Royal London surgeon takes time off to help Gaza wounded—months after shelling

Surgeon Matt Barry [right] and his medical team in Gaza

Surgeon Matt Barry [right] and his medical team in Gaza - Credit: Barts NHS PR

A surgeon at the Royal London Hospital back from a Middle East war zone has been treating the injured in Gaza who were caught in last year’s conflict between Hammas and Israel.

Life carries on in war-torn Gaza city

Life carries on in war-torn Gaza city - Credit: Barts NHS PR

Orthopaedic consultant Matt Barry joined teams of medics working with charities who headed out to Gaza.

He went on two trips as part of a rolling scheme to send trained medic professionals to help in the worst-hit areas, after the 50 days of crossfire last summer on the border of Gaza and Israel.

Shells landed in the city in retaliation at rockets launched at Israel by Hammas.

The crossfire claimed 2,200 lives, with 14,000 people injured and more still facing danger from unexploded bombs even months after the cease-fire.

Burned out shell of ambulance outside Gaza hospital

Burned out shell of ambulance outside Gaza hospital - Credit: Barts NHS PR

“We saw many children and adults needing limb reconstruction,” Matt recalled on his return to east London.

“There were people with old injuries such as fractures that couldn’t be treated properly at the time.

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“But we also saw the life-threatening reality of unexploded shells littering the area.”

Three children were brought into the medical centre after an old shell exploded as they played near their home.

“Two nearly died and we were sadly unable to save a badly-injured hand of one of the boys,” Matt added. “They were all extremely lucky not to have been killed.”

Matt used his annual leave from the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel to travel twice to Gaza in December and February to carry out surgery and surgical training of local doctors.

One of the medical initiatives set up by his team included combined orthopaedic and plastic surgery clinics, which give patients a more-thorough treatment to improve their overall movement and skin healing.

“It’s common practice in Britain that just wasn’t done over there,” Matt explained. “They saw the benefits and we’re hoping to continue this shared learning and even review complex patient cases, now that we are back home using Skype and the internet.”

One thing that surprised Matt was normal life continuing when just yards away there were large areas of crumbled ruins of buildings.

He saw washing lines, minibuses taking children to school and shops open with fresh food. The city was making the best of it.

But there was always the reminder of war—the burnt-out shell of an overturned ambulance outside the hospital where Matt was working, where medics and patients were killed when it was hit by a shell in last summer’s crossfire.