3 Chicago Doctors Survive 'Hell' in Syria
'I have no words to describe the fear and horror': Dr. Samer Attar
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2016 11:56 AM CDT
This photo taken on June 8, 2016, shows Syrian civil defense workers, left, gather on a street that was attacked by warplanes in Aleppo, Syria.   (Civil Defense Directorate in Liberated Province of Aleppo via AP)

(Newser) – Dr. Samer Attar, an orthopedic surgeon from Chicago who recently volunteered his time and skills in Aleppo, Syria, paints a dismal picture of what he encountered there. "I have no words to describe the fear and horror," the Syrian-American doctor tells the Los Angeles Times in an email. "It was hell. … I saw so many people die." Attar headed into the war-torn city with Zaher Sahloul and John Kahler, two other Chicago doctors, on June 29 to bring medical supplies, check out the state of area hospitals, and offer their assistance. His American colleagues left Aleppo after three days, with bombs raining down around them in what Kahler says were "the scariest 45 minutes of my life." They left because they were afraid that the dangerous two-lane highway leading into Aleppo would shut down as rebels continue to fight Syrian government forces.

Attar remained in the city another week, working in an underground trauma hospital as airstrikes and fighting continued outside, and he describes a horrific scene. "I saw mutilated limbs, dismembered bodies, dead children, screaming patients," he says. "People literally bleed to death in front of you, and there is nothing you can do about it." There were some surprises to be found, say the three doctors, who are now all safely out of Syria: Kids who lived in Aleppo were relatively healthy and not suffering from extreme malnutrition, and schools, markets, and hospitals are still up and running. "You see pockets of life," Sahloul says. But there's sparse electricity and medical equipment, and medical staff are desperate for an end to the attacks. "They don't want sympathy or tears or condolences or apologies or concern or worries," Attar says. "They want these airstrikes to stop." (Read the full article.)