To: The four year old who no longer has a mother.

From: The medical student who witnessed it.

Mother and Daughter. Artist Unknown.

I’m not really sure what it was. The fact that it was the end of a long exhausting session and all my friends couldn’t wait to leave the surgical ER, or the fact that you showed up with only a stranger who carried you from the previous hospital you were briefly in, or the fact that you were four and reminded me of my little sisters. I don’t know why I stayed with you really. All I know is that I could not leave.

Your little body has turned so pale because you were losing blood, your little back had more holes in it than I could remember. I could see the flesh inside your pelvis. I had your blood on the bare tips of my fingers.

You actually managed to speak to me as I ran my hand through your locks-turned-white from the dust. You actually managed to gather enough strength to tell me you were with your parents when it all happened, going shopping on a hot summer morning, nothing out of the ordinary. I wonder if your mother knew that a bomb was going to turn her to ash and force her to leave you alone in this world. I wonder if you knew that this was the day your life was going to change forever.

‘We’ll need her to be assessed by neurology, general, pediatrics, orthopedics and vascular. Damn so many things are involved. Where the hell is neurology??’ Said one doctor. ‘Don’t make her look at the wounds, distract her please so I could examine her’ said another to me while I was standing next to him.

‘Distract her?’ I thought. ‘How could I possibly distract her from the excruciating pain she’s about to feel once you poke your fingers inside her wounds to feel the shells in her back- How could I distract her from the excruciating pain she’s about to feel when she finds out that fate poked its fingers in her life and left her without a mother and possibly without a father and a brother?’

I glance over your face; pale and shocked, your lips; swollen and shivering. My eyes find the two earrings you have in your ear. I smile and tell you to look at me. I show you that I have two earrings in each ear as well. I tell you that we are both looking prettier than all the other girls with one earring per ear. You start screaming from the pain. I tell you to hold my gaze but you keep closing your eyes. Just look at me dammit.

I then helped the assistants take you to radiology. You were shivering with cold as we put the Xray film under your back, pelvis, the side of your abdomen and your ankles. I kept telling you that you will be warm soon. We then took you to get an ultrasound of your tiny abdomen. It had free fluid in it. Not good.

Back in the ER, the time was going by slowly but I’m sure it all happened in an instant for you. I finally caught a sigh of relief when your aunts and uncles showed up and threw themselves at you because they were too worried. They still haven’t heard from your parents.

It’s amazing how made up stories and rumors can be generated to travel so fast when humans are faced with a crisis. In the span of less than half an hour, I heard more news about your parents than I could even remember. From your mother is alive and is on her way, to everyone you know in your life is dead. It was an emotional roller coaster, and I wasn’t even a part of your family. I could only imagine what the millions of people who have faced such a thing in this country have gone through. I could never imagine the unimaginable pain they felt from having a hope get crushed. I could only imagine the trauma. I could only imagine the loss.

We finally got the news when your oldest uncle called. They found your mother’s body, but they failed to find her soul within it.

I left you when I knew that my being there was going to be an obstacle in the way of the many many doctors now gathered around you. I took your aunt to the side and firmly told her not to cry in front of you and keep it together because she’s all you had at that moment- I can’t begin to tell you how ironic it was to stand there and tell her that when my own eyes were flooded with tears.

Jojo, my dearest. I kept looking for you the next day everywhere I could. I couldn’t find you. You are probably transferred to another hospital to complete your treatment now. I hope your surgery didn’t hurt as much. I hope your aunt is keeping strong for you.

You may very well never read this. But I feel the need to share the part of your story that I know, no matter how small that part is.

Jojo, my dearest. I went home that day overwhelmed with so many emotions. But this I promise: I will try to become the best doctor I can be. For you, and for all the Jojos that will come to me after you. One day when I’m the one responsible for your treatment, I will not let you down. The responsibility scares the marrow out of my bones, but I will do it.

Why?

Because I need to see you smiling while picking out 2 new pairs of earrings to wear again. That is why.

***

(Jojo) is a 4 year old girl who was brought to the surgical ER in Baghdad Teaching Hospital after an explosion happened in one of the local areas in Baghdad on Monday, August 28th, 2017. Jojo lost her mother that day, and possibly her father as well for he was yet to be located by the time I left her. Her 7 year old brother was critically injured and was being treated in different hospital. She, along with many other children deserve a much better life than the one they were born into. How many more innocent souls have to suffer here I wonder? When will it all end?