About this story:
- Ashdod is an Israeli city, 18 miles to the north of Gaza.
- The writer, Dr. Jeffrey Green, is an emergency physician who divides his time between the Milwaukee Veterans Administration Medical Center and Assuta Ashdod University Hospital in Israel.
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I am anchored in Milwaukee this fall while my wife gets medical treatment. I witnessed the events of Oct. 7 from afar. That morning I was awakened by my sobbing daughter on the phone from Tel Aviv, bearing the unthinkable news. While she huddled in a safe room, my colleagues at the Assuta Ashdod emergency department shifted into high gear.
As I followed the disaster on the news, I followed it from the group chat of the team in Ashdod, a window into the storm that transpired: Dr. D huddled in a safe room with her baby, machine-gun fire and a neighbor shot outside. Her husband was called to combat but unable to exit the house. Queries for missing people were posted. Later those sheltering emerged from their safe rooms and broke their silence. Then came the food: mountains of donated pizza, sandwiches, and other sustenance, overfeeding the body and spirit of those responding to the worst-case scenario.
That afternoon our unit secretary gave birth to a beautiful baby. I stared at the new family unit on my phone, stunned: a gorgeous baby, born on this day like all other days, even while we are saturated with death. The WhatsApp feed shifted to a full 90 minutes of loving responses, all mazal tovs and emojis. We basked in the warmth. Later a new staff RN was introduced and a second barrage of emojis and good lucks followed.
The next morning Dr. West sent a love letter to the staff, not about the horrific nightmare that had befallen us, but rather about resilience, teamwork, sensitivity, friendship and pride. It brings me to tears each time I read it.
We face a dark pit so deep that we cannot see the bottom. The darkness is so dark. It marks a low point in human history. But the words and deeds of others are like glimpses of light: honoring the fallen, nursing survivors back to health in the new normal, pulling for the kidnapped, volunteering, giving and praying. There are more volunteers than needed and they are being turned away. Shopping malls have cleared their aisles and transformed into donation centers. Israelis are returning from all of the corners of the Earth to pitch in. The outpouring of love and support is the only fruit from this terrible plantation of death, suffering, and hate.
How small all of our differences appear when we are faced with the same existential threat. It is the struggle of imperfect humans against evil. It is the fight for civilization and the planet.
From the Emergency Department Director, Dr. Debra West, on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023:
Dear Friends –
In these difficult and challenging times it is amazing to see the extraordinary resilience and professionalism of our team. It warms the heart to experience the caring friendships and mutual love. Yesterday we admitted 69 wounded, of which 12 were seriously injured and over 40 were in moderate condition – civilians, policemen, soldiers, adults and young people. We resuscitated the wounded and saved lives. The teamwork was exemplary. A soldier who was present throughout the day told me that in her 18 years of experience in high casualty incidents, she had never seen such professional and calm work, and such sensitive conduct towards the wounded and their families. We have more difficult days ahead of us, at work, at home and in our dear country. We will continue to be here for each other, next to each other, and continue our sacred and meaningful work, saving lives and souls. Proud of you all and love you all very very much.
-The emergency department management team.