Gaza, We Carry You With Us

feature image by Guy Smallman / Contributor via Getty Images

Every few days, Healthcare Workers Watch sends me a google drive folder with lists of names and photos of healthcare workers killed and abducted in Gaza. Healthcare workers who, like me, spent years learning how to listen to breath, assess skin, pack wounds with gauze so skin would not form around empty space, intervene when death threatened to overwhelm a body, and evaluate if what we did worked. The list, as of this writing on December 22, holds 340 Healthcare Workers who have been killed in Palestine, including 104 nurses and 59 doctors, and 52 known abducted. There are additional reports of the Zionist entity detaining, torturing, and interrogating dozens of healthcare workers from multiple hospitals. The list does not include those buried under rubble still, those who have disappeared without a trace, those who family members are still looking for.

When I was in nursing school in 2007, I thought I’d go to Palestine after I trained as an ICU nurse. Palestine was at the forefront of my consciousness, and that land pulled me, and the care I hoped to embody, towards it. But after that first job, where daily experiences of racism eroded my sense of self, where I learned to drink away my pain and to rely on white people to tell me who to be and how to live, I turned to travel nursing instead. I thought I’d go to Palestine in between contracts, but, gradually, I came to believe I was not skilled enough, or confident enough, or enough enough, to go there. Every few years, when the genocidal settler colonial Zionist entity attacked Palestinians, I’d remember those younger yearnings, google a flurry of options, and scheme a journey. It never panned out; like I hid my queerness for so long, I didn’t speak these desires out loud.

Through travel nursing, I was led to care for a different Indigenous people. I got sober, moved to Dena’ina Land, and cared for Alaska Native people throughout the COVID pandemic’s most intense years. These hands: primed tubing, braided hair, pressed gauze to gaping tears, bagged bodies. This heart: witnessed death, ached for the dying, pounded when someone crashed. These lungs: shielded by mask and PAPR, breathed in the fresh air of hallways, dodged the virus during work hours. These eyes: cried and cried and cried.

When I gathered with 25 healthcare workers on Dena’ina Land this month, we read the names of the 264 healthcare workers who’d been killed at that time. Each name was listed with their profession: Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Medical/Dental Students, Medical Scientists, Paramedics, Pharmacists, Lab Technicians, Physiotherapists. Optometrists, Administrative Staff. Four of the Optometrists shared the same last name, many of the professionals killed side by side shared the same last name. I imagined husband and wife, father and son, uncle and nephew. I imagined the conversations that led people to follow in their family footsteps; I imagined the sense of duty that accompanied learning the work of one’s father, or father’s father. As each name was read, I breathed and cried. Snot dripped down my masked upper lip and into my mouth, and I was reminded of those deep pandemic days, when we hadn’t yet gotten used to the pace of COVID death, and a mother talking to her dying son through our walkie talkies made us all cry beneath our PAPR hoods and masks. We couldn’t wipe away the tears.

I didn’t know most of the people who showed up. After the names had been read and a small length of Devil’s Club stalk had been distributed to each person, I drank a cup of yarrow, labrador, and nettle tea and met a few people. One asked what group organized this, and I said, “A scattered bunch of sad queers.” Another asked if I was the organizer. I didn’t want to be seen as the organizer, nor do I want to be an organizer. Throughout my 12-plus-years of nursing, I’ve wanted to be just a nurse: to deeply trust everyone else to do their own work so that I didn’t have to take it on. I wanted to stay within my scope of practice, to center the kind of direct care work that offers a soul-to-soul connection, to see how my hands impact another person’s body when I [caress their hair] [hold their hand] [swab their mouth] [suction their airway] [wrap their wounds] [wash their feet] [place an IV] [draw their blood] care.

At some point, I got overwhelmed. I told a few people I’d meet them at Cafecito, the queer POC owned coffee shop, and my friends reassured me they’d take care of packing everything up. I arrived there before anyone else, ordered a chamomile tea, and took a few breaths. Soon, three of the other healthcare workers, whose voices carried the names of murdered Palestinian colleagues, and three of the organizers who supported us, arrived. Nithya, a Tamil person whose ammah fled genocide in Sri Lanka, said it was the first time they’ve felt hope in a very long time, because of the care embedded in each part of the ceremony. Esther, who brewed the yarrow, labrador, and nettle tea, shared that the ethic of care was present both in the words we shared in the statement and the act of reading names, and also in how the space was curated: intentionally slow, present, opening circle and closing circle, offering gifts for all who came. It was not only theoretical care, but the practice of care, that Esther noticed.

Sasha, an Aluutiq community member who smudged each of the participants in the ceremony, said, “When each of you read the professions of the people, I thought about each part of the body that wouldn’t receive care.”

Eyes. Teeth. Muscles and joints. Blood. Medicine.

The moment when a heart stops, or injury finds a body. We call for help: emergency response.

We are parts of a whole. We are only able to do our jobs if there are other healthcare workers with complementary specialties who can do their jobs. A body cannot be carved up, a body is not only a collected assortment of organ systems, but requires all these systems to work together, communicate. A hospital cannot work if there are no nurses, a body cannot survive if one of its systems is lost forever.

To be just a nurse is to be dependent on the collective body of healthcare workers. Marxists teach that capitalism compartmentalizes labor through the assembly line, so each person only knows a small part of what they’re creating. So, a worker might build bombs but think their job is to put one highly specialized part with another highly specialized part. They become alienated from the result, they do not see themselves as complicit in the deaths of Palestinians, they never see the product of their labor.

I’ve questioned ultra-specific specialization within the medical system for a long time. When a specialist only sees a tiny part of the body, how can a plan of care encompass the entirety of a person’s needs? How can a whole person be cared for?

Stefani, a writer friend and mom whose baby was born with a very rare difference, spends an incomprehensible amount of time in the company of medical professionals. She has reminded me that ultra-specialization offers a unique intensity of skill. Her kid is alive because of the high skill level of people who’ve dedicated their lives to the study and treatment of specific parts of the body. They look at a body through a special lens: gastroenterologists, colorectal specialists, infectious disease doctors, urologists, pediatricians. When each highly trained professional comes together, with all the others, they’re able to create a collective power, a collective force towards life. We are not cogs in a machine: We are each playing our one small role, we are prioritizing the project of life.

Healthcare workers are nothing without each other. At the Cafecito table, I said, “I’ve felt a tension around solidarity organizing around professional lines. Because it’s not that Palestinians killed who were healthcare workers are more important than Palestinians who were not. Our lives aren’t more important than those who don’t have our professional titles.”

Julia, a social worker for whom this is the third memorial in three weeks, responded, “And yet, there’s a way in which we all rush into the room when there’s catastrophe. We all know how to respond in crisis. We’ve all been trained a certain way. We learn how to show up in times of distress in our roles. We speak the same language. And so, there’s something we, as healthcare workers, are experiencing that’s specific, that allows us to empathize with other healthcare workers.”

Esther added, “I think about how the healthcare workers were working, were in the line of duty when they were killed. How their training didn’t give them a choice to leave. They were trained to prioritize other people’s lives, and they often were separated from their families before their deaths because they couldn’t leave their patients.”

For all the saltiness I might have as a nurse whose work is devalued compared to that of doctors, I also know I can’t do my work without doctors. I don’t want to do my work without doctors. Because doctors diagnose, I don’t have to learn to piece together all the disparate symptoms and signs and decide what’s going on. I get to focus on the body before me, and I get to take direct action to [stop bleeding] [increase blood pressure] [decrease heart rates] [increase urine output].

When my healthcare worker kin read the list of medical/dental students, I thought about how the genocidal settler colonial Zionist entity is killing not only this generation of healthcare workers, but also the next generation. The people who can teach the next generation of healthcare workers, and the generation after that, are being murdered.

When I read aloud the names of Medical Scientists at the vigil, I thought about how gauze, the porous fabric used to dress wounds, shield hurt from injury and infection, and absorb blood, came from Gaza. Thirteenth century Palestinians were skilled weavers and created this cloth that has become integral to medical care. In solidarity with Palestinians, doctors and nurses wrap rolls of gauze around their arms. We have store rooms full of boxes of gauze in different shapes and sizes, woven and unwoven, with a slit without a slit, rolls and squares, but Gazans in the 21st century have none. No supplies with which to care for each other: The world has appropriated their means to soak up the blood. I wonder what these medical scientists were working on when they died, and whether their projects would have forever changed how medicine is practiced, the way gauze has.

Each speaker finished their set of names with the words, “We carry you with us.”

I slip gauze in my pocket for a blood draw: Gaza, we carry you with us. I thread gauze into a tunneled wound: Gaza, we carry you with us. I open packs of 4×4’s for a coworker to stop the blood loss: Gaza, we carry you with us.

If you’d like to see more from the Anchorage Healthcare Workers 4 Palestine Vigil, a video is available here, and a statement is available here.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


M. K. Thekkumkattil (they/them) is a trans disabled kinky writer and Critical Care nurse whose liberation is bound up with Palestinian Liberation. They are a recipient of a 2023 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award and a Lambda Literary Fellow. Their work can be found in Fence Magazine, Year Round Queer, & In the Future There Are No Hospitals, & @thekkumkattilmk.

MK has written 2 articles for us.


  1. I find this to be the best piece on this whole fiasco, I don’t agree with most of it but understand it. It is very discouraging when you have so many young people screaming about decolonization, and how Palestinians should get everything from the river to the sea and the Israelis should GTFO, it’s unrealistic and unhelpful in the fight for some sort of two-state resolution.

    As a lesbian, I am no friend to the Islamic world, but I do believe everyone deserves to live without the threat of annihilation from bombs falling from the skies. I hope to see peace soon.

    • James Zogby tweeted,

      “On the “the river to the sea” controversy: 7 yrs ago we polled Israelis & Palestinians. A strong plurality in both favored 1 state. When asked how that would look: Israelis said it meant expelling all Palestinians; Palestinians said it meant equal rights in 1 state. Just sayin’”

    • Beautiful piece. Spot on. The people who feel like white supremacy and colonialism benefit them will never get it, despite how much nuance and insight we provide. Even though we are all trapped by systemic injustice. The best we can do it care for ourselves and our communities and this piece illuminates that point.
      Palestine WILL be free in our lifetime. Everything points to that: from desperate Israeli propaganda to the fact that the IDF keeps producing more and more Palestinian orphans.

  2. Thank you. When people speak up everyone else feels a little less alone. Everyone who is watching and who’s insides are breaking for the Palestinian people feel a little less alone. Hopefully some Palestinians feel less alone too. I can’t fathom witnessing a genocide as a healthcare worker in Gaza, thank you for speaking up for them too. ♥️

  3. Maybe if 85% of Palestinian’s that support Oct 7 changed their perspective, I’d feel different. Until then, a majority of the people support what Hamas did that day. I will never support a group where a majority is okay with the genocide HAMAS started. I don’t support the IDF either. In fact, I don’t think much about it at all because during my lifetime, there have been many conflicts between them.

    My only concern is making sure Trump doesn’t win again because he does, oh baby, hold on because all this “free” speech we have will go away, and some of us might too depending how far they want to push. One look at the mess in Argentina at what a “libertarian” dictator will do and well that could be the US if we get complacent and misplace blame for the Gaza crisis. Two groups deserve the blame—Hamas and Netanyahu/IDF. That’s it. No one else. RFK won’t fix it. Marianne won’t. Cornell won’t. Jill won’t. Trump and all Republicans would let Bibi blow Gaza to pieces. Their preservation of Israel fits their end-times narrative. That’s the only reason for their support.

    Ukraine is what matters. Putin planned on Trump pulling the US from NATO. Why? Well so Putin can go country capturing. Biden won’t allow that and he’s doing his damndest to get Netanyahu to chill but, Joe isn’t God and has limited powers here. You all can couch complain because you’re not in the room. It’s literally a tightrope walk to keep this from escalating into Iran, Yemen, Iraq, etc. Support whomever you want that’s a choice we have here because we’re lucky.

    Our Republic isn’t given, it’s a fight everyday, but most of you don’t see it. You just see TikToks and YouTubes and Tweets, but none of you actually understand the gravity of this moment. It’s more than Gaza and 15% of the innocent Palestinian’s that do not support Oct 7. If you look around, the world is sparking and dear God if we had anyone other than Biden right now, I’m sorry but the world would be fucked.

    • International law doesn’t only go into effect if a majority of polled Palestinians condemn Hamas’s atrocities, and those polls do not include children, who are nearly half the population. (If the majority of Israeli civilians killed on October 7th supported Israeli war crimes I still wouldn’t dismiss their brutal deaths either.)

      Thousands of Palestinian children have died brutal deaths since October 7th. Hundreds of thousands more are dying of starvation right now. Nothing will ever justify that.

    • LOL. Around 85-90% of Gazans have been displaced, and journalists are getting killed on the regular there, but you really think that an accurate poll has been conducted in Gaza in the middle of all the mayhem. And if you think Gazans aren’t well aware that the actions of Hamas on October 7th is what brought such unbelievable devastation down on their heads and has led to the deaths of so many of their loved ones, then you’re really out to lunch. And there’s also the issue that Hamas is brutal and will certainly take it out on any Gazan who tries to vocalize a different opinion.

      It was obviously a bullshit poll produced for propaganda purposes. Congrats on falling for it.

    • You do not understand the meaning of genocide. Firstly the Palestinians are Arabs. There are 100s is millions of Arabs in this world. You think Israel is commuting genocide. Hamas is a diabolical army if terrorists who did unspeakable atrocities to men and especially women and you support this.
      If you are gay is Gaza they will kill you. That’s a promise. What is happening is terrible in this region and if it continues there are going to be 1000s more dead for what?
      Remember Hamases stated aim is to wipe Jews from the middle East.
      I feel sorry for you if you think that is acceptable.

  4. “Another asked if I was the organizer. I didn’t want to be seen as the organizer, nor do I want to be an organizer. Throughout my 12-plus-years of nursing, I’ve wanted to be just a nurse: to deeply trust everyone else to do their own work so that I didn’t have to take it on. I wanted to stay within my scope of practice, to center the kind of direct care work that offers a soul-to-soul connection, to see how my hands impact another person’s body” – this is what makes your writing special, MK, you write like noone I have read before and someone I wish I was reading from my whole life. Thank you for being another truth teller we need as we continue to witness and grieve this genocide.

  5. MK, your writing is a true gift. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I did not know that gauze came from Gaza. I also resonated deeply with the phrase “A scattered bunch of sad queers,” as that always seems to be who I am grieving with in community.

  6. ” I wanted to stay within my scope of practice, to center the kind of direct care work that offers a soul-to-soul connection, to see how my hands impact another person’s body when I [caress their hair] [hold their hand] [swab their mouth] [suction their airway] [wrap their wounds] [wash their feet] [place an IV] [draw their blood] care.” Beautiful MK, I love how you center care, beyond medical care, when talking about the work of healthcare workers. This emphasized how devastating the bombing of hospitals has been, how many healthcare workers have died trying to save lives because the centers of care have been specifically targeted.

  7. What an honor to have edited this powerful, layered piece, especially since it was written by a fellow Lambda alum. I hope to have the privilege of sitting with your words again soon 💗🍉

  8. Thank you for your thoughtful piece. Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya said it better than I could: “powerful, layered piece.”

    There is so much in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I wish both the war and the oppression would stop.

    I’m acutely aware that healthcare workers shouldered a high burden during the pandemic. I’m sorry our country didn’t provide you with the gratitude you all deserved.

    Much healing to you and everyone.


Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!