‘I’m Sardinian but deep down I feel Sudanese too. One day I’ll be in Italy, the next I’ll be in Africa, in the operating theatre at the Salam Centre in Khartoum. That’s why I always say that being in Sudan is like being at home for me. When I began my life at EMERGENCY 11 years ago, I got a lot of those “famous phone calls”. You know what I mean, right? I’ll explain. Some days, the phone rings like any other day but when I pick it up a voice says, “Hi, Ale. We need you. Do you want to come back to Sudan?” And every time I say, “Sure. When do I have to leave?” That’s when I hear, “Tomorrow, Ale!”
‘”All right. See you soon.” I don’t remember ever giving another answer.
Even when they asked me to come to Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, or work in the Central African Republic just after the civil war broke out.
At the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, my life is defined by operations in the theatre. I come in at 07.30 and don’t leave till 18.30. I go from the theatre to intensive care, where our young patients stay on their own. Their friends and family are not allowed in due to risk of infection and because the ward has to be kept sterile all the time. I watch them whenever they’re in their beds, in between operations.
If there’s one thing that never fails to move me, it’s that none of them ever cry or complain. Never. I see them play with simple balloons made from rubber gloves. They don’t even react when they’re given injections for blood samples, even though some of them are really young. I take them in my arms as soon as I see them in the ward, when I can, I try to take some pictures so I can also see them again when I’m in Cagliari…waiting for the next call to come.
Alessandra, cardiac anaesthetist at EMERGENCY