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Antibiotic resistance - Testimonies from Mosul

Photograph by Candida Lobes
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“I only learned about antibiotic resistance when I arrived here”

“We fled our home during Ramadan in 2017. We passed through many towns before being taken to a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) camp. My family and I entered the camp and went through check-ups. A man dressed in women’s clothing arrived and blew himself up among the crowd. My two children, Kawthar and Yousef, died instantly and I was severely wounded. I was transported to a big hospital and I stayed there for four days. Afterward, I stayed in a house rented by a local organization for three months. By then, I was able to stand on my own feet and moved again to another camp, where my relatives were staying.

Bacteria, for which antibiotics are the only drugs available for treatment, can adapt to medical treatments commonly used to prevent or fight them to ensure their survival.
Bacteria, for which antibiotics are the only drugs available for treatment, can adapt to medical treatments commonly used to prevent or fight them to ensure their survival. Image by Ghislain Massotte.

I passed by various hospitals since my accident. When I arrived here, the orthopedic surgeon explained to me that he needed to remove the internal fixation in my leg and that after conducting a muscle and bone biopsy, he would install an external fixation instead.  When he told me about all this, I refused. I told him I didn’t want an external fixation. I had had one on for seven months before and had found it very painful. But the surgeon explained why this external fixation was actually much better if I wanted to recover. No other hospitals had conducted tests or a biopsy on me before. I would generally just describe my case and doctors would give me antibiotics, to alleviate the pain. I only learned about antibiotic resistance when I arrived here.

I am comfortable at the hospital, but the hardest thing is that I feel alone. Sometimes I have some visitors. My two other children, Rahma and Ali, came to see me last week. But I could only see them for 30 minutes and then they left.  I wish I could take my medication at home, but because of the antibiotic resistance and the fact that there is no oral treatment available, I have to stay here and be administered IV antibiotics two to three times a day. I often feel bored and frustrated. Every patient in the hospital feels this way, but what can I do?  I attend Mental Health sessions every week. We meet with the psychologists and talk. They encourage us to say everything that is on our mind, without fear. We tell them sometimes that we are frustrated by all this sickness. It’s natural for people to feel low. The psychologists help us to take care of our mental health and to take care of ourselves. This helps us a bit to get rid of negative thoughts. Here, the medical staff really tries to cheer me up, but I would be lying if I said that I am truly happy. A lot of people here are wounded, sick, or disabled. We’ve seen a lot of suffering and war.”

Sahar Khalaf Ahmad


“Even after a year and a half, the wound in my leg had still not healed”

“We were bombed by an aircraft. Our house fell down on us. I was injured in my leg, my back, and my face. I was rescued from the rubble and I was taken to the hospital. People kept telling me that my children were fine, but I knew in my heart that what they told me wasn’t true. All my children were killed except one of my sons. His chest was damaged and bleeding. His lungs were also damaged. We stayed at the hospital for a long time, but even when we left, we were still in pain.  My leg was lost and smashed. And even after a year and a half, the wound in my leg had still not healed. I told people around me about my situation and they informed me that I could be treated here. That’s why I decided to come. This hospital was one of the very few facilities that are open in the city. I also do not have the money to pay for a doctor or to go to a private clinic.

Bacteria, for which antibiotics are the only drugs available for treatment, can adapt to medical treatments commonly used to prevent or fight them to ensure their survival.
Bacteria, for which antibiotics are the only drugs available for treatment, can adapt to medical treatments commonly used to prevent or fight them to ensure their survival. Image by Ghislain Massotte.

When I arrived here, the doctors told me that I needed further surgery and medication to heal. They told me that I have resistance to common antibiotics. I think this infection is because of the wound. If you look at my ankle, I have no flesh around my bone. It’s all because of the war.  I have been staying in this isolation room for a few days. I have to stay here because of the bacteria. I stay in my bed and I have to take medication and IV fluids every day. I know the isolation is for mine and other’s well-being. The doctors want me to get better.  They told me that I am improving and will be leaving the hospital within a week. That makes me feel good. I’m looking forward to going back to my normal life and to my family. Hopefully, Mosul will get better and Iraq too. This is my dream for the future.”

Nahla Saleh