Marie-Therese El Saddi

Marie-Therese was a secretary at a bank in Beirut for over thirty years. The fateful August 4, 2020, was just one year ahead of her retirement. Before that day, she was a peaceful and tranquil woman who always felt she was protected by God’s angels, especially since she was a good daughter taking care of her parents, bearing a lot of patience, perseverance, and love.

Before the blast, Marie-Therese was an energetic active woman with a long list of hobbies and interests. She used to walk or swim every day after work to reduce the levels of stress that come with the job. Unfortunately, her inner light dimmed after the explosion.

On that fateful afternoon, Marie-Therese was laying in her bed when she heard a sharp noise in the sky. It seemed to her that it was the sound of an aircraft breaking the sound barrier. She got up and went toward the balcony to see what was happening, but before she could reach the door, she felt the ground exploding under her feet. The impact of the blast violently pushed her inside, she hit a wall and fell to the ground. She lost consciousness for a few moments, and when she woke up, she found out her house transformed into a pile of rubble and debris, her right shoulder fractured, and bled across the room. The scene was one from a horror movie.

Marie-Therese doesn’t know how she ran out of her apartment and through the stairs to the street while she was covered in blood. A couple of young men saw her in the street and one of them took off his shirt to wrap it around her shoulder, picked her up, and walked up to the nearest hospital -Jeitawi Hospital. While he walked, a woman driving her car up the street volunteered to help them out.

At the hospital, Marie-Therese was one of the first people to arrive in the emergency room, and she was attended to before the influx of injured people from the blast. Further testing and imaging showed that she needed to undergo emergency surgery which was impossible in the hospital she was evacuated to, as the operating room sustained extreme damage. Marie-Therese spent the next eight hours on a chair in the hospital’s emergency room, with her sister, until she was transferred by ambulance to Bouar Governmental Hospital, at 1:00 AM.

Despite her pain and the gravity of her condition, Marie’s surgery was scheduled the next day. The doctor told her sister that the percentage of full recovery is quite small due to the severity of her hand injury.

After she left the hospital, Marie-Therese underwent four months of physical therapy, and when she couldn’t see any progress, the doctor recommended a second surgery that barely enhanced her hand functions. She underwent a third last surgery, which confirmed a 40% hand mobility loss.

Today, Marie-Therese suffers from a difficult financial situation and she can’t find a suitable secretarial job opportunity. Her end of service compensation greatly suffered from the Lebanese economic crisis and the currency fluctuation. Marie-Therese is not married, and she is her own caregiver, she says: “Multiple times, I had to sell emotionally and financially valuable items from my home to survive.” Unfortunately, under the circumstances, and in the absence of foreseeable solutions, Marie-Therese will still resort to selling personal items to meet her basic needs.