// Entry #26
We live just blocks from Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza City’s largest hospital and medical facility. During a visit with my uncle in 2004, medics rushed in a bleeding civilian injured in an encounter with an Israeli soldier. Between 2008-2009, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert led a team of international doctors that graced the hospital with experience and medical expertise as they treated thousands of Palestinians injured during Operation Cast Lead. This summer, I walked with another uncle through the hospital grounds as he delivered paperwork for a transfer to an Israeli hospital for chemotherapy. I promised then and there to join the skilled physicians at Al-Shifa as soon as I can.
But I’d first have to earn my medical licence and, assuming everything goes without interruption, that should take no less than six years. I couldn’t wait that long so my family and I decided to donate blood. It’s the easiest way to help a medical institution still recovering from a military invasion two and a half years ago.
Unlike hospitals in the United States, you can walk through almost every door in Al-Shifa. We took the back entrance into the hematology building and entered every office and patient room on the floor until we found Dr. Abdo, the lady we were referred to. She kindly escorted us to the room where doctors prepared to draw blood for preliminary testing.
As I sat in a torn green dentist chair, a doctor quickly drew 10 mL of blood and ran it through a machine to determine the sample’s hemoglobin level. The doctors agreed that it was safe to draw more blood so they attached a blood bag to a tube and inserted a new needle into my other arm. Another doctor dabbed at the site of the first needle and tossed the bloodied cotton ball into the exposed trash bin.
By now, I had lost complete focus of the blood being pumped into the pouch to my right. All I could think of were the grave errors committed by every single one of the doctors. I am not a physician nor do I claim to have even an ounce of the knowledge and experience these doctors have, but I’ve been drilled countless times that blood, even in a hospital setting, should never be handled without protection for fear of contracting blood-borne pathogens. The entire procedure had been performed with only one glove — the one tied around my upper arm to put pressure on the vessel. The doctors used their bare hands to collect, test, and clean my blood.
Later, I learned that the glove they tied around my arm would be used for the next few individuals donating blood. The physicians themselves have no gloves to work with. The only supplies they have are plastic tubes, needles, alcohol swabs, cotton balls, tape, and blood bags — all in limited quantities.
I gave my blood bag another glance and found a label that read “300 mL capacity”. The doctors had collected 450 mL of blood and the bag appeared ready to burst. The hospital’s blood bank was running out of available blood as well as empty blood bags and this was the best the physicians could manage.
It’s crazy how we blow latex gloves up like balloons during our spare time while physicians in the Gaza Strip perform complete medical procedures without finding enough latex to cover even the tips of their fingers.
Luckily, a firefighter friend of mine in Chicago foresaw this dilemma and donated a box of 100 nitrile gloves to be used by doctors and health professionals in Gaza. Two days after donating blood, I returned to the hematology lab bearing the small gift. I couldn’t find Dr. Abdo so I handed the donation off to another doctor. It was just one small box of gloves but the physician’s reaction made it feel so much bigger.
He explained how he would go weeks without ever touching a glove, how he’d have to travel to other hospitals just to find a pair of gloves to work with. Remember, this is Gaza’s most prestigious hospital. If it’s not found here, it probably isn’t found anywhere else within these borders.
If you’re reading this, Sam, the physicians in Al-Shifa Hospital thank you for your donation. May you be rewarded with the same kindness and thoughtfulness you consistently show toward the occupied people of Palestine.