A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
When I woke, my ankles and wrists were tied to the rims of the bed.
I desperately tried to turn around and leave, but the nurses told me the surgery had just finished and that I needed to rest.
It was dark outside and the lone sound of the hospital generators felt very quiet.
After twelve days passed, it was time to move out of intensive care. The doctor signed the chart and I was placed in a room whose floor became a bed for female patients.
My assigned doctor saw me only once, and this gave me a sense of relief that everything must be well.
Next door, the women told me, was my sixth grade math professor. She was a good friend of my parents’ and I was told she jumped off of a balcony when the soldiers came. They took her son and tried to rape her. She decided to save herself by jumping. She survived, only to be taken to a hospital occupied by the very same aggressors she had tried to escape.
All around me, they asked, “Why is her stomach so big?”
Dr. Rose, a different doctor from the one I was assigned, was the only Serbian surgeon left in this hospital. He specialized in abdomen injuries and the rumor was that he performed miracles. They allowed him to conduct surgeries on wounded soldiers and in a sense, his gift became his prison.
I could not stop throwing up and other patients around me were concerned. They said Dr. Rose would come to visit late at night and help me. He wore a white hat and was very tall. His monolithic appearance gave me a sense of safety. He was the first doctor that examined me more than once. He said I had sepsis and that all of the liquids I had been given remained in my belly. My first surgery had failed. My stomach was distended to the size of a five-month-old pregnancy. His hands pressed on in and the smell of vomit gave me false hope that this solved the problem. I was wrong.
He asked for permission from his superiors to save me as I was not a soldier and he would be breaking the rules. He saved my life. I will always be grateful to him.
The stretcher moved along the stairs. I promised a nurse I would give him a hundred Deutsch marks if he moved me out of the surgery room at once,
where I assumed I would no longer feel pain.
The incision was made along the same cut as my first surgery. Dr. Rose said, “They missed closing a three millimeter hole in her intestines.” This was the cause of my sepsis.
Dr. Rose washed out my kidneys, ovaries, and intestines three times in surgery. Snake-like tubes grew and moved in and out of every part of my body, causing me to lose too much blood. He said I needed fresh blood that was still warm to help my immune system fight and survive. My parents alone would not be able to give enough.
It is difficult to find people in a city that is slowly being killed. All forms of communication were cut off. We were one of only three Bosnian families left in the neighborhood. Learning how to hide was the only form of survival.
My parents were able to find two neighbors who fought against the danger daylight brings, who walked the streets to the hospital to donate blood for me.
In war, risk becomes life.
The first donor was a Croatian woman. Her son was in the Croatian Army and her humane desire to help me threatened her own life. The other was a Serbian man, who was a best friend of my uncle. I will never forget either of them.
I begged and pleaded “Please, never do this to me again," hoping that the bed would swallow and protect me when Dr. Rose examined my wounds, four times a day, every day, for twenty days.
The intensive care unit was my permanent residence. My head looked down at the surface of my stomach only to witness with every stitch the gauzed up scissors disappearing in and out of my abdomen, again and again. Twisted and turned, he checked every single wound in my body.
I only hope never to know this type of pain again.
I knew if I died they would bury my body in Mostar and I would be forever at peace.
See following page for more on the Bosnian War.
The Bosnian War followed the breakup of the Republic of Yugoslavia. Mainly a territorial conflict, the war, which lasted three years, from 1992-1995, was fought between various religious and ethnic factions. Some calculations place casualty figures in the hundreds of thousands. For more go here.
To be continued in a fortnight...