A Riotous Entrance into the Operating Theatre
While working on the night shift, a gifted medical intern experiences a horrifying incident that causes her to rethink her plan to stay on to help war victims after the Taliban takeover.
A few weeks after the Taliban seized power in Kabul, I was on the night shift at the hospital. I was clad in green scrubs, a white disposable surgical hat, and my green plastic ‘scrub’ shoes that were worn only in the operating theatre. They had a rigid sole and a low heel. The sole and the hefty weight of the shoes resulted in pain and tiredness. The hospital was a surgical centre for war victims in Afghanistan.
Around midnight, we had two patients in two of the operating theatres for procedures. One patient had multiple shell injuries. The second one was being operated on for a bullet injury to his right leg. The latter had lost a lot of blood and was looking very pale.
Everyone was trying to keep him stable.
Some of us were getting ready to receive the next patient, who had a knife injury to his leg. I put on my gloves and was hurrying in my stiff green scrub shoes toward the pre-op area. Before entering, I saw through the glass wall the strange faces of the Taliban inside. I got away rapidly and called one of my male colleagues to come and check what was happening.
Using violence, the Taliban had entered the operating theatre without observing the hygiene instructions. They were shouting at everyone and hit and pushed some of our colleagues. I could only lock myself in a separate room and hide my smartphone and laptop among the medication and patient files. The Taliban usually check smartphones for photos and foreigners’ contact information.
I wiped off my pink lipstick. I took off my scrub shoes, too, because my feet were in pain after hours of standing. I listened from behind the locked door to the sounds of violence. My heart was beating fast. I was in shock. After half an hour, our foreign supervisors came and convinced them to leave the operating theatre. They threatened me as the only female staff that night, but finally, we were allowed to tend to our patients.
In the early morning, after my shift, I went directly home. My mom asked how my night had been. I couldn’t stop my tears while telling her about the terrible incident I had experienced. My dad always supported my goals. Even after the Taliban took power in Kabul, I wanted to stay and continue my medical training and help war victims at the hospital. But after this horrifying incident inside the operating theatre, we realized that I was not safe anymore in Kabul. It was unsafe to stay, but painfully hard to leave.
The day after that riotous entrance of the Taliban, I returned to the hospital. Pretending it was a normal day, I helped with the patient procedures. I took photos with some of my colleagues without telling them about my intention to leave the city. Most of my male colleagues had tried to persuade me to leave Kabul in order to continue my studies until the situation was safe again. But due to security reasons, I couldn’t tell them about my plans.
While leaving, I took one of my medical gowns and the stethoscope that had been awarded to me for earning the top score at the Kabul University of Medical Science. I also took the red pen awarded for the completion of my research. These gifts and photos mean a lot to me and make me feel inspired whenever I’m pining for Kabul and everything we had there. Entwined with my memories are those scrub shoes I left behind.
Faradis Ahmadi has a BSC from Kabul Medical University and was pursuing her MD too. She had a job as well in a surgical center, all of which ended when Kabul fell to the Taliban.