Syria’s Grey’s Anatomy
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, three years to be exact, not due to lack of interest but more due to lack of time. A lot has changed since then, apparently there’s been a plane crash, lots of doctors died, there are lots of new doctors, Meredith and McDreamy have a child and another on the way, and the hospital has been renamed to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital.
A friend today shared on his Facebook wall a 2 minute peek of this week’s episode “She’s Killing Me”. In the scene there are two middle-aged Syrian doctors along with Owen, Arisona, and April in a room with a cadaver in the middle, in what appars to be a crash course for the Syrian doctors, given by Owen and Co, in treating the wounded in field hospitals with minimal supplies available. The Syrian doctors looked at the supplies tray and were like – if this is supposed to be a genuine training, we should remove some of these – and he threw away half of what’s in the tray. Then, he turned off all lights, and turned on a little flash light saying, “now we go”. The American doctors were in deep shock – end scene.
I was truly furious when I saw the video. My first reaction was ‘are the writers really in need for story lines that they are using the Syrians’ misery to build an episode? how about some first-world conundrums like domestic animals’ rights and environmentalism? that’s something to talk about!’. The misuse of Syrian people’s misery by some Syrians and non-Syrians alike has been bothering me greatly for a while now time. But creating entertainment and building ratings in such a method was, in my opinion, very low.
I, later, had a chat with a friend who is an avid fan of the show. I told her that I was very upset about it. Luckily, she gave me a different perspective, she told me the episode was very realistic, and was actually a very good way to tell people in the US in particular about the situation in Syria. It was then when I decided to watch the episode and write something about it.
So, starting from the top. The hospital’s director has created a team of three, including himself (since he is experienced in field hospitals, after serving some time in Iraq), a surgical paediatrician and a third doctor (whom I don’t know why she’s still in the show). The paediatrician was asked why she was on the team, her answer was “they’ve been losing a lot of kids”. This is very true. According to Violation Documentation Center in Syria, the total of 5,894 children were killed in Syria since March 2011, and that’s just the documented number.
After finding out the very limited resources Syrian doctors can use in field hospitals (which is also very true), the team expands into all doctors who can pitch in ideas for procedures that can be done in the dire circumstances. In another scene, Callie Torres, an Orthopaedic surgeon, shows a Syrian doctor an invasive procedure. He pauses for a few seconds while practicing, and tells her that he’s wondering how he can hold down the patient to keep him/her still while he’s doing the procedure. She told him, the patient would be sedated. He said, “not when you don’t have anaesthesia“. Also another fact that was touched upon in the episode. Many of the make shift hospital (if not all) are actually in basements or concealed rooms and apartments because they’ve been targeted by Assad regime’s since the beginning of the uprising. Supplies are very limited and are very permeative. Those who smuggle medical supplies to field hospitals are pursued and prosecuted for attempting to treat “terrorists”, even though many of those treated in field hospitals are actually innocent victims of the random shelling.
Medecin sans frontiere has recently prepared a report on the deteriorating medical situation in Syria. The report mentions that “57% of hospitals have been damaged and 36% are unable to function according to official data. These statistics do not include the private clinics or makeshift hospitals that have been destroyed or damaged”. In field hospitals, priority is for treating the wounded by the regime’s attacks, and most of the time, sutures and small surgeries are done without any sterilisation.
To make matters worse, the Syrian regime bans various humanitarian missions from operating in Syria, and those that operate with the Government’s permission are prohibited from extending their aid to districts functioning under revolutionary rule. Moreover, it is frustrating for NGO’s to pass through to Syria, as neighbouring countries are refusing to offer any administrative and/or logistical facilitations, or even recognising them altogether.
This is just a small snapshot of the grave current medical situation in Syria.
While watching Grey’s Anatomy today, I teared twice. Once at the scene of the doctor pondering how his patient will take the procedure’s pain without anaesthesia, and the second of the same doctor admiring heaps of brand new, top notch medical supplies, wondering how to provide such prime resources to the wounded in Syria.
It was more realistic than I thought. If I was a non-Syrian living carefree and unaware of a crisis in a country in the Middle East, I would think the writers were exaggerating. The fact is, they weren’t. And that’s why I had to write this.
In the end, I would like to extend my sincerest acknowledgement and gratitude to those doctors working under the worst circumstances, making miracles within confined boundaries. The fact is, the majority of these doctors are either fresh graduates or med students with limited experience, however; that still didn’t prevent them from answering to their true duties as doctors; to save lives where they could, however possible.
And for that, I salute them, and I thank them.