People do not just become numbers when they die

People do not just become numbers when they die

Do you remember the miner who survived the major mine accident in the western Turkish town of Soma in 2014, in which hundreds of other miners died? He was filmed asking the paramedic whether he should take off his muddy boots inside the ambulance.

Just after he had been rescued from hundreds of meters underground, while he still had dirt all over his body, he was asking those helping him about the fate of his friends.  

He did not care about himself. He had just miraculously survived a mine accident in which 301 fellow miners had died, but his mind was still on the state of his friends. 

In the ambulance he had no thoughts for himself. He did not want to lay down on the white-sheeted stretcher with his coal-black boots. He asked the nurse whether he should remove his work boots.

“No. There is no need to take off your boots,” said the nurse in response. Only after that was the miner able to lay down on the stretcher. 

This short bit of footage made everybody cry in Turkey. That image, those words, became engraved in our memories. 

Am I disturbing the other patients? 

After the villainous attack on Dec. 10 in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district, outside the Vodafone Arena stadium, a nurse shared the sensitivity of an injured police officer at the hospital. When I read her post, I remembered back to the miner in the ambulance in Soma.  

Just like the miner in the ambulance, the police officer in the hospital had no thoughts for himself. He had survived a heinous terror attack that killed 44 and injured 155. He was in agony, shouting occasionally from the pain but worried that his voice could disturb others in the hospital. 

The nurse wrote the following post conveying the sensitivity of this young police officer:

“Last night, a 26-year-old police officer patient arrived with a broken leg and ribs. His body smelt of burned flesh and gunpowder. He asked me, ‘Nurse, I have so much pain I cannot stand it. Is my shouting disturbing the other patients?’ Even in that state he was not thinking of himself but other people. He kept asking about the condition of his colleagues and the number of martyrs killed in the attack. He was not complaining or protesting. He was not asking for special attention. He followed all our instructions word by word. His family was not panicking either. They were not desperate or relentlessly asking hospital staff about his condition. They were waiting patiently and stoically outside the intensive care unit. All the other patients that evening had a similar attitude.”

After describing this noble attitude of our officer, the nurse wrote about her own feelings: 

“Most of us, before witnessing this stance, were working through tears throughout the night … We saw young people in a battle between life and death, some of whom slipped out of our hands. We tended to their injuries knowing that some of them, even if they survived, would be crippled for life. They are not just numbers on a screen; they all have a story and they all have a future that has been snatched from them,” she wrote. 

“How could you do this to them? How did your conscience allow you to do such a thing? How are you going to give account for these young children of the nation?” she added.

What can we say? How can we answer the nurse? She is absolutely right: People do not just become numbers when they die. Their stories cannot be fit into numbers…