I visited Rafidia hospital this afternoon to check on the condition of the boy I last saw unconscious, being taken from my arms into the back of an ambulance. I notice small patches of his blood still visible on my jeans and shoes as we walked into the ICU.
Mohammed Saqer (17) is critically injured and on life support systems in Rafidia hospital. He is in a medically induced coma following emergency brain surgery by Dr Madher Darwazeh. The attempt to revive him will come some 72 hours after the operation and, as this is all his doctor would confirm, only then will his condition truly be known.
For now his heart beat is an artificially steady 80 per minute, his blood pressure 121/71 whilst other unknown measurements are an unchanging 100, 13 and 37.7
Mohammed, from Askar refugee camp, was shot in the head almost exactly 2 days ago by a rubber coated metal bullet fired from an Israeli military jeep at no more than 20 meters distance.
His Aunt – Am Baker – was at his bedside. Stricken with grief she told us of how this was the second time he had been shot in the head. She said “The first time was much better. He was OK after two days. Now, I think its worse. It’s bad. Yesterday he was better than today”.
In all honesty, I don’t know if this is a bad sign or a good one. Neither, I think, does she.
The aunt goes on to tell us that, if this horrific event wasn’t enough, the boy’s father is in jail at the moment (he’ll be released in 2 weeks) and his brother has cancer. It’s just too much ill fortune to take in.
I ask that Ahmad (our guide in Balata/ Nablus) explain how we – Bjarke, I and others – carried him into the ambulance. She smiles weakly and says, “You helped him. Thank you.”
Then she looks down at his prostrate body with tubes in his arms, mouth, wrist and asks: “How do you see the situation? What’s your opinion?”
Now this really hits home. How on earth can I, with no more than 30 atrociously pronounced words of Arabic to my name, even begin to answer such a question. Even in English I know I’d fail, and fail badly.
All I could reply to Ahmad was a lame “tell her that I hope with all my heart that he pulls through.”
At times like this if I were religious I could make statements about fervently praying to god, shit, I would be praying to god, any and all that I thought conceivably might listen. But I’m not, so I can’t. This is no time for taking refuge in mysticism; human action put him in this condition, and human intervention is his only hope of recovery. But of course I wouldn’t think to say this to his no doubt devout Muslim aunt.
I stay 10, perhaps 15, minutes. Take some photos. Look helplessly at his body and face, feel helpless. Know and accept I am helpless.
Bjarke is upset, what normal person wouldn’t be?
Yet I seem strangely able to deal with the situation. After all I don’t know him, and in Balata, in Palestine these shootings, and worse, are daily occurrences. I mean, the 8 yr kid in the internet cafe where I’m typing this has eagerly shown me 2 videos on his phone of other similarly hideous shootings.
But still in so many ways I wish I wasn’t able to ‘handle’ it. Am I really so cold, heartless? Is there something wrong with me? I don’t know. Am I mistaking some crass idea of being a “professional” with a touch of something of psychopathic?
Then I note that Ahmad seems totally fine, asking if there’s anything else we want or anyone we need to interview. He’s Balata born and bred, and for him death and human suffering is everyday life. In comparison I’m an emotional wreck. Better surely that Ahmad was in tears like Bjarke. Better we all were, if ‘we’ ever got to hear about it.