A young nurse became a national hero in Lebanon after rescuing three newborn babies from an ICU and carrying them to safety following the massive Beirut port explosion. Now she has returned to the hospital to tell her story.
St. George Hospital University Medical Center is one of the oldest and most advanced in Beirut. But on Tuesday, it became a nightmarish scene when the blast wave from a powerful explosion about 1km away swept through the building and turned vast swathes of the city into a wasteland.
Young nurse Pamela Zeinoun stepped up to the plate and her moment of bravery was captured in a viral image by photojournalist Bilal Jawich.
In an interview filmed in Beirut for RT, Zeinoun said that her first instinct was to rush to St. George’s perinatal intensive care unit (ICU) to check on newborn babies treated there.
“I just opened my eyes and found myself covered in rubble. I stood up, checked myself for injuries, and I started looking for a way to enter the nursery here. I found my colleagues and friends lying here on the ground covered in blood,” she recalled.
Luckily the babies were not hurt by the debris, but it was clear that they were not safe in the heavily damaged medical center. Zeinoun took three infants, each weighing no more than 2 kilos, and navigated her way out across debris-littered corridors and stairs crowded by scared patients and medics.
“When I exited … I found doctors and nurses treating and stitching patients outside of the hospital, on the pavement and in the middle of the street with whatever medical equipment and medications we had left,” she recalled.
Zeinoun borrowed some clothes from people around to keep their tiny bodies warm and started walking away. She needed to find an operational medical facility where they could get proper help.
“After walking for more than five kilometers with the babies, I reached a hospital and I begged them to provide just one incubator. I told them I’ll put them all together in the same unit and that’s what I did,” she said.
All the feelings of trauma and fear went away when we ran tests on the babies and found that their hearts were beating normally, oxygen levels, their temperature, color, everything was normal.
The heroic rescue was a small glimmer of hope for St. George’s hospital, which took a heavy toll from the explosion, both in lives and property damage.
The disaster killed 17 people at the center, including staff members, patients and visitors, and injured some 70 others, spokesman Dr. Jihad Khoury said. Three doctors are now in critical condition and fighting for their lives.
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