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Christchurch Surgeon Fights Back Tears Discussing Operation On 4-Year-Old Victim

A surgeon who operated on a four-year-old victim of the Christchurch mosque shootings held back tears during a press conference about the surgery.

Vascular surgeon Dr. Adib Khanafer told media on Wednesday operating on Alen Alsati was the highlight of his career, but also one of the most difficult operations -- both technically, and emotionally.

He told media he was performing an elective surgery when he received the call saying he was urgently needed in another theatre, where -- unbeknownst to him -- surgeons had been operating on Alsati for 45 minutes.

"This was a totally different call ... it said 'come now' and 'where are you' and 'how far'," he said.

"This is the first time I have run to theatre."

It was an emotional surgery for Dr. Adib Khanafer. Photo: Stuff.

When he arrived, he saw a young girl with a bullet wound to the vein, "which is really very difficult to repair ... the bullet has damaged the pelvis and lower arteries have been cut."

He almost broke down in tears when he remembered looking down and seeing "a young girl on the table", being comforted during the conference by a colleague.

"I have four kids, the youngest is seven and the oldest if 14. I imagine that this is one of my kids. I was able to perform my job, I left my emotion out of it," Khanafer said.

"It could have been my boy, it could have been my girl."

He said he put his emotions to the side and performed the surgery, but afterwards stepped out of the theatre and "started crying".

Flowers and messages are places on the steps of the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Alsati has since been transferred to a children's hospital in Auckland, where she remains in a critical condition.

Her father, Wasseim Alsati, who was shot three times in the attack and underwent seven surgeries, has been transferred to Auckland City Hospital to be closer to his daughter. He remains in a stable condition.

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As of Tuesday, thirty patients injured in the attacks remained in Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said.

"One further person was well enough to go home today and is being supported by family and friends."

Nine people of the 30 were in a critical condition in intensive care.

Planned surgeries continue to be postponed in order to free up operating theatres and surgical teams for follow up surgery for the shooting victims.

"We apologise to anyone who may have their surgery postponed, but know they will understand the extraordinary circumstances," Meates said.

He said while surgery and specialist care for those injured in the mosque attacks remained the DHB's primary focus, they were also planning care around their ongoing well-being, as well as support for their families, the Muslim community in particular, and the wider community more broadly.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

"As the events of the past few days sink in, it’s important we continue to support one another and look out for those we love more than ever," Meates said.

"It is likely that many of us may continue to be on edge and upset periodically for some time to come. This is perfectly normal, and we need to be generous with one another and forgiving, and patient if someone is snappy, emotional or not their usual self."

It comes as hundreds gathered for the first of many burials, a father and son who arrived in New Zealand last year as refugees from Syria.

Khaled Mustafa, 44, and his 15-year-old son, Hamza, were laid to rest five days after they were killed.

Khaled's son and Hamza's brother, 13-year-old Zaid Mustafa, was injured in the attack, but survived. At the funeral, Zaid uttered a heartbreaking cry: "I don't want to be alone."

Zaid Mustafa at the funeral for his brother and father. Photo: AAP.

READ MORE: Hundreds Gather As Father And Son Become First Victims To Be Buried In Christchurch

READ MORE: New Zealand To Pay For Funerals Of Christchurch Victims

Friday's call to prayer will be broadcast nationally across New Zealand in a show of solidarity, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced.

A nation-wide two-minute silence is also planned.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au