Monday, November 14, 2005

The quake, first-hand

BBC Photo

To follow, an email forwarded from a friend in Nepal - links to more info at end of letter.

"Loved ones,

I'm home safe and sound, but it's difficult to process all that we saw in
northeastern Pakistan. The official numbers--80,000 dead, at least that many
wounded, three million homeless--are overwhelming, but it's my patients' faces,
their smiles and kisses and tears that tether my heart to Kashmir.

The first place we visited was the city of Balakot, once one of the loveliest
spots in the country, now completely reduced to rubble and permeated with the
stench of dead bodies. From there we went to Kashmir, where I worked with a
team of doctors and surgeons in a field hospital in the capital city of
Muzzafarabad. Our camp treated 1200-1500 outpatients a day, and had male and
female inpatient tents as well as basic surgery and radiology facilities. From
9am til 9 or 10pm I gave injections, cleaned and bandaged wounds, and took care
of inpatient nursing needs. As camp midwife, I saw all the pregnant women and
was on call for deliveries. When not doing clinical work I sat with patients
and chatted in my limited and apparently rather amusing Urdu.

I caught three babies in a delivery room we set up in the dirt-floored supply
One of the moms I cared for had lost 45 members of her family, another
had lost her husband and other child, another didn't want to leave our camp
because her tent wasn't warm enough for her new baby.
One pregnant mom I was examining told me, "I was taking prenatal vitamins, but then my house fell down."

One of our patients had had two miscarriages and a stillbirth and her husband had threatened to divorce her and take another wife if she didn't have a child, so we decided to do a c-section. The generator died after we got her anesthetized, but we went ahead and did the surgery without power. Thankfully, mama and baby did just fine.

Among our patients on the inpatient ward was a family with six injured children,
including one boy who probably suffered a concussion and went into a coma after
not eating or drinking for ten days. His mom was convinced he was possessed by
a jinn and at first told us not to touch him. On one of our worst nights, an old
man died in the camp and then a few hours later, a little boy died, the only one
of his mother's four children to have survived the earthquake. Holding her as
she sobbed, it seemed we were inundated by far too much grief for one mother,
one nation to endure.

I am deeply grateful for your love and prayers that sustained me through times
when I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. Please continue to pray for the
affected people of Pakistan, and consider donating to relief efforts. The
situation is critical, especially in the mountains as winter approaches. $80
will buy a tent through the UNHCR; Save the Children and World Vision, two
agencies I know do good work, are also on the ground. I've listed their
websites below, plus the BBC site which has the best coverage of the situation.
The human spirit is resilient and there's good work happening, but they
desperately need our help.

With love,

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