A call of duty, Part 2

A Curse

January 17, 1991 (Thursday) . Nobody came to report for morning duty and the night sisters were still in the ward when I came to the Nursery at 7 am. I sent all the night sisters home and called all the available staff staying in the Hostel. Bombings, which started early morning of the previous day, still continued and can be heard by us. This prompted the transfer of the patients and babies from the second floor to the basement. Because of the haste of transferring the babies in cribs, the sound created by the wheels and cribs bumping each other started the fear among everybody and soon panic was all over the faces of both patients and the hospital staff.

While the babies in cribs were being transferred to the basement and some of the patients to the lobby, I was left in the Nursery giving instructions to my staff what things and equipment to be transferred as well. When I finally reached the basement, I was met by a tragic sight – mothers who had just delivered were panicking and shouting. I felt a strong compassion and pity for them and when I saw the babies all crammed in two small rooms, I cried. I cursed Saddam Hussein for what he did! I had a hard time controlling my tears; I had to be strong as everybody was looking up to me for support.

Later on the babies were transferred to the lobby, nearer to where their mothers were. I was very very tired then but I had to stay. I couldn’t leave the makeshift ward – both the male and female patients were lying in trolleys in the lobby – separated only by a cloth divider. I attended to some of the patient while at the same time managing the temporary nursery.

Iraqi dinars

Early September 1990. The hospital management started to pay the staff in Iraqi dinars. They multiplied our salary in Kuwaiti dinars to four Iraqi dinars. I was getting then ID750 or more depending on the number of hours I worked overtime. Later on, I stopped counting my overtime as there was no time even for me to recall when and for how long I was called. All the Iraqi dinars I received were given to a few Kuwaiti friends and used to buy food distributed to some Filipinos. I even shouldered the hospital bill of one Filipina who delivered a baby in the hospital. I found no point in keeping the money as I was not sure whether I’ll survive the imminent war or not.

By end of March, more than a month after Kuwait was liberated, we were still paid in Iraqi dinars. I refused to take my salary but was later on forced to claim it in early August because I wanted to give the money to a Jordanian baby (whose precious life I also saved during the Invasion) who was leaving Kuwait for good with her family.

Whatever Kuwait dinars I received in August 1990 had never been used as they belonged to the currencies cancelled by the Kuwait government. I still am keeping until now over a hundred dinars and from time to time would give a note or two to friends for remembrance.

At Jabriya Media Center

Early March 1991. I volunteered as a writer and helped in the setting up of an English paper at the Media Center in Jabriya. The paper, bannered as “Kuwait News” as per my suggestion, unfortunately, never materialized because by then, its mother paper, the Arabic “February 26” was stopped by the government for lack of license. Nevertheless, some of my work was posted on a bulletin board to form a part of an exhibit shown at the center.

Although my work at the center was a brief one, I found it very interesting and rewarding as I had the chance of working with some of the Kuwaiti resistants who stuck it out in Kuwait all throughout the Invasion. I also had the chance of seeing in person some of the “big” people of Kuwait bureaucracy.

A meeting with UN officials

March 20, 1991. A dialogue was held at the SAS Hotel between officials of the United Nation’s Center for Human Rights and the Filipino community in Kuwait. I was the spokesperson for the paramedical group and I got the chance of airing the hard situation we encountered while working during the Invasion. I expected so much from that meeting. I was hoping for a solution to some, if not all, of our immediate problems. The most I got from the dialogue was getting hold of a copy of a fax sent by Mr. John Pace, one of the UN officials we talked to, to the Permanent Mission of the Philippines in the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Whether an action was done as per Mr. Pace’s recommendations or not – that I do not know!

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: September 5, 2000

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