St. Louis Hospital, which is run by the religious order 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 the bomb attacks in December 2016 came to an end. “We are working day and night to treat those who were wounded during the war and the other sick people,” the medical director of the hospital, Dr George Theodory, says.

The work has steadily increased in the hospital. “We currently have 55 patients. We have a medical staff of about one hundred people. But there were times when we had more than twice that number of admissions, casualties from the bombings.

Resources are in short supply. Dr Theodory explains “Our income hardly covers 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. The hospital asked for help to keep operating and in order to  replace the medical equipment it needs to treat the most seriously wounded. Aid to the Church in Need  responded by granting the hospital 250,000 euros in funding. This will be used to acquire new endoscopes, a lithotripter for the removal of kidney stones and several UPS (uninterruptible power supply) generators. The generators ensure that these and other medical equipment will continue to function in the event power supply being suddenly interrupted in the middle of an operation.

Dr Theodory is assisted by Sister Anne Marie. Sister Anne Marie comes from Canada, but has been living in Aleppo for 18 years. “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 here. Because it is our vocation to stand by the sick particularly when their need is greatest.”

She describes how she was deeply moved by the witness of 6-year-old Mahmud, who was born without arms. He was admitted to the hospital after his legs had been torn off by a bomb. “He survived. I took care of him. He was finally released from the hospital a few months ago. He left with a smile on his face.”

The history of the hospital goes back more than one hundred years. Relatives who have come to visit the sick linger in the hallways and stairwells. A picture on the wall depicts the word “peace” – pieced together using bullet casings a sister picked up off the streets.  “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% of our patients are Muslim,” Dr Theodory explains.

He is a Christian of Greek descent. When the war started, he and his family emigrated to the United States. Later he returned to Syria. “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 admits that he was sometimes afraid of the war, “but my faith gave me  hope. I am a Christian and feel obligated to help those who are in need of help.”

The doctor enters a hospital room with four beds. In the first bed, he greets Said Deri, a 17-year-old Muslim suffering from testicular cancer. Sister Anne Marie speaks with him in Arabic. She says that he is a good patient. She has become friends with him.

The 50-year-old man in the bed next to Said, Remond Tarrap, is suffering from a heart condition. His state of health is poor, “but we are not throwing in the towel yet. He seems to be doing somewhat better these last few days,” the doctor comments.

The final patient they greet is Munir Ocsan, who is already on his way to recovery. His family has come to visit him. “He is recuperating here because his spine was severely damaged during one of the last bomb attacks.” Munir smiles when he hears Dr Theodory.

Both Sister Anne Marie and Dr. Theodory are grateful for the support provided by Aid to the Church in Need. “We are very thankful for their great support. If we did not have it, we would not be able to treat as many patients or at least not treat them adequately.”

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,” the sister adds.

“The strength to continue working comes only from God. The faith upholds us. We ask all ACN benefactors to continue to pray for us. ACN’s support is making a real difference. Heartfelt thanks!”