Gaza's Wounded Seek Medical Care in Egypt

As hospitals in Gaza struggle to cope with casualties from the Israeli-Hamas conflict, a lucky few have been able to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing that borders Egypt.

At least 55 of the critical cases, those who need emergency medical care, have been admitted to hospitals in Egypt, according to Egyptian health officials. While Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is standing firm about not opening the border, he is allowing some of the injured to cross for treatment and allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza through Egypt.

Once the casualties clear the border, their first stop is at the hospital in the nearby town of El-Arish. It's a relatively small hospital with basic medical equipment. The injured receive general medical attention and are then transferred to hospitals with more sophisticated medical equipment in the capital of Cairo, which is about a four-hour drive from the border.

Some of them are being treated at the Nasser Institute, one of Cairo's main hospitals. Named after Egypt's second president, the popular Gamal Abdel Nasser, the hospital is one of the biggest here, with 950 beds.

Dr. Ismael Nanci, an orthopaedic surgeon, said the hospital has received 27 patients, all of them between the ages of 20 and 35. Two of them are women.

Anticipated the Injuries

"Most of them are multiple fractures, especially in the lower limbs, compound fractures. Some of them have piece of shrapnel in [the] abdomen or chest and one in the neck," Nanci said. "We have three cases in the ICU [intensive care unit]. These are the most difficult cases, from multiple fractures, bad general condition from bleeding."

He said that as soon as the Israeli strikes began on Gaza, "we got ready, we were anticipating the injured. We got word from the president of the hospital to expect them and to begin treating them as quickly as possible."

Ahmed Hussein Ahmed, 25, a police officer, is among the patients on the fourth floor of the Nasser Institute. His police station was one of the first targets hit by the Israeli airstrikes when they began Saturday.

"There were 80 of us," he said. "A jet flew over and dropped a rocket on us. More than half of my colleagues became martyrs."

'It's Really Dire'

"We were outside the police compound. Some of my colleagues were inside and the entire building collapsed on top of them. Some of their bodies are still there now," he later said.

Ahmed suffered multiple fractures, breaking both thigh bones and shoulder. He described the situation in Gaza before he left: "It's really dire. When I was in the Red Crescent hospital in Gaza, the police station next to that hospital was hit and the Interior Ministry was also hit and the windows of the hospital shattered and glass landed on our heads."

His brother later said that when his family found out the police station had been hit, they went to the morgue to look for Ahmed's body. They thought he had died. It was only when they watched their TV that they found out he was alive.

"Ahmed was among the policemen shown on TV," the brother said. "He was on the ground next to some of the dead. That's when they knew he was alive."

Some of the patients were too weak to speak but members of their families were willing to describe what had happened to them.

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