SYRIA: “Our job is to stand by the sick”
Sisters caring for Syria’s sick and wounded throughout five years of heavy bombardment have received essential medical equipment from a leading Catholic charity.
Aid to the Church in Need has provided the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition who run St Louis Hospital, western Aleppo, with more than £225,000 (€250,000) in medical equipment ensuring vital treatment for all those in need.
New equipment for the 100-year-old hospital in Aleppo’s bomb-damaged district of Ismailie – one of the few medical facilities still standing after fighting stopped last December – include endoscopes to examine inside the body and a lithotripter machine for removing kidney stones.
Sister Anne Marie, who has worked as a nurse in Aleppo for 18 years, spoke to ACN about the hospital’s patients including Mahmud, who was born without arms.
She described the six-year-old child’s hospital care after his legs were torn off in a bombing raid in the city.
The Sister said: “He survived. I took care of him. He was finally released from the hospital a few months ago. He left with a smile on his face.”
All the Sisters decided to remain in Aleppo caring for the sick when the war started.
Sister Anne Marie said: “There are six Sisters in our community. We run the hospital. At the beginning of the war, our Reverend Mother gave us the choice of leaving the country.
“But all of us decided to stay here – because it is our job to stand by the sick. And their need for us is greatest now.”
Dr George Theodory, medical director at the hospital, emigrated to the US with his family when the civil war began but later returned to Syria to help.
He said: “I decided to return to work together with my colleagues and help the people in this country who are in such desperate need but my faith helped me have hope.”
“I am a Christian and feel obligated to help those who are in need of help. The circumstances are immaterial. We also treat the destitute.
“Even though we are a Catholic hospital, we do not make any distinctions based on religious affiliation. I would estimate that about 70 percent of our patients are Muslim.”
Notwithstanding the ceasefire, they are treating war-wounded. He said: “We are working day and night, in part for free, to treat those who were wounded during the war and the other sick people.”
“We currently have 55 patients. We have a medical staff of about one hundred people. But there were times when we had more than twice the number of admissions, casualties from the bombings.”
Describing one male ward, the doctor referred to a 17-year-old with testicular cancer, a 50-year-old suffering from a heart condition and another patient that “is recuperating here because his spine was severely damaged during one of the last bomb attacks.”
He added: “Our income hardly covers the costs of wages and fuel for the generators. These are essential because there is not enough electricity throughout the city.”
The charity is also providing several UPS (uninterruptible power supply) generators ensuring a constant power supply in the middle of operations.
Speaking about ACN’s support, Sister Anne Marie said: “We are very thankful for this generous gesture. If we did not have it, we would not be able to treat any more patients or at least not treat them adequately.”
She added: “They [Muslims] are impressed that we Christians help them with so much kindness. They say that we have treated them better than any other hospital.
“The strength to continue working comes only from God. The faith upholds us. We ask all the benefactors to pray for us. Thank you.”