Kararim and Bloody Friday
A few days ago a group of military police moved into the same building that we held clinic in Twarga. All morning the police carrying guns trouped in and out of the building passing by the clinic, it was not a particularly comforting situation to work in. The Refugee International came to see the conditions of the IDPs. Time magazine journalist and a freelance photographer came to interview me about our work at the clinic. Because we were not to work alongside the military, we closed the clinic to move to Kararim, a town closer to Misurata. The apartment complex here was a lot better, the grounds were cleaner; there was electricity and running water. The diabetic patients now could keep their insulin in a refrigerator if they could find one. All the Twarga IDPs were moved here. I saw the girl with the gun-shot wound for dressing change. Her wounds had become considerably smaller.
Our new clinic is housed in the guest room of an apartment on the ground floor. This apartment has three bedrooms, a sitting room for the women, a kitchen, two bathrooms and three balconies. Furniture and cushion, pillows were strewn on the carpeted floor, flour strewn on it as though the owners in their hurry spilled it. The floor of one of the bedrooms was filled with clothes and two open suitcases packed with clothes but abandoned, perhaps there was not enough room in the vehicle. Another bedroom had a photograph of a baby next to an ID card of a young woman, perhaps the mother, stuff animals…The kitchen had a bin with a collection of moldy bread, packed but not taken with them, another big bin filled with pots and pans left on the floor as though the owners decided that they should be abandoned. The scene all seemed very chaotic. I could only imagine the turmoil and the heart-wrenching decisions that the family had to make.
War has its way of tearing people apart and bringing misery to the lives of ordinary people who only wish to have a better life for their children and themselves.
I was requested to do a house call. Muhammad, my translator and I were brought by a man to another apartment complex. The patient was a big 75-year-old woman, diabetic and hypertensive. The finger-stick showed that her blood sugar was low and we gave her some juice. Then one of her daughters asked me to change her Foley. The last time I did that was when I was a medical student although I did recently watch a nurse insert a Foley at the Field Hospital. I had to do this without the help of my translator for men were not allowed into the women's apartment except family members.
A Freedom Fighter walked in one day with an obvious limp to get his dressings changed. He had a wound in the left shoulder and the right thigh. The bullets were still lodged in there. He faced a long period of recuperation ahead of him.
Many more people were leaving the apartment complex, long lines of cars were waiting by the check point to be processed. A big lorry parked by the complex; two children sat in front with a driver and their mother. In the back of the lorry out in the open sat several grown women dressed in their ubiquitous black abayas patiently with a mound of blankets in the center. In one of the pick-up trucks was a lamb standing among furniture and blankets, looking out of place and lost. Apparently there has been a 48-hour truce to allow the people from Sirte to leave before fighting begins again.
Hani was my new driver. He spoke some English and is actually a Palestinian. His father moved to Libya 44 years ago. Hani is now 38 years old and a school teacher before the war. But because he earned 200 dinars a month which he said was only enough to buy food for himself, he could not save enough money to get married. He was hired as a driver by IMC just five days ago and the pay was much better but in his heart he still wanted to be a teacher. He fought in Misurata in April and May and did not know the whereabouts of his two brothers for two months and later he found them alive but their home right across from the display of arms in Tripoli Street was all but destroyed. All he said was "Al hamdulillah" (Thank you my God).
Since the weekend truce there had been talks about a big push to topple Sirte. Each day was supposed to be the day of reckoning but it did not happen till this Friday-their Prayer Friday which was destined to be their Bloody Friday. The Freedom Fighters decided to make their big attack today. Casualties were brought to the Field Hospital all day. This afternoon on my way home from Kararim, the road to our guest house which was also the road to the hospital was blocked to enable easy passage for ambulances from the heliport. Hani told the police that he was bringing a doctor through and they allowed us to pass.
It was as though Mother Nature was sympathetic to the situation, out of the blue a fierce wind blew sand, dust, debris and palm leaves through the streets. Dark ominous clouds gathered over the heliport. A helicopter took off having dropped off the injured fighters. The rain came pelting down and almost immediately the streets became flooded. Stream of ambulances came roaring by. The hospital ground and ER entrance were filled with people and the streets were packed with parked cars of relatives looking for their loved ones among the injured. Then all of a sudden the whole place was plunged into darkness except for the hospital. The fierce wind blew the window shutters senseless and rain came flooding into our apartment. I was the only one back in the guest house and ran around frantically closing the windows.
As each fighter was unloaded from the ambulance, the crowd chanted "Allah Akbar” (Allah is Great). I was able to get into the ER with my badge to see if I could be of help. Surprisingly it was not full. The fighters there were not seriously injured. The ICU however had five fighters all seemed mortally wounded. There was another room filled with the injured waiting for x-rays or other studies, all were splinted and dressed. As I left the ER, it was quickly filling up.
The helicopters that took off a couple hours ago returned and the Chinook was also busy transporting patients. There must be at least 20 ambulances coming into the ER. All night long they continued to come and the chanting of "Allah Akbar" continued late into the night. By some reports, there were over 200 injured and 22 people died on this Bloody Friday.