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Hero Nurse Saves Three Newborns During Beirut Blast

“I couldn’t go and let them die,” said Pamela Zeinoun, the hero nurse who saved three newborns amid the explosion. (Photo: Bilal Marie Jawich)


By Engy Magdy 

CAIRO — When the explosion occurred, Pamela Zeinoun was on her daily shift at Saint George Hospital University Medical Center, known as Al Roum Hospital, in the Ashrafia district close to Beirut’s ground zero. Although the blast wreaked havoc in the hospital, the nurse hurried to the incubator, taking away three newborns and saving them from death. 

The photo of Zeinoun, 26, holding the babies while attempting to make a phone call, surrounded by all the devastation — 17 people were killed and dozens of others were injured — has gone viral on social media as people praised her as a heroine. 

Behind the photo — amid fright, death, and destruction — there is the inspiring story of a courageous woman with a strong sense of responsibility. 

As said in Judges 14:14: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”

“It was a usual day when suddenly a huge explosion occurred followed by a massive earth shake that partially destroyed the building,” Ms. Zeinoun told The Tablet. “I fell and everything in the room fell on me.” 

She tried to get up and gradually removed the rubble from on top of her. She tried to get out through the main door on the floor but everything was broken and doors and walls were destroyed, so she went to another entrance and searched for two of her colleagues. When she found the other nurses, they were covered in blood, shivering strongly, and appeared to be in shock.

Once a doctor came to help them, Zeinoun rushed to the incubator room, where there were five newborns. She took three of them away while another doctor took two others. 

“I carried three of them and tried to go down to escape, but we couldn’t because all the emergency exit points were closed until others came to help us and removed the debris,” she told.

Although Zeinoun was terrified amid the chaos, she wanted to keep the babies protected. 

“I was responsible for these children and I love them. This is the job that I love. I couldn’t go and leave them. I couldn’t go and let them die,” she said. “Either I wait … until someone comes to help me or I take them down, and that’s what I did.”

In the image that was captured and shared on Facebook by photojournalist Bilal Marie Jawich, the nurse is tightly cradling the three babies in her arms.

“Their lives were in danger. They must be kept in a warm and equipped place and this is what the incubator provides for them. If they get cold, they may die, so I cradled them trying to warm them,” the Lebanese nurse explained. “After I left the hospital, I tried to get a cloth or something from the bystanders in the street, but everyone was in a state of panic.” 

As soon as Zeinoun reached the ground floor of the hospital with the three babies, she found a terrifying and devastating scene, as many people were lying on the ground dead or injured and screaming in pain. Nurses and patients were in a state of panic and women who had recently given birth tried to flee with their babies. 

Amid the chaos, everyone was distracted and trying to decide if they stay among the rubble inside the building for fear of another explosion outside or leave the building in search of a safe place.

Along with a gynecologist from the hospital, Zeinoun carried the children outside and sought to find another hospital to place them in. 

“We walked for about 45 minutes to find a car to take us to another hospital, but the people outside were terrified and many were injured inside their cars,” she said. 

The nearest hospital was destroyed and unable to admit the children, so they continued walking until they found a car on the highway that took them to another hospital, four-and-a-half miles away, where they were able to put the children in incubators. Now, all babies are healthy and safe. 

The families of the infants didn’t believe Zeinoun when she told them that their babies were fine until they arrived at the hospital and saw for themselves. 

“It was a very emotional moment and they were very thankful to me,” she said.

Most of the hospital building and its equipment was destroyed or damaged according to Zeinoun: “Now we help in cleaning and removing the rubble. The hospital needs a lot to return to work.”

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