We're all still in shock after watching the footage of the 5 year old caked in blood and cement in the back of the ambulance. It's something we think we're not going to forget too quick but with the nature of the beast, the media and, well life in general it will slowly slide to the back of our minds and we'll move on. We'll forget that this isn't an isolated incident and that it's happening every day in Syria.
If you read this far I'd like to tell a short spiel on my last encounter with the children. It's a little rough and sad so take it or leave it.
About 8 days ago I was in a military hospital 30k outside of Manbij. The operation was 2 or 3 days from the end and oddly enough we weren't seeing as many wounded or corpses through the doors as we did the past few weeks. We got a phone call that a van full of children were en route and to get ready. The hospital didn't usually deal with civilian cases but made occasional exceptions. We got the theatre ready and smoked in the entrance waiting.
A battered people carrier roared up the driveway with five kids aged 5 to 13 and a wounded ISIS fighter in tow. We lumped everyone out, indoors and onto the beds. There were only 5 beds so the IS lad was put on a stretcher on the floor.
The kids were terrified. They had no family with them and were now surrounded by strangers. They were wounded by mortar fire and snipers. They all had blast burns on their skin with some of their clothes blown off completely. The IS lad had a horrific arm injury which was eventually going to be cut off.
The nurses did an amazing job of patching them up. They were given water which they choked down and those who needed blood and fluids were hooked up. All were prepared to be transferred to a civilian hospital. Everyone was put back in the blood soaked van, including our IS friend. I squeezed in amongst them for the ride just in case any further attention was required or our friend on the floor tried something.
We set of at a snail’s pace towards Kobane. My colleagues could do this journey in 22 minutes. Me, 28 but at this rate, with this fella it was going to take 50.
The kids were now exhausted and were dozing, except one, a girl of 6. She was very upset and frightened. She was crying and begging me for something. She spoke Arabic and didn't understand Kurdish so I didn't know what she wanted. During all this the IS lad on the floor starts wailing Allah Allah and asked for Av (water). He knew Kurdish so understood when I told him we had none. It didn't stop him though and he continued moaning and bitching at me. He kept bending his arm that the blood bag was attached to so I had to keep climbing over the kids to straighten his arm, unhook and rehook his line, blood squirting all over the place every time.
The little girl stopped crying and watched me do my thing. I sat back down beside her and she pointed at our friend saying he was 'Cete' which roughly translates as pirate.
"I know sweetie" was all I could say. Sure enough she started up again. The van was ridiculously hot so I spent the remainder of the journey swapping between fanning the child and fixing our friends fucking arm.
When we got to the hospital it was mayhem. Trucks were cueing up with some of the most horrific injuries I've seen. I motioned to the other kids to follow me, picked up the girl and went in. There were no beds. I asked a doctor for help but he shrugged me off. I had to be a bastard and kick up a fuss. There was a woman lying on a bed. A nurse said she could sit so we woke her up, forced her into a sitting position and sat the 5 kids on the bed beside her. I really had to go as we had to take the IS lad to registry and another hospital on the other side of the city. The little girl was slipping off the end of the bed so I motioned the oldest child to put his arm around her to keep her on it. The five of them clinging to that blood soaked iron yoke of a bed was one of the sorriest sights I've ever seen.
We checked our friend out of our life and headed back to our hospital, taking our time, skulling a few red bulls on the way. Just as we we were in the door an Arab man was running up the drive with a naked 7 year old girl in his arms. She had been electrocuted in an explosion and had been unconscious for some time as her father had been running around frantically looking for help. She wasn't breathing nor had a pulse. The doctor motioned me to begin CPR. I had been trained several times over several years but this was my first time to do it. I made space and pumped on her chest 15 times. The doc give 2 bursts of oxygen at intervals. We did this for about four minutes but it was too late. Since we're weren't a morgue we wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to her father. Someone was kind enough to give him a lift out of there. Again we had no time to think as the evening was coming and that's when we get busy so we swapped our bloody clothes for fresh ones and resumed smoking in the entrance, waiting for the next drop.
I guess the reason I told you this is because no one heard or will hear about these kids. There was nothing in any news reports about them.
Sadly they are a part of a statistic of the 250000 dead and probably a million wounded in this poxy war. What we saw on the news in the back of that ambulance is happening all day every day, regardless of you hearing about it. When I get home (soon I hope!) I will continue to do all I can to help Syria.