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“Don’t cry, don’t cry in front of her”

Through the hospital room window, I see the leaves blowing in the wind. We moved here so he could die in peace. But what should have been the last touch he felt, keeping him company right till the end, feels like it’s lasting for ever.

The only thing I want is for him to let go, to give in. I’m standing to one side of the bed. To the other is Samiullah, the nurse I work with. We can’t do anything. We both rest a hand on his little body so he doesn’t feel alone. Padshah, another nurse, has silently joined us. The leaves are still dancing in the wind. I don’t remember hearing any noise, anyone else around.

But the boy doesn’t want to give in. His heart doesn’t want to stop. We move him. We don’t know how long he’ll carry on fighting. All I can do is give him drugs to take away the pain and hope with all my might that they’ll take effect. Nothing else.

And you convince yourself of it because otherwise you can’t keep going. Before we take him away, before he disappears between white curtains and beds, we bring in his father.

Through his eyes, he silently pleads for help. He manages to fight back the tears at first, but soon his dusty cheeks are stained and he loses the hopeless battle. His eyes are red and glassy. They watch me as he listens to Padshah explain there’s nothing more we can do. That it’s not even worth trying. Because sometimes mines leave nothing that can be saved. And he watches me, he watches them, he watches the little boy lying in front of him. He looks at his four-year-old son and shakes his head. ‘This didn’t have to happen. This didn’t have to happen.’

The cursed mine took away his legs and destroyed his pelvis. His heart is still beating, though. And so the minutes pass, the silence broken only by tears of suppressed pain.

— Sarah, EMERGENCY nurse in Lashkar-Gah, Afghanistan

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