78 Year Old Surgeon Saves Lives in Iraq

27th July 2017

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The decisions Dr. Glen Barden has to make stay with him, often keeping him up at night. He relives those choices of care made in moment of crisis.

“You want to do more than you’re physically capable of doing,” he said. “You have to come to grips with the fact that you are doing the best you can.”

Dr. Glen Barden (blue cap) works hard and serves patients with compassion.

Barden is a 78-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from Florida who has served at the Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital just outside of Mosul. More than 250 medical staff have treated more than 2,600 patients since the hospital opened in early January, many of whom are women and children. Nearly 1,300 major surgeries have been performed.

Barden has more than four decades of experience as an orthopedic surgeon. He thanks God that his mind is sharp and hands are steady, saying he will continue serving as long as he is able.

“If the Lord allows you to have the physical capabilities then He’ll find a place for you to serve,” Barden said. “Young, middle aged, or senior—if you are willing, the Lord will allow it.”

Barden has seen the horrors of war, as the hospital treats critically injured patients suffering from injuries caused by gunfire, land mines, mortar rounds, car bombings, and improvised explosives.

Although Iraqi Security Forces have regained control of Mosul, and the prime minister has declared the battle to be over, suffering continues. Tens of thousands of families in Iraq are displaced and wounded, searching for lost family members, and mourning relatives who died in the conflict. They are desperate to regain their lives, yet home seems so far away.

About half the patients at the emergency field hospital are children and women.

“You may say these are the easy days, but actually the opposite is true. Now we have to step up more than ever to provide emergency care to people who are suffering,” said Aaron Ashoff, Samaritan’s Purse Iraq regional director.

Wards at the Emergency Field Hospital are filled with more patients than ever before. About 25 percent of patients are battling war-related injuries and the rest have been affected by the displacement. For example, poor living conditions, a limited food supply, and no access to standard healthcare has led to malnutrition.

Escaping to Survive

Barden was especially burdened by Hakim* and Aleia’s* story, two patients treated at the hospital.

This father and daughter pair was injured in an explosion as they tried to escape Mosul. They hid in their home for months and endured the war, but as artillery fire and bombs closed in on their neighbourhood, Hakim knew that survival meant escape.

Hakim gathered his wife, children, and neighbours. Together they fled through an abandoned ISIS tunnel, but their escape triggered an explosion.

Hakim and his daughter were both severely injured by the IED blast that killed his wife and son. Hakim immediately shifted his focus to saving his daughter’s life. He accepted that he had lost his leg, but what he couldn’t bear to lose was his daughter.

“It broke my heart to see her suffer,” Hakim said.

The evil of ISIS slaps staff in the face at the Emergency Field Hospital. Daily they see senseless battle wounds.

“Aleia is just a happy little 5-year-old girl and all of a sudden she has devastating injuries. Injuries that mean she’ll never have normal lower extremities ever again,” Barden said. “But my hope is that she will at least have functional ones.”

Barden performed multiple orthopaedic surgeries on Hakim and Aleia. He knows their scars will be far deeper than their skin, but he trusts that God is faithful, even in the aftermath of war.

Hakim and his daughter are making astounding recoveries. Their wounds are beginning to heal, and God is answering prayers.

*Names changed for security.

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