Publish Novellas 23 June 2021
EPISODE 1 – TRAUMA
The names and situations are a kaleidoscope of reality. Examine the plight of a man during war that ravages a nation. Empathize with his anguish as he struggles to save both family and patients.
⚠️ Reader Discretion: Fiction based on actual crisis.
Exiting the operating room of the orthopedics ward in teal blue surgical scrubs, the atmosphere of the Tigray Hospital feels portentous to Dr. Bello Kassa. With an unsyncopated heartbeat, he begins preparing a soothing beverage in the doctors’ lounge.
Looking out the window while sipping hot tea, he views a caravan of ambulances coming and going from the parking lot. People are crying as a crisis unfolds. The Eritrean Army is maiming and killing innocent Tigrayan civilians.
Being a top surgeon who mentored under the notable Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Dr. Kassa treats hundreds of patients at the hospital each month. The massacre is so relentless that whatever he does is insufficient. The entire medical staff is unable to save tens of thousands of lives. The emotional toil of new cases pushes everyone to their limits.
The Ethiopian government has launched a military offensive against the rebellious regional government. But Eritreans continue harming Tigrayans. Tens of thousands of refugees are occupying Sudan with insufficient humanitarian aid.
These thoughts flood Dr. Kassa’s mind while trying to calm himself for five minutes after working three back-to-back shifts.
He turns to the voice from across the room. Tafari Sadik, a male nurse and friend, has also come for a tea break.
“Was your surgery successful, Dr. Kassa?” Tafari asks.
“Pretty good,” Dr. Kassa replies, while taking a sip.
Tafari selects an herbal tea.
“Tafari!” Dr. Kassa says. The nurse turns towards the doctor still peering through the window. “I don’t know why, but my heart is beating strangely.”
“I think it’s because of the high volume of patient tragedies,” Tafari replies while mixing sugar in his cup.
Dr Kassa takes a deep breath. There is no time for the doctors and staff to relax and talk at length. So, he heads back into the operating room.
Dr. Kassa checks his messages before setting his mobile phone on silent mode. During that silence, the entire hospital building quakes badly with an explosion detonated by the Eritrean Army.
Patients and medical staff are immobilized by the piercing sound of the bomb is ringing in their ears. The small blast does not damage the hospital building. But the shrieks of people coming from outside are indication of the deadly destruction. Dr. Kassa dashes towards the emergency room to assess new patients.
There are not enough ambulances. Patients who cannot drag themselves in are being carried by friends or strangers. With insufficient gurneys, hospital beds, or surgical wards blood-spattered patients receive treatment while sitting on the floor slumped against a wall.
Dr. Kassa is treating cardiology, pulmonology, otolaryngology, and gastroenterology patients as best he can. Other doctors are also handling cases beyond their specialties.
An announcement comes over the hospital speaker from the medical director. “Attention, all medical personnel. We are initiating emergency triage protocol. I repeat, emergency triage protocol.” Essentially, this means focus on the patients that can be saved with the resources available.
Ethiopian soldiers are doing everything in their power to eradicate Tigrayans from the map. Bombings decimate neighborhoods. Women are gang raped to bring forth non-Tigrayan offspring or they are sexually mutilated so they cannot bare children.
Exerting himself as much as possible, the cup of tea provides insufficient nutrition to sustain Dr. Kassa. He collapses from exhaustion.
Colleagues give him an intravenous drip of nutrients and force him to rest for an hour. Afterwards, he gets up, pulling the IV drip on a 5-caster stand up the hallways.
“Dr. Kassa, Come here quickly!” Doctors call him to the operation room to a patient with a half-opened skull.
After disconnecting himself from his own IV, Dr. Kassa scrubs in for surgery and inserts a metal plate while endeavoring to relieve cerebral pressure.
He then moves on to the next patient. A 10-year-old girl, who reminds him of his daughter, has significant head trauma. During surgery, the young patient passes away. Dr. Kassa calls the time of death and goes to the bathroom to wash the tears from his face.
He opens his mobile phone to see his daughter’s picture. There are ten missed calls from home. He plays a voice message from Ayyana Kassa, his sister. During the message he falls to his knees.
Sobbing between the words, Ayyana tells Bello, “Our parents and your wife are no longer with us!”
Bello attributes the earlier uncomfortable feeling in his chest to this sad news. Because of impossible hospital demands, it is days before Bello is able to bury his parents and dear wife.
At the memorial service, Bello hugs his sister and children before saying, “I couldn’t save my own family from dying, but there are people I can save.”
His children, Naaila Kassa and Thabbo Kassa are silently weeping and hugging Ayyana Kassa. Now, Ayyana must assume the role of a mother for them.
Over the next few weeks, Bello tries to compartmentalize mass casualties. But he experiences flashbacks, as he is unable to forget his dear ones.
His daughter, Naaila, becomes an otolaryngology patient with progressive hearing loss and panic attacks. He applies drops and gives her ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. With cotton in her ears, Bello gently wraps gauze around the young child’s head to dampen the sounds of ambient explosions.
Grasping Naaila’s hand, he says a prayer to comfort her. Then he promises to be home more often.
Later that evening, while napping with eyes wide open in his bedroom, he receives a call from Tafari, the nurse at the hospital. “Come to the emergency ward right away!”
When Bello arrives, the patient lying on the bed, is his sister, Ayyana. The Eritrean men have sexually mutilated her. The news feels as though the walls of the Tigray Hospital collapse on him.
Surgeons remove stones from her vagina and address hemorrhaging. But there is no bandage for emotional trauma.
In the recovery room, Ayyana seeks answers. “Why is this happening… to me… to everyone?” asks Ayyana.
Bello tries to comfort her. “The answer exceeds my medical training. In the second book of Timothy, chapter three, the Bible says that evil men will advance from bad to worse in the end of the days. So the time for such things is short. But know that in the meantime, I love you very much and will care for you in every way possible.”
Ayyana tries to express appreciation, but the sedatives are taking effect. She just smiles while closing her eyes to rest.