Lebanese Doctor Recounts The Tragic Beirut Blast While On Duty In The Hospital

@bassam_osman

“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.

 
 
 
 
 
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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.”

 
 
 
 
 
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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.

“I leave the hospital now after more than 52 hours of nonstop work, minimal sleep, minimal food, and a range of emotions. The event was tragic. There are no words that truly describe the horrific scene we were indulged in, but what we were going through can’t be left untold.”

 

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.

This kind of response from people was heartwarming, Dr. Osman told us.

 

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.

He left The961 with a final message that if people wanted to do something to help doctors, they should take the pandemic seriously and wear a mask.

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Another story for what gives meaning and sense to what we do… Louise managed to remember us, track us and find us through instagram. Today we reunited with Louise, not under destruction and poor lighting, but over coffee in an incredible reunion, not covered in blood and wounded, but shining as she looks. Personally, getting in touch with her was one of the most rewarding and heartwarming events, not only through my young career as a resident, but also in my life as a whole. I got to apologize to all the bad suturing we had to do in the mess and confusion and im glad she got her wounds retreated as they should. Also, happy that her family is safe and okay despite being so close to the blast. In these 52 hours, there was a flood of emotions, lots of stories and all should not be left untold. #beirutexplosion #beirut

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