Meet our Gaza Limb Reconstruction Team: Mahmoud Mattar

After the devastating attacks on Gaza in 2014, MAP identified a gap in specialist orthopaedic reconstructive surgery expertise in Gaza. Almost ten years of siege has meant that surgeons have had little opportunity to leave Gaza to train to a specialist level. Over the past year MAP, in partnership with IDEALS, has established and equipped a permanent limb reconstruction unit at Al Shifa hospital and is continuing to train Palestinian surgeons, nurses and physiotherapists in order to meet the need for this specialism both in peace time and during conflict. 

MAP has been interviewing staff at the new unit to hear about what inspires them to do this incredible work. 

Name: Dr Mahmoud Mattar

Age: 40

Background: Lives in Nussairat refugee camp. His family originally came from Al Joura. He is married and has four daughters and one son.

Profession: Bones and joints surgery Consultant, Head of the Orthopaedic Department in Al Shifa Hospital and Head of the Complex Fractures Unit.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

“I wanted to be a surgeon when I was a child, but I specialised in bones surgeries when I finished my medicine degree.”

What ritual do you have each day before starting your work?

“I have a different schedule every day. On Sundays we do surgeries, so when I come to the hospital I bring my surgical outfit. On Mondays I check on the patients recovering from surgery. Mondays and Wednesdays we deal with emergency cases in the hospitals. Tuesdays are the least busy and we have a skype call with MAP on that day to discuss the work. Thursdays are the busiest as we run the out patients’ clinic where we consult with new patients or recovering patients. I also work in my private clinic every day in the afternoon.”

What’s the biggest challenge in your job?

“Each case I deal with is a challenge for me. It feels like doing an exam each time. Our work is even more challenging because of the blockade, the circumstances are not like anywhere else. We deal with chronic shortages of essential equipment and supplies. Getting people’s trust is also a challenge. If a patient doesn’t trust me, it will affect my work as a doctor.”

Is there a patient you treated who left an impact on you?

“I had a female patient who was one of the injured from the 2014 war on Gaza. She lost most of her family members and she was heavily injured. She got referred for treatment in an Israeli hospital. There was a risk of amputation of her leg, which was of course very sensitive. I said, ‘we need to keep trying to save her limb.’ We succeeded in doing so which really was a success for the whole unit."

You are a hero to many people, who are your heroes?

“Each successful and loyal doctor is a role model and a hero for me.”

What inspires you to continue your work?

“The love for my job inspires me to continue working. When we achieve recovery and we can bring a smile to the patients’ faces. It inspires me if I see a patient getting back to a normal life and back to their family and children.”

What’s your most beautiful memory?

"Very often, when a surgery is successful and a patient can walk again, they bring a gift for the department: something simple like flowers or a box of chocolates. This always leaves a nice memory, and lets you know that the patient appreciates your efforts and that gives the whole team the motivation to continue working."

What are your hobbies?

"Away from medicine I love playing sports, especially football. Twice a week after finishing my work I go to play football with my friends. I feel all the stress and pressure from my work fall off my shoulders and I feel like a new person after finishing a game."

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