It was in 2006 when I was working in Baghdad general hospital as a resident doctor in psychiatry in the psychiatry ward. Patients were very few in number. Cause Baghdad was not a safe place to live in. People were leaving it. It was late in afternoon when that lady came into our ward accompanied by her sister. Both were frightened. The lady’s eyes were widely opened while she was walking aggitated searching for someone to speak to. Her facial expression was that of a weeping woman, yet no tears seem to come from her eyes. It seemed that tears refuse to come. When she saw me she just started breathing deeply and making sounds of crying with no tears and her sister started talking telling me that her sister didn’t sleep for the past three days. I looked at the lady’s eyes. They were tired. Surrounded by black/bluish/reddish halos. Her sister added that the lady is from Dyala, and that she came to Baghdad with her 3 sons before 3 days to live with her sister cause Dyala is no more safe to live in. I told them that if they agree we can sit and talk. The sister looked at the lady and told her that she want to go home to be next to her family and the lady’s 3 sons. The lady turned to me and asked me with her widely opened eyes if I can admit her to the ward. She added that she doesn’t want her sons to see her in this unstable state anymore. In less than a second, without thinking, I agreed that the lady was in need of an admission. It seemed that that didn’t need thinking. It needed emotions. It needed empathy. I show them their room. And left them for few minutes. The sister came out and asked me to take care of her sister. She told me: she is your sister doctor, take care of her, she had suffered a lot. I answered: off course she is my sister, no need to worry about her, just keep in touch with her by phone ok?
The sister answered: sure doctor, I left her my mobile phone so that she can contact us. Then added: do you need my husband mobile phone number so that you call him if something happen?
I said: no, she got your number, that is enough.
She thanked me and went. I approached the room where the lady was. She was sitting there so frightened. I greeted her with a smile and told her that she needs to calm her self and control her breathing. “you don’t need to be frightened here, you are in the hospital”. I asked her if she had eaten her lunch. She said she did. I told her that I will interview her in 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes I went to interview her in her room. She was still shivering. I asked her about the problem. she started to talk fast & aggitated about what happened in the area she lives in. She wittenessed many violent acts. She was talking while she was having shorness of breath. I let her talk. I still remember what she told me. I even developed some posttraumatic stress symptoms when I heard her story. Actualy stories. But what I want to say here is that when she ended talking and she was shivering so severely I asked her:
- You seem so affraid now.
- you are in the hospital now, here with us, does that make you feel more secure?
As I ended my last word, a loud explusion burst just next to the hospital, all the windows and doors made echos, and then, nearby bullet firing aggressive sounds started entering our frightened ears....
We both stood up and run to the corridor. She sat on the floor with her downcasting gaze and terrible shortness of breath. I felt speechless. I told my self that she is safe in the corridor more than in her rrom which contain many windows. I was so speechless. I took a deep breath.