26-year-old pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit nurse, Pamela Elias Zeinoun, was working her shift at Saint George Hospital University Medical Center in Achrafieh, one of Beirut’s oldest neighbourhoods, when an explosion occurred; the hospital was decimated in the blast, with many doctors and nurses sustaining injuries
Pamela's composure, courage and quick thinking in the minutes after the explosion went off has been praised worldwide, as her heroic actions saved the lives of three premature infants. Despite being knocked out momentarily by the force of the blast, the nurse still found the energy to carry the babies five kilometers in her arms to another nearby hospital.
Pamela shares exactly what happened in the moments after the explosion occurred here and how she remained calm while bringing three innocent lives to safety while utter chaos raged around her.
Harper's Bazaar Arabia (HBA): Where were you in the hospital when the blast occurred? What went through your mind?
Pamela Elias Zeinoun (PEZ): When the explosion happened, I didn’t even know what was going on at the time. Everything was destroyed in a matter of seconds. When I woke up I was very afraid, because I was thrown onto the floor from where I was sitting in the nursing station and into another room outside the floor unit [by the force of the blast].
At the time of the blast everything was destroyed, our unit was destroyed. The incubators were broken, our supplies was on the floor.
HBA: After the explosion occurred, you selflessly went to check on the infants. Was this your first instinct?
PEZ: When I woke up from what happened and realized I was okay, I knew I needed to help.
My first instinct was to check on the other nurses I was with on the side of the floor unit, and the babies there with us. I went to the other side of the floor unit and saw the other nurses. They were bleeding very heavily and needed sutures urgently. I pulled them out and had them stand at the door of the unit, as I went inside to see the babies. Fortunately, I was able to remove all the babies from the unit and hold three of them.
At the time I couldn’t think about protecting myself because, these babies, they were under my protection. The babies were around 15-20 days old and they were premature at around 30 weeks, with their weight each below two kilograms.
HBA: Once you left the floor unit with the babies what happened?
PEZ: It was when I was outside that I really saw the magnitude of the devastation that happened, I saw people that were bleeding. I saw residents (doctors-in-training) and doctors suturing nurses and patients alike. The emergency room was not even present anymore because it had been destroyed in the blast; we were using our phone lights because there were no lights.
I left the hospital and I went to another hospital, which is about five kilometers away from St. George; there, the babies were safe.
Then, the parents were able to contact me as other nurses had passed along my number to the parents, who soon realised their children were no longer at St. George. They told the parents “Do not worry, you children are with Pamela. This is her phone number, you can contact her and see your babies.”
HBA: Multiple reports have stated that you remained calm while caring for the babies. How did you manage to keep your composure during such a terrifying moment?
PEZ: I had to be calm, because I had three babies between my arms. I had no choice, but to focus on what to do next.
For more information on how you can support Saint George Hospital University Medical Center during these difficult times, click here. For more information on how to support Beirut relief efforts from both abroad and within Lebanon, click here.