This mexican neurosurgeon saves the lives of victims of the war in Syria

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Specialist Samuel Tobias says that the service they offer to the wounded in Israel is confidential to protect their identity and avoid having them killed by being considered traitors.

Safed (Israel)

Without looking at nationality or religion, and with the sole purpose of saving lives, Samuel Tobias, a neurosurgeon originally from Mexico City, cares daily for people wounded in the war in Syria who are transferred to the Galilee Medical Center in Israel, where he works.

A graduate from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM, for its Spanish initials), he came several years ago to Israel, where he met his wife and where he participates in ‘Operation Goodwill’, the program through which Israel supports wounded Syrians who ask for help with hospital infrastructure and medicines.

“This war is already seven years old, and nobody has done anything about it; what we do represents a small drop in a lake of suffering,” he says, describing the suffering of the war-wounded who approach the Israeli military bases to request support, and are transferred to hospitals where they are anonymously treated.

Israel and Syria have an 83-kilometer (51.6 miles) border in the Golan Heights. This area has witnessed fierce battles between rebel groups trying to take the south of Syria; a high death toll; the displacement of 6 million people; and more than half a million people in zones without access to medical services.

The Galilee Medical Center of Israel—where he has worked since 2013—is located 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from the border with Lebanon, an hour and a quarter from the Syrian border, and it serves a population of more than 600,000 people in the area of ??Galilee where specialists and nurses of different religions (Druze, Muslims, Christians and Jews) work.

He recalled that in 2013, when he was invited to inaugurate the Department of Neurosurgery, he never thought that, within a few weeks, he would be caring for wounded Syrians.

“Many people ask me ‘Sami why do you go out of your way for those patients? If you were on the other side, they would not treat you like this,’ but the answer is that we are not there, we are here and we are different; whoever arrives here will receive all the treatment an Israeli citizen would receive, no matter how much money is spent, and what equipment is available,” he added.

He explained that the service they offer is provided confidentially by a multidisciplinary team of doctors who keep secret the identity of the patients to protect them and prevent having them murdered by being considered traitors when they return to their country.

Dr. Tobias recounts some patients trying to jump out the window when they realized they were in Israel because they thought they would be tortured; only in one case, a patient with a perforated skull refused to receive treatment from a Jew. However, this way of thinking has gradually changed.

He added that, to date, more than 2,000 Syrians have received secret treatment through the emergency service; 85% of the injuries they treat are related to the war and the rest are due to traffic accidents, falls, tumors and other conditions.

Samuel Tobias, who married and formed a family in Israel, said that 30% of trauma patients fully recover, and another higher percentage experience some kind of deficiency and their recovery is gradual; however, it is difficult to follow up due to how complicated it is to leave Syria and get to Israel.

In the recovery room, there were four Syrian patients who thanked Dr. Tobias for his support in their recovery, and the authorities for keeping their families informed about their condition through aid organizations.

The injured, between 22 and 28 years of age, commented that they were injured when performing their regular activities; one of them was shot in the head when trying to escape from Syria with his family; another was injured by a falling missile when he was in the street with a friend; another one, who lost a leg, was in the fields with a friend who died when a missile landed.

The fourth case involved a man who was shopping in a market when a missile fell causing the death of 30 people and injuring him; in all cases, they thanked the Mexican doctor for his support in their speedy recovery.

It should be noted that from Mount Bental, in the middle of the Golan Heights, the border with Syria can be seen. For seven years, the war has affected the inhabitants of that country, and some injured people or their families have been approaching Israeli military bases to request medical support, and are provided medical care, medicines, equipment and prostheses, if required.


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