A resident of war-torn Homs recounts his narrow escape from death

Screen grab of a Skype interview with Rami H.
 
Rami H. (not his real name) has been one of our most regular and reliable Observers in Syria since the start of the unrest. We speak to him on a daily basis via Skype, and thanks to his reports we have been able to cover the desperate situation of the people of Homs, a city that has been bombed relentlessly by government forces. On June 11, Rami was hit by shrapnel while trying to rescue his brother as bombs rained down on the city. He was given very basic treatment at a makeshift underground hospital overcrowded with dozens of injured residents, and survived. He told us about his ordeal.
 
It happened last Monday, in the middle of the afternoon. A mortar shell had just hit my house, with my brother inside it. I was at a friend’s house when I heard he had been wounded. I rushed out with three of my friends in a car to try to find a surgeon. We looked in houses, in clinics, everywhere and found no one. I finally ended up in a house that had been turned into a makeshift hospital, where volunteers – most of whom had no medical training – were trying to tend to the injured with little or no equipment. We had just gotten out of the car and were heading towards the house when a shell dropped on our vehicle.
 
My friends and I were all hit by shrapnel. It was terrible: I was trying to get help for my brother, and there I was getting injured myself. We were dragged into the hospital. At first, I panicked after noticing the blood gushing down my face. But the volunteers who were examining me reassured me: my skin had only been scratched on the surface. But they warned me that they would have to remove shrapnel lodged deep in my stomach, which was much more serious and required urgent care. I also had a leg injury.
 
Among the team of men who took care of us, there was a carpenter, a football player and a medical student who had never practiced before the revolution. Thank God, the operation went smoothly, and they were able to remove the shrapnel and clean and bandage my wound. One of the other injured men we were with was not so lucky: the doctor was forced to amputate his leg because he couldn’t stitch his veins together. About thirty people were piled into this makeshift ward, where I was lying on the ground, without even a pillow. The walls were filthy, nothing was sterilised.
 
As a result, I was unable to find help for my brother. Some people I knew contacted the UN delegation, which sent a doctor to the city. But he was unfortunately blocked from entering by guards at a checkpoint. In the end, we were able to smuggle a doctor to the house, and he operated my brother then and there. He is still in critical condition.
 
I’m feeling OK now. Volunteers visit me every day to change my bandages. Today, I was able to go outside and walk in the street, but not for long, because I still feel pain in my leg and stomach. Also, you never know when a sniper might shoot at you or when a bomb will fall.
 
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