With two hands down, Khaled was lying on his back with a resuscitation mask covering his wrinkled face.
His chest contracts and relaxes. A raspy sound broke the silence of the room, while his wife pressed hard against his thin chest, begging him to take a deep breath.
“I don’t know what to do. The doctor says he needs oxygen, but the hospitals are full and they don’t provide good services. I am waiting for the young Abdullah to come home with an oxygen bottle,” said Ruwaida, 50, wife of the patient “Khaled”, wearing three masks and blue gloves.
Hospitals are suffering
Mosul hospitals were not able to accommodate large numbers of people infected with the Coronavirus epidemic since February 2020.
The main hospitals were bombed during the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria ISIS so they were transformed into “caravan” rooms that could barely accommodate a few patients without escorts.
Five years have passed since the liberation of the city of Mosul, and the health sector is still neglected as none of the four main hospitals has been renovated.
Self-effort to patch the rift
The gap created by the war between a dilapidated health situation and medical services by private sector at costs unaffordable for the population of Mosul, left them helpless.
This situation prompted Abdullah, a law school postgraduate, to open a free clinic in Mosul, in which he collects equipment from donors for people infected with the virus, especially for the elderly, including the oxygen bottles delivered for free to the patient’s hospitalised at home.
Abdullah stays in his small clinic until late at night, with oxygen cylinders around him, waiting for those who need them at this time.
Specialist doctors supervised teaching me how to install the device and organise the time of administration and its device.Abdullah.
Walid parks his private car in front of the clinic and hastily loads an oxygen cylinder with the help of Abdullah into his truck. “I saved Abdullah’s number on my phone after I saw his post on Facebook. I was sure that my old father would contract the virus. The last thing I thought of was going to the hospital.”
I could not remain a spectator and suffer at the same time when I see a case rushing to the hospital, but they are shocked when they see the isolation departments are full and there is no bed embracing the patient, facing the fear of the lack of oxygen cylinders, so I went to the opening of this clinic under the supervision of specialised doctors.Abdullah.
According to Abdullah, he has been able to provide support to more than 100 severe cases since the pandemic began.
His phone keeps ringing. He responds to tens of phone calls every day, including those requesting an oxygen cylinder and others wanting to return it.
Most of the cases that come to me need oxygen according to the doctor’s description, so specialist doctors taught me how to install the device and organise the time of administration and its device. Unfortunately, there are cases that did not recover, due to late responding to the case.Abdullah.
He takes a small cylindrical device, attaches it to a second piece of metal, and then explains, “This work is far from my academic field. I don’t think about employment now because it has become beyond a dream for young people like me.”
Even the volunteers were not spared the assault
On a dark, cold night, young men kicked the door of the clinic of Abdullah, and in a sharp tone marred by the features of a threat, they told him that their patient had died and that he was the reason for that.
“I immediately thought about leaving this job because they blamed me for his death, but I thought about those who rely on someone like me to help them,” Abdullah says.
The doctors who served during the epidemic round the clock share the bitter memories that Abdullah faced as a volunteer.
Ithar Al-Taie, a doctor from Mosul, told KirkukNow, “We as doctors have not been spared from abuse, even though we are government employees, so how about a volunteer who does not belong to an institution that protects him.”
“I have heard of him since the beginning of the pandemic, and I know doctors who cooperate with him and provide services for free due to the deterioration of the health services and the high prices of treatments,” Al-Taie added.
Abdullah sees that Khaled is one of the examples that push him to continue, as he is enjoying good health after a challenge with the virus, which reached its peak with a small percentage of oxygen remaining in his body, reaching less than 70% but Abdullah continued with him until the old man recovered and began visiting him from one period to another.
Khaled, 70 years old, says as he grips his palm and puts it on his mouth after a sniffle of coughing, “I did not expect my breath to return to normal… I could see Abboud’s face indistinctly but he did not leave me.”
Two years after the pandemic, the demand continues
The requests for the free services provided by Abdullah has not stopped, more than two years past the pandemic. He closed his clinic due to his inability to pay the rent, so he turned his small house into a clinic filled with cylinders and kits.
His mother says, “I was afraid of getting infected. Although he used to come home a little, now I encourage him to do this good job.”
Abdullah lobbies for cancer patients
Abdullah was recently able to collect from donors about 50 million Iraqi dinars IQD ($34,000) to treat cancer patients with limited income, in addition to his efforts in the media to draw attention to the lack of cancer radiation device in Nineveh province, home to more than four million people.
The patients are forced to go to the capital, Baghdad, or Erbil province, a trip that costs at least 3 million IQD, over $2000.
I ask now and every day through pleas that there are demands to provide Mosul with a radiation device, the absence of which forces hundreds of patients to go to other cities and receive sessions there, which is a costly matter for many families.Abdullah.
Several initiatives emerged in Mosul, especially after the city was liberated from the extremist organisation. All aim to breathe more life into facilities that have been neglected by both local and central governments, in order to help groups that have fallen under poverty because of the war and the repercussions of the pandemic, and Abdullah’s initiative is only one of tens.