JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE BAGHDAD TEACHING HOSPITAL…

October 20, 2009

IED [improvised explosive device] blocks the way to work. Many of us are late again because sections of the town are blocked. I must find an alternate route to the hospital.

7 a.m.: IED [improvised explosive device] blocks the way to work. Many of us are late again because sections of the town are blocked. I must find an alternate route to the hospital.

9 a.m.: I receive a report about last night’s shift. The hospital was attacked by terrorists. Some radiographers refuse to work. We now depend on older men, and we need to give them more days off. They were told to get rid of their badges and uniforms when necessary.

9.15 a.m.: Code alert over the public address system. We start to receive injured patients from the morning suicide attack in a market. We stop all routine work and enter emergency status. Fifty percent of staff is shifted to emergency work.

11 a.m:. Back to routine work. Re-allocate time for emergency patients. Activate team, attend to small sectarian issues.

11:15 a.m:. Start paperwork and try to address the shortage of materials (x-ray films, contrast media, etc.). Keep the engineering staff near to deal with any problem as fast as they can. We have a power cut and need to get an additional power cable. I then have to deal with the removal of offensive graffiti on walls (“Leave or Die,” “Death to…”). There is a continual threat to hospital staff within the building.

12.30 a.m.: I get a phone call from the angiographic unit. They have two emergencies. Luckily, I can do angiography because I have some reserve contrast.

Early morning the next day: We receive a threatening letter containing phrases such as: “Alarm to the group! You should leave this place or we cannot be responsible for what happens!” The terrorists want staff to quit the hospitals so the healthcare system collapses. After this I was given a month’s leave to keep safe, before restarting work with maximum security measures.

My close friend and colleague Dr. Samir has not arrived at work yet, and a phone call suggests he may have been assassinated. We found out later that he was murdered in his private clinic in front of his patients by a very cold-blooded killer, who told the patients that their doctor cannot examine them and they should go home. Dr. Samir was chair of radiology at a nearby hospital, and he left behind a wife and three children. We spent our residency together, and we were making plans for the future of radiology in our country. He is a great loss to everybody. As a tribute, we named the lecture hall for postgraduate education in radiology after him.