SABAH (105)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (105)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019

Chapter Twenty Six

Our university years were special. In those years, in summer time, our families and friends such as Nasrin came to us. Sometimes we were busy for one week or ten days. In summer time, the weather in Caspian and sea dragged us towards it. It was a good timeframe.

On the first month of summer 1985 my studies were over and I got my associate degree in midwifery and returned to Tehran. We said goodbye with heavy hearts and parted. We had become close during our study years. Ferdows gave birth to her second child in 1984. Hossein was a sweet and lovely boy who brought special joy to our family. Two years later Mehdi was born and Ferdows and Agha Mohammad had a family to take care.

After finishing my studies, I had to participate in a special plan for a year. I was assigned to Arak. I shared a room in dorm with a few other students who were also there for their special plans. Shokoufeh Sadat Vafaie and Simin whose family name I don’t remember, were my roommates.  Shokoufeh was a general physician and Simin was a nurse. They were there to pass their special plan. Thanks God they were also Hezbollahs and revolutionary members and we had quite the same belief.

When we were in Arak, the issue of bombardment of cities became intensive. Once we were having lunch together when the red (alert) situation was announced. At that very moment an Iraqi airplane passed the sky and left. After the airplane left, the white situation was announced. I told my roommates that the situation is still red and the situation is not normal. The Iraqi airplanes soar and disappear from sight, but they return. They said: “No! What are you talking about?! When they announce the white situation, this means that the danger is gone!”

They were still talking when we heard a massive explosion and the dorm trembled. For one instance it was as if all bricks on the walls were shaking. The infrastructure of the building was breaking apart. Simin ran and took refuge under the bed. I didn’t move. I stood there and started whispering Shahada (an Islamic creed). It was a massive bombing. The volume could be seen in the trembling of the building. When the situation got calmer, we ran out of dorm. We wanted to see which area has been targeted. People were running terrified in the street. These scenes were not bizarre for me. I had seen lots of these scenes in Khorramshahr and Abadan. One of the bombs had hit the rear part of the dorm; a location between dorm and the surrounding of Arak city hospital. The bomb had not operated and only the windows of the dorm had cracked. Thanks God, no severe damage had been imposed on the dorm.

We went to the bombing location. The bomb had fallen into a shop which filled CNG capsules. All capsules had exploded. A bomb had also hit the asphalt near the shop and had made a hole in the asphalt. People had gathered at the site and each had something to say. The woman and children were crying and whining. Everybody was terrified and agitated. It was as if the voice of judgement day was heard. All the walls of the yards of the houses had been damaged. The glasses and shutters of the shop were in the middle of the street. Among the crowd, those who could stay in charge of their feelings, were running inside the houses and bringing back the wounded people and send them to the hospital. We ran towards the hospital. I knew that we are needed there most.

When I got there, for one instance, I remembered the night when I was in Taleghani hospital and the mosque was raided. There was a reverberation in the emergency ward. Everybody was confused. The wounded kept arriving. People wounded on head, hand and/or hit by quivers that needed stitches. Although I didn’t do stitches on any wound in the frontline, but now that I had learnt the basics of doing it, I did it without fear. That night I did many stitches with full speed.

In that situation, two army pilots were brought to hospital. Their face gestures were special. They were looking around confused; like those people who are in shock and fear. Shokoufeh also noticed their arrival. I looked at her and said: “Shokoufeh, I think they are Iraqis.” Shokoufeh said: “Drop it Sabbah! How come? These are our pilots!”

I was curious. I went and checked with the head nurse. They said that they are Iraqi pilots who have bombarded the city. They were returning to their base when they have been shot by Arak aerial defense. People have hit them hard. One of them had a broken skull. The army saved them from the public! I returned and told Shokoufeh: “I was right! They are Iraqis!”

We were busy without resting until late at night. I was on shift that night. After all the hasty tasks, it was near midnight when a woman was brought who was in labor. I went to delivery room. I was so tired that I felt that I was going to faint. The room seemed to be red and covered in blood. I couldn’t concentrate. I was looking at the mother confused when one of the students from Arak approached me and told me smiling: “Give me your hand. Come and rest a bit.” She took me out of the room and guided me to a bed. Then she brought me water with lots of sugar and made sure I drank it all. Then she helped me lie down and placed two pillows under my feet. Then she asked: “Do you need intravenous or not?” I said that I don’t need.

When we were in the hospital during bombardment, most of the personnel and patients who could walk, came to haven. Some of the physicians had rented houses in a village called Moote which was near the hospital and were living them. They said that this village doesn’t exist on the map and is a blind spot and safer than any other place in the city. I had been in the hospital for a while. When the red alert was given and all ran towards haven, I stayed in the ward with patients. I didn’t want to leave them alone.

Once I ran towards the haven out of curiosity to see what kind of a place that is. I saw two service forces who were dragging two chairs with themselves. I said what are you doing? Why are you dragging these chairs, they said that it is for the Head of the hospital and his wife! The Head of the hospital was a gynecologist and his wife was pediatrician.

We went into haven. It was an almost large space under the stairs of the hospital. The rear part was the yard of the hospital; the yard was separated from haven with a tall glass and was a storage for fuel and gasoline and other items used in the hospital! It was funny! Was this a haven or a slaughter house?! Two big tanks of gasoline and fuel were in the yard and a big wall of glass between the yard and the so called “Haven”! I told two three colleagues of mine that this is the most unsafe part of the hospital instead of a haven. It is better to stay in the ward with the rest of the patients during red alert. They said: “Why do you think like this?” I said: “There are two tankers here and a big glass. If any spot of the hospital is raided and these two tankers explode, we will all burn completely. Moreover, all the glass particles will become quivers and colander us?”

That day passed. A while later, at two early in the morning in red status a woman was brought going into labor; she was about thirty five years old and she was having her child after 15 years of treatment for infertility. The red alert and the anxiety in peoples’ faces had caused fear in this poor woman and her pain and restlessness had escalated. These special patients who become pregnant after treatment, should undergo Cesarean section to minimize the risk of delivery and have a healthy baby.

There was no surgeon in the war. That night was the shift of head of hospital but he had switch places with the Indian physician. The Indian surgeon who did the Cesareans, had gone to the village that night. I called the head of the hospital and explained the situation. He told me to allocate one hour to see if she can deliver naturally. After one hour nothing happened. I called the doctor again. He said give her another one hour!

The woman was crying and shouting and pleading: “For the sake of God, please help me, I will die now!” I was really worried for her. She was dying of pain.

Dr. Hendi had gone to village and was supposed to come back but by the time he arrived the infant who was a big boy and was blue all over his body, suffocated in the uterus. I felt so bad. Poor woman was trying to have a baby for 15 years and now her child was still birth. I lost control and started arguing with the doctor. I said: “Why did you delay so much causing the death of the infant?” He said: “It is none of your business!” I said: “It is my business. She wanted to have a baby for 15 years. She had spent so much money. She had undergone treatment, and you killed her healthy child by being careless …” He said: “I have no responsibility towards you Iranians! I have done you a favor by coming in the war period and serving.” I said: “Please take your favor and go and serve your own people so that they won’t die in the streets due to hunger.”

He became furious and left. I told my friends what had happened. Then I said that I wish we could make a haven in the hospital so that we won’t have to plead the physicians to come to hospital! One of them said: “Go and suggest!” I said: “To whom?” She said: “Government War Headquarters.”

I knew that the Arak War Headquarters is in Governor’s office. I found the war headquarters contact details and the next morning, I called. A man picked up the phone and I didn’t know who he was and what is his position, I started complaining that you only think about yourselves and people are nothing to you and so on. He handed over the phone to somebody else. He asked who I was and where I was calling from. I said I am one of the personnel of the hospital. Then I told them about the happening last night. God knows that my aim was to make things better in the hospital and the haven so that physicians don’t leave the hospital and endanger the lives of the patients. I didn’t know that this is a kind of reporting and the Head of hospital will later address this!

The individual who was in war headquarters, asked: “Why do physicians leave the hospital to go to Moote in red alert?” I said: “Apparently there is safer than other places.”

The person who was listening calmly and slowly, got angry and said: “They don’t have the right to leave the hospital without permission!”

I never thought that what the physicians did was illegal and they don’t have the right to leave the hospital in that situation. If I knew I would have talked to the head of the hospital first and in case of no feedback, I would have referred to the war bureau and other places.

When I finished talking, I asked him to allocate a safe place near the hospital as haven for the personnel of the hospital and the patients so that the doctors are accessible all the time. Then I said goodbye and hung over. The news reached the head of the hospital much sooner than I thought. I was in the ward when they asked me to go to the office of head of hospital. When I entered his office, he was read as a pomegranate and started shouting without introduction! He repeated: “Now you report the hospital to the authorities!”

I didn’t know who had reported me. If he could, he would beat me. He said what he wanted. He was saying: “Who do you think you are? A simple midwife and not more than that. You must pass your shifts and leave. You shouldn’t interfere in such affairs!” I tried to tell him that I didn’t want to report you or the hospital and I just wanted to find a way for this situation, he didn’t listen and didn’t believe. I felt so offended. His behavior was really offensive. I tried so hard not to cry. I came out of his office and returned to the ward. I was down and bored for a few days until I heard that the Governor has allocated the basement of Melli Shoe factory to the hospital. The factory was in an industrial city near the hospital.

I became so happy when I heard this news. When I saw the standard basement with reinforced concrete I totally forgot the shouting and offenses of the Head of hospital. Thanks God my complaint had been reflected. This basement was so big and spacious that the whole hospital was moved there. Besides this, the third floor of a hotel located in the same place was given to the hospital so that the personnel can live and rest there.


To be continued …



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