Breaking News Emails
The surgeon's voice cracked as he described the moment he saw 4-year-old Alen Alsati on his operating table.
"I have four kids, the youngest is 7 and the oldest is 14," said Dr. Adib Khanafer, who was called in to save the life of one of the youngest victims of last week's deadly mosque shooting in New Zealand. "I just imagined that this was one of my kids."
Khanafer struggled to maintain his composure while talking to reporters Wednesday about treating Alen — one of the youngest survivors of the massacre that killed 50 people. She was with her father, Wasseim Alsati, when they were both shot during Friday prayers at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.
"The bullet has really hit an area in the vein which is really very difficult to repair," said Khanafer, describing the child's injuries. "The bullet has damaged the pelvis and lower arteries have been cut."
Alsati filmed a video update from his hospital bed in the aftermath of the shooting asking people to pray for his daughter. He is recovering and is currently in a stable condition.
Friday's attack was the worst in New Zealand's modern history. Twenty-eight people who were wounded remain in hospital, with six still in a critical condition in intensive care. The shooting also claimed the lives of 3-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim and 4-year-old Abdullahi Dirie.
Alen remains in a critical condition in Starship Hospital in Auckland, 470 miles north of Christchurch, but Khanafer said he is optimistic that she will recover.
Firas Salman, who was close to the mosque when the shooting happened, told NBC News he helped Alsati and his young daughter after they were shot.
“I didn’t know his name, but I know I’ve see him, he said, 'Someone shot me and my daughter — take us to the hospital,'” Salman said.
Salman grabbed the 4-year-old and drove her to the hospital, adding that the girl was badly injured and was not moving at all.
“Once at the hospital, I was praying she was not going to die,” Salman said.
The girl’s uncle told The Times that his brother moved to New Zealand from Jordan on a work visa over four years ago. On Monday, when he spoke to the newspaper, he said his niece had already undergone six operations.
He wanted "a decent life, a secure and stable life for his family," said the uncle, who the newspaper identified as Sabri. "I don’t know why they attacked the mosque. Is the world a better place now that this man shot a girl who is four years old? Is it a better world to live in?”