In June, three Chicago doctors traveled to one of the most dangerous places on earth: Aleppo, Syria. “Before I left, I wrote letters to my loved ones, because it might have been a one-way trip,” says Samer Attar, an orthopedic surgeon with Northwestern Medicine. “Just in case I was killed.”

With entire swaths reduced to rubble, Aleppo has been almost destroyed by Syria’s nearly six-year-long civil war. When the doctors arrived, the only way in was the deadly Castello Road, a two-lane highway littered with rotting corpses, bomb craters, and the smoldering remains of cars. “The road to hell,” remembers Zaher Sahloul, a critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

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