Doctors hold the ashen baby upside down by its feet and slap its bottom hard, desperate to detect any signs of life.
Birth is, at the best of times, an intense experience. But birth by emergency cesarean section, after the mother is seriously injured by a bomb in war-torn Aleppo, is something else altogether.
Mayissa has just been the victim of an airstrike on her way to the hospital in a Syrian city under siege, with just a handful of doctors left.
Now on a gurney, Mayissa’s arm and leg broken, she is in shock as doctors all too familiar with massive injury remove inch-long pieces of shrapnel from her body.
As doctors pull the baby from her gashed abdomen, dread rushes into the operating room. Her baby is silent; white as the tile.
“Is his heart beating?” asks a person in the room.
“No. I’m sorry,” a doctor responds.
Extraordinary footage of the birth was shot in July by Waad Al-Kateab and obtained by the United Kingdom’s ITN/Channel 4 News. CNN obtained the footage from Kateab and the network.
The baby is splayed on a green plastic sheet. His milky-while umbilical cord, still attached, is blocked with a pair of forceps. Doctors gingerly pump his chest, hoping to start the minutes-old heart.
They are resolute as they put what looks like a small baster in the child’s nose and mouth, hoping to suction out any fluid blocking his breathing.
A flutter in his umbilical cord is the first sign of life. His heart is working.
A doctor grips him by the feet and thumps his bottom. To the viewer it seems rough, even violent; but it’s clear they know what they’re doing.
Color — human color — slowly flows through the baby’s body. As he is laid down, life rings out — a cry. And the doctors can smile.
His mother, too, has survived.
Amid unspeakable calamity, a glimmer of hope.