full of mortar shells and shootings, I remember him asking me “Doctor, am I going to die? I need to make sure they’re okay before I pass” I held his hand and told him, “don’t worry, we are doing our best and we are all here your family”. I took his family phone number and promised him to keep calling until they pick up and that I won’t rest until I make sure that they are okay. I kept calling and calling until I finally got them on the phone for him. The smile that was drawn on his face and the sparkle in his eyes was one of the most touching moments in my life. It warmed my heart and made me realize how critical the role of physicians is in society, and how critical it can be during crises. I realized that the very least thing we can do is just to draw a smile on faces that probably forgot what happiness is. That we can ease the pain of this war for many people, and that we are soldiers in white coats, not fighting for any side, but fighting to keep a sweet taste of life for our patients.
What I believe in in the meanwhile is that you cannot live in a war-zone without getting dragged into the battle. And it is your own choice what to fight for. The vast majority will fight for power and wealth, others will be fighting for themselves just to get by the harsh situation, and very few people will fight to draw a smile on others face, to turn people’s misery into relief, to make sure that people keep holding in until our sun rise again. I deeply believe that doctors should be amongst the last group. I urge all my friends in training and all my doctors and professors not to spare any chance of touching the heart of their patients, because this is the time when we all need it. With love and empathy we can fix many of the things that war has broken.
About the author:
Lilav Hussein, 6th year medical student in a 6- year program at Damascus University, from kamishli Syria. From a young age, I have always been enthralled by human body, and it was the direct result of my compassion for researches which I consider it a great tool to prove understanding of various issues. My goal as a future doctor is to employ such new techniques that aspire to enhance the health of people and the importance of mind-body connection. Lilav may be reached at email@example.com
Mahmoud Alkhatib, 6th year medical student in a 6-year program at Damascus University. I have been graded in the top ten students in the last four years, and have been awarded from the faculty. My interest in research has emerged in the third year, and since then I have started working with my colleagues on some projects to help make the future of our faculty. I will continue on this road since my goal is to be a good researcher who will make a change and leave his imprint. Mahmoud may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tarek Turk, 6th year medical student in a six-year program at Damascus University, Syria. I have always seen myself as a clinician and a researcher, and have worked hard my entire life to achieve this goal. I believe that we were not meant to pass from this life without leaving a trace, and I decided to leave a trace in science. I have major interests in knowledge synthesis, Evidence-based healthcare, and linking medicine to artificial intelligence. Tarek may be reached at email@example.com
Guest Authors Initiative:
The IIT Syrian student blog welcomes guest contributions from university students from Syria and around the globe. To learn more about the Guest Authors Initiative, please contact Suhaib at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria, and earned his bachelor’s degree in December 2014 from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib majored in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural engineering. Upon graduation, he accepted a position as a project engineer working on projects throughout the state of Illinois; he lives in Springfield, Illinois. Suhaib previously worked with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that works to support Syrian children in refugee camps in Turkey. Suhaib regularly writes for the Syrian Students for a Better Future Blog.