“Being the only string of sanity in a collapsing world is not easy,” wrote Dr. Bassam Osman after over 52 hours of non-stop work following the catastrophic blast on August 4th.
The AUBMC surgical resident recalled the tragic event… At 6:08 PM, the doctors were gathered in a usual conference that takes place in the sub-basement of the building – two floors below the ground.
Somehow it was as though the doctors were protected from the devastation because their role was just about to become very crucial.
From below, the doctors heard and felt the explosion as if it happened in the hospital itself. They made their way upstairs to the damaged hospital. Regardless, they entered the dark, collapsing emergency department, put on full PPE, and prepared for what was to come.
“It only took 10 minutes of watchful silence after the blast before the doors of hell opened.” ~ Dr. Osman.
Dr. Osman remembered the sound of panicked screams and questions. Soon, the hospital was flooded with blood and open wounds. The team was trained for trauma, but nothing like this.
“The emergency department was dark, ceiling down in many corners, and all we were surrounded with were screams, blood, and open wounds,” Dr. Osman recounted.
The staff immediately began triage, tending to the most serious cases first. “Casualties varied from simple lacerations to holes in the hearts,” wrote Dr. Osman. Some people even needed limb-saving procedures.
“All the burden starts from the first moment you decide to detach yourself from your own urge to panic and collect your focus to respond to a mass of helplessness that is fiercely trying to grasp on to you.”
Many victims did not make it, but all the health workers that day, these heroes gathered in “the dark and collapsing emergency department,” had to do a superhuman effort to control their own emotions; doctors, attendings, residents, students, nurses, clerks, housekeeping, and hospital staff.
So many lives depended on them and every second counted.
“Our response was unprecedented,” Dr. Osman said. “The agility surgeons were working in was fictional.”
Superhumans, yes, but very much in touch with their humanity as they tried to save lives amid the screams and the chaos, and more structures that could collapse at any time.
“There was no moment in my life where I felt more in touch with my own and my surrounding humanity,” Dr. Osman remembered as he described these first two days in a post on Instagram on August 6th, the day he managed to finally leave the hospital.
At one point a man with a minor injury held up a gun, forcing himself into treatment before those with more severe wounds, the doctor told The961.
On the other hand, some victims were patient and let those who needed urgent care go first.
Dr. Osman recalls a woman who came for medical care on the second day after the blast and told him that she and her husband waited for the next day, wanting to make space for the patients who deserved urgent care.
At seeing how crowded the hospital was, she and her husband dealt with their own wounds at home until everything settled down.
Moving forward, Dr. Osman stressed that people be responsible and take caution about the coronavirus.
“The healthcare system was exhausted before the explosion and only got more exhausted because of it and is now at a point of complete burnout,” he said.