The entire world was shaken this past March by the devastating terrorist attack that saw 50 people killed in a mass shooting in New Zealand. The horrific attack was engineered on 2 mosques during Friday prayers, a time when Muslim families convene for the weekly sermon.
Almost a month later, a ray of positivity has shown on the tragedy with the life of one of the youngest victims finally out of the woods. And this doctor's humanity and expertise are being hailed as the reason.
Lebanese Doctor Adib Khanafer is making headlines worldwide for saving the life of four-year-old Aline Alsati.
Aline was with her father Wassim in the mosque on that dreadful day. Wassim was shot multiple times and underwent several surgeries before getting discharged. But Aline's case was a lot more complicated.
A bullet had traveled through a vein in the pelvis of the little girl, a potentially fatal injury that is difficult to mend. Surgeons were struggling to control the bleeding. They needed Khanafer.
According to The Guardian, when news of the attack broke, Khanafer left an elective surgery he was performing and ran to where he was needed most.
In the operating room, he was met with a devastating sight: a 4-year-old child strapped to the table, grasping for life. She had arrived at the hospital with no pulse and had spent 30 minutes in cardiac arrest before pediatric surgeons managed to revive her.
In a later interview, Khanafer confessed to weeping as he prepared for surgery. He had never operated on a child before. “I never imagined in my whole career I’d come across such an incident,” he said. “What if this was my daughter?"
Against all odds, the 50-year-old doctor managed to repair the little girl's injuries. Up till now, she had remained in a critical condition at Starship Children's Hospital.
During his statement (featured below) to reporters the week following the attack, Dr. Khanafer's voice broke, and he had to be supported by colleagues as he explained what happened when he was called to the operating room.
NBC News and The Washington Post reported that Dr. Khanafer felt Aline could have been one of his own. "I have four kids, the youngest is seven and the oldest is 14," he had said. "I just imagined that this is one of my kids. I come from England, I am of Lebanese origin, I'm Muslim, and I am Arab."
Dr. Khanafer said he and his family are still coming to terms with the attack. "When you go back home, you really just try and digest and understand what's happened. [...] All my colleagues, Kiwis, haven't stopped texting me and emailing me and sending me flowers. That was really great, and it made me proud of working in this town."
A Christchurch resident, Dr. Khanafer personally knew two of the slain victims as well, including one who was his patient. "My wife knows – as a woman, in her circles – most of them ... We knew some of them. We visited some of them," he said.
Dr. Adib Khanafer is native of the South Lebanese village of Ainata. He was trained in vascular and endovascular surgery in the UK.
After becoming a life-long fellow of the Royal College of Surgeon of London and Edinburgh in 1998, the accomplished doctor undertook an endovascular fellowship in Germany in 2009 and was appointed Christchurch Hospital's vascular specialist in 2010.