ABU DHABI // A team of doctors from hospitals in Abu Dhabi operated on 110 patients in six days during a visit to a remote part of south Yemen.
On his fourth trip to the country last month, Dr Amin El Gohary, paediatric surgeon at Burjeel hospital Abu Dhabi, carried out the vital operations with two other doctors in the remote Al Mukalla region.
A strong believer of giving in his personal and professional life, Dr El Gohary, a 69-year-old Egyptian, said he first planned to bring a few children to Abu Dhabi for complex surgery.
“We at Burjeel were ready to do whatever is needed to bring patients to Abu Dhabi, but once people in Yemen found out I am accepting patients the number was increasing every day, so the best option was me going there instead of bringing them here,” he said.
Despite having made three trips to Yemen, Dr El Gohary said his mission last month was one of the most important and dangerous.
“We knew Al Qaeda was there recently and also saw the damage they inflicted. We were promised that the mission was safe, but what exactly does safe mean in a war zone?” Dr El Gohary said.
The doctor flew from Abu Dhabi to Qatar, then on to Salalah in Oman. From there, he took a car across the Yemen border accompanied by Dr Ahmad Maasher, a laparoscopic surgeon, and paediatric surgeon Dr Saif Eleslam, both from Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
On the way, their car was stopped at seven checkpoints. Dr El Gohary said it was not easy getting the medical instruments he needed for surgeries past security guards and customs.
However, after a 17-hour journey they reached Al Mukalla at 4pm and carried out their first operation an hour later.
“We informed Al Sheher hospital on our way that we would like to have patients the same day because we knew any day we lose, we are losing patients,” Dr El Gohary said.
“My working hours are usually 8am to 2pm but over there we worked almost 12 hours continuously with maybe 30 minutes break in total. The exhaustion I feel when I finish a normal day here, over there I did not feel at all. The passion kept us going.” he said.
Operating on 110 patients in six days is a challenge, especially with the limited medical facilities available, Dr El Gohary said.
“You cannot operate solely relying on the equipment they have. The operating light, we had to use one for two tables. If you are lucky the other table finishes early and you can bring the light closer to help you see better,” he said.
The majority of children he treated in Al Mukalla suffered from urinary related problems, said the doctor, who called on the UAE’s hospitals and medical professionals to aid those in need in Yemen.
“There are no facilities whatsoever in the south of Yemen. If people wanted to have their children operated on they would have to go to Sanaa, which was not easy. For more complex cases they would have to go to another country, some of them sell their houses to have their children operated on,” he said.
“Urology was a major issue there, which has very complex cases. The psychological trauma that children go through because they are left untreated is huge.”
Due to issues with his return to Abu Dhabi, Dr El Gohary had to cut short his trip by a day.
“It breaks my heart leaving them, there was still an operation scheduled for the next day. Many countries and doctors do provide services in Yemen, especially the UAE, which is setting a great example ,” he said.
“But I want to encourage more doctors to step up, they need all specialities there. Medicine is a noble mission based on giving, it is not about being rich or famous. Helping others, is what medicine is all about.”