Imagine you’re the parent of a small child, living in a home where explosions have shattered the windows.
Then imagine that you have to leave that child each day, because you’re one of the few physicians left at your hospital and countless patients rely on you during a military siege.
That was the dilemma facing two Syrian doctors last year, as they struggled to parent their 8-year-old daughter while also pulling late-night shifts in the overwhelmed operating rooms of eastern Aleppo.
Some days were better than others, according to obstetrician Dr. Farida. She uses only one name for security reasons. On one occasion she was attending to patients when she heard airplanes overhead and the thuds of explosions nearby. Someone told her that her daughter’s school might be under attack.
“I run there with my operation dress, running like a crazy man there. And then I look at the school and I find no one was there,” Farida says.
As it turned out, teachers had learned about the attack in advance and evacuated the students before the bombing.
It was just one of dozens of traumas Farida and her opthamologist husband Dr. Abdulkhalek faced during the bombardment of Aleppo in late 2016. They were among a handful of physicians who remained in the city last year, long past the time when most everyone with means had fled.
Then in December, troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defeated the rebels who controlled the city’s eastern neighborhoods. Civilians were ordered out of the town. Dr. Farida, her husband and daughter fled to Idlib, where they live today.
But the two doctors haven’t given up advocating on behalf of their patients. The couple traveled to Washington this week to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the need to provide humanitarian aid to northern Syria.
Dr. Farida recounted for lawmakers how she was performing a cesarean section in Aleppo last year when a missile struck her facility.
Access the full interview here.