By Josue Villalón
St. LOUIS HOSPITAL, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, is located in the city district of Ismailie, in the western part of Aleppo. It is one of the few medical facilities that was left standing in the northern Syrian metropolis after bomb attacks on the city came to a halt last December.
“We are working day and night, in part for free, to treat those who were wounded during the war and the other sick people,” the medical director of the hospital, Dr. George Theodory, told us.
The doctor explained: “We currently have 55 patients. We have a medical staff of about 100 people. But there were times when we had more than twice the number of admissions, mostly casualties from the bombings
“Our income hardly covers the costs of wages and fuel for the generators. These are essential because there is not enough electricity throughout the city.”
This is why the hospital turned to the local Church for help, which in turn entrusted the task to the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition through the religious who run it. The hospital asked for help in maintaining the hospital and replacing medical equipment. Aid to the Church in Need responded with a gift of $275,000.
Dr. Theodory is assisted by Sister Anne Marie, a trained nurse from Canada, who has lived in Aleppo for 18 years. She said: “There are six sisters in our community. We run the hospital. At the beginning of the war, our Reverend Mother gave us the choice of leaving the country. But all of us decided to stay, because it is our job to stand by the sick. And their need for us is greatest now.”
“We also treat the destitute. Even though we are a Catholic hospital, we do not make any distinctions based on religious affiliation. I would estimate that about 70 percent of our patients are Muslim,” Dr. Theodory said.
When Syria’s civil war first started, the doctor and his family emigrated to the US. He returned to Syria because his medical credentials were not recognized in America. He said: “Here in Aleppo, I was already a doctor. That is why I decided to return, to work together with my colleagues and help the people in this country who are in such desperate need.
He does not deny that the fighting frightened him, but he said “my faith helped me have hope. I am a Christian and feel obligated to help those who are in need of help. The circumstances are immaterial.”
Of all the patients, the Muslims are the most grateful. “They are impressed that we Christians help them with so much kindness. They say that we have treated them better than any other hospital,” said Sister Anne Marie, who added that “the strength to continue working comes only from God. The faith upholds us. We ask all the benefactors to pray for us. Thank you!”