It was the end of a long exhausting day, and none of my friends could wait to leave the surgical ER.
So I’m not sure what it was. The fact that you showed up with only a stranger who carried you from another hospital or the fact that you were four and reminded me of my little sisters. I don’t really know why I stayed with you. All I know is that I could not leave.
Your little body had turned pale from losing blood. Your little back had more holes in it than I can remember. I could see the flesh inside your pelvis. I had your blood on the bare tips of my fingers.
You actually managed to speak to me as I ran my hand through your locks (turned white from the dust). You managed to gather enough strength to tell me you were with your parents when it all happened, going shopping on a hot summer morning, nothing out of the ordinary. I wonder if your mother knew that a bomb was going to turn her to ash and force her to leave you alone in this world. I wonder if you knew that this was the day that your life was going to change forever.
“We’ll need her to be assessed by neurology, medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics and vascular surgery. Dammit, so many things are involved. Where the hell is neurology?” said one doctor. “Don’t let her look at the wounds. Please distract her so that I can examine her,” said another to me while I was standing next to him.
“Distract her?” I thought. How could I possibly distract her from the excruciating pain that she’s about to feel once you put your fingers inside of her wounds? How could I distract her from the pain of finding out that fate had poked its fingers into her life and left her without a mother and possibly without a father and brother?
I glanced over at your face, pale and shocked. Your lips, swollen and shivering. My eyes found the two earrings that you had in each ear. I smiled and told you to look at me. I showed you that I had two earrings in each ear as well. I told you that we were both prettier than all of the other girls who only have one earring per ear. You started screaming from the pain. I told you to hold my gaze, but you kept closing your eyes.
Just look at me, dammit.
I then helped the assistants take you to radiology. You were shivering from the cold as we put the X-ray film under your back, your pelvis, the side of your abdomen and your ankles. I kept telling you that you would be warm soon. We then took you to get an ultrasound of your tiny abdomen. It had free fluid in it. Not good.
Back in the ER, the time was going by slowly, but I’m sure that it all happened in an instant for you. I finally took a sigh of relief when your aunts and uncles showed up and threw themselves at you because they were so worried. They still hadn’t heard from your parents.
It’s amazing how made-up stories and rumors can be generated so quickly when people are faced with a crisis. In the span of less than a half hour, I heard more news about your parents than I could even remember. From your mother is alive and on her way to everyone that you know is dead. It was an emotional roller coaster, and I wasn’t even a part of your family. I could only imagine what the millions of people who have faced such a thing in this country have gone through. I could only imagine the pain that they felt from having a hope get crushed. I could only imagine the trauma. I could only imagine the loss.
We finally got the news when your oldest uncle called. They found your mother’s body, but they failed to find her soul within it.
I left you when I knew that I was only getting in the way of the many doctors now gathered around you. I took your aunt to the side and firmly told her not to cry in front of you and to keep it together because she was all that you had in that moment. I can’t begin to tell you how ironic it was to stand there and tell her that when my own eyes were flooded with tears.
Jojo, my dearest. The next day, I kept looking for you everywhere that I could. I couldn’t find you. You were probably transferred to another hospital to complete your treatment. I hope that your surgery didn’t hurt too much. I hope that your aunt is staying strong for you.
You may very well never read this. But I feel the need to share the part of your story that I know, no matter how small that part is.
Jojo, my dearest. I went home that day overwhelmed with so many emotions. But this I promise: I will try to become the best doctor that I can be. For you and for all of the Jojos that will come to me after you. One day when I’m the one responsible for your treatment, I will not let you down. The responsibility scares the marrow out of my bones, but I will be there for you.
Because I need to see you smiling while picking out two new pairs of earrings to wear again.
Jojo is a four-year-old girl who was brought to the surgical ER in Baghdad Teaching Hospital after an explosion on Monday, August 28th, 2017. Jojo lost her mother that day and possibly her father as well for he was yet to be located when I left her. Her seven-year-old brother was critically injured and was being treated at a different hospital. She, along with many other children, deserve a much better life than the one that they were born into. How many more innocent souls have to suffer here? When will it all end?