Doctor recalls slain Palestine nurse's bravery

Dr Marc Sinclair with volunteers and Razan Al Najjar (third from left) in Palestine.- Supplied photo
Dr Marc Sinclair with volunteers and Razan Al Najjar (third from left) in Palestine.- Supplied photo

Dubai - Razan was remembered for her speech and the way she always talked about her determination.

By Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Mon 4 Jun 2018, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Jun 2018, 11:49 PM

Along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip from Israel lie a bunch of tents of volunteers who drag injured demonstrators away from the danger zone to provide necessary help using basic medical tools.
One of the young women in white paramedic's uniform was Razan Al Najjar, the 21-year-old volunteer emergency medical worker who was recently shot dead as she tried to aid a demonstrator, during the ongoing Palestinian protest campaign.
"Razan was a very outspoken and proud woman. She was sure of her role and what she could do to contribute on ground," said Dr Marc Sinclair, a Dubai-based paediatric orthopaedic surgeon who founded the Little Wings Foundation charity that treats children in Palestine.
He met Razan during his last visit to Khan Younis in the Southern Gaza strip to provide medical assistance to children who have musculoskeletal deformities in last April.
She was the 119th Palestinian killed since the protests began in March, according to Gaza health officials.
"Razan was remembered for her speech and the way she always talked about her determination to show the world what Arab women can do. She had a quite strong personality that stood out," said Sinclair.
Razan, he added, had been previously injured during the protests, but it didn't restrain her from continuing her work until the last breath.
Sinclair added that young female nurses who work with basic medical tools like a saline solution and medical gas supply operate the tents that lie 150 metres away from the fence.
"They have no medicines, antibiotics or blood," said Sinclair. "They provide emergency aid to demonstrators, pick up the injured, sometimes dead, demonstrators to check their wounds."
Patients are then sent to Khan Younis hospital that lies 200 metres away from the frontline where about seven ambulances are lined up, ready to pick up the injured closer to the frontline.
The hospital sometimes receives over 170 casualties on an afternoon, placing its resources on an end.
"The enthusiasm of these girls at the borders is inspiring; The way they dedicate their time to help, get out on field confidently despite the risks, as if ready for a battle, to bring wounded demonstrators in."
The message from Al Najjar's death, Sinclair said, is that no one is exempted from the risk. "You truly understand the level of danger when you hear about a young paramedic dying while doing her job. You get to understand that everyone is targeted."
He described the protests by the Gaza border as a "David and Goliath" situation. "On one side, you have kids with slingshots and people who burn tyres, and on other side, there's sophisticated army of snipers and soldiers," said Sinclair.
As part of his Dubai-based Little Wings Foundation, Sinclair flies to Gaza twice a year with a team of 10 doctors and nurses from the UAE and abroad to provide medical assistance to children who have musculoskeletal deformities, in partnership with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF).

'It's a different life there'

Dubai-based Little Wings Foundation that recently partnered with Al Jalila Foundation, provides medical assistance to up to 150 children, preselected by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) in one week. A team of two surgeons, including Sinclair, dedicates 4-6 days to operate about 30 children during their one-week visit.

Dr Marc Sinclair (left) with a Palestinian kid and her father. -Supplied photo
Since its inception in 2007, the foundation has helped provide aid to 600 war-stricken children or those born with deformities and neuromuscular disorders.
The most common cases found are cerebral palsy, resulting from complicated pregnancies. "These patients need a lot of assistance, surgeries and follow-up on the long term," said Sinclair.
 "We offer medical advice and perform surgeries needed, then follow up with them in every visit. This gives us the chance to know and feel close to the children and their parents," said Sinclair.
During the rough demonstration times, Khan Younis Hospital sometimes empties its emergency rooms to get ready for the flood of injuries and casualties.
"A lot of injuries come in per day and we mainly see cases of leg amputations. A whole generation of disabled people is created right there."
Sinclair, who is going to Gaza next November, said the most impactful moment for him as a doctor is watching worried parents wanting to save their children, but without access to resources.
"It's painful to see that there's no resources for them to find comfort in treatment, and that's what kept us coming back. Children are locked and disabled with their parents desperate for help. When you relate to this as a parent, you would want to be there," said Sinclair.
And during every visit, Sinclair takes a day to clear his mind through strolling the streets of Jerusalem. "We need a day to reflect and think about what we have seen before flying back to Dubai. It's a strikingly different life that you only realise once you're there."


Dubai always cares
Gaza is in crisis and is calling out for help. Its children are victims of war injuries and ailments, and Dubai is reaching out to the stricken strip of land. People in Dubai often look beyond their comfort zone and want to help as best as they can. Gaza's children deserve healthcare education and access to opportunity. More importantly, they should live be free, and live a life without fear. The yoke of occupation can be eased through Dubai's acts of kindness. More such efforts are in order to break Gaza's blockade and oppression.

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