Bat­tling dan­ger­ous con­di­tions

Friday - - Society -

Waseem man­aged to save the limbs of many pa­tients, in­clud­ing 10-year-old Danesh, who had been wait­ing for longer than a week for a doc­tor to treat him af­ter both his hands had been crushed by a large fall­ing rock.

In their haste to pull him out of the rub­ble alive, res­cuers didn’t no­tice that his hands were trapped un­der the rock. In the process of drag­ging him out, the skin from Danesh’s hands got ripped away. He was given first aid, but the wound needed ur­gent at­ten­tion.

Af­ter first work­ing on the frac­tures, Waseem took skin from the boy’s thighs and grafted it over his torn hands. It was tir­ing and time­con­sum­ing surgery, which was con­ducted over three days. For­tu­nately for the boy, there was no in­fec­tion and it be­gan to heal soon. Danesh re­cov­ered fully and is now in school.

In the fran­tic days and nights that fol­lowed, Waseem and the team bat­tled dan­ger­ous con­di­tions to save more lives and limbs. “Of­ten there is no elec­tric­ity or potable wa­ter. But we make do with what best we have,’’ he says.

When word got round that the team was sav­ing limbs, not am­pu­tat­ing them, queues formed – and emer­gency nurse Craig­Wood, a for­mer army medic, had the heart­break­ing job of se­lect­ing pa­tients on med­i­cal pri­or­ity.

“In an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, it’s easy for an al­most mil­i­tary ap­proach to pre­vail and to opt for am­pu­ta­tions,” ex­plains Craig.

“But work­ing with­Waseem – a skilled plas­tic sur­geon – and a team of medics, we could also of­fer re­con­struc­tion and save limbs from am­pu­ta­tion. So af­ter the ini­tial trauma, peo­ple could be­gin to get their lives back on track.”

The need was des­per­ate. Like Danesh, two-year-old Kul­soom was help­lessly wait­ing for treat­ment. A lo­cal doc­tor who ex­am­ined her right hand, which had sus­tained mas­sive in­juries af­ter it was crushed un­der a boul­der in the quake, said it had to be am­pu­tated.

“But it was clear to me that the hand had a func­tion­ing thumb and in­dex fin­ger, which gave her an op­pos­able thumb so she could pick things up,” saysWaseem. “That would be far more use to her than an am­pu­ta­tion stump.”

‘We could save limbs from am­pu­ta­tion so af­ter the trauma, peo­ple could get back on track’

Re­pair­ing the frac­tures and cov­er­ing her hand with fresh skin saved Kul­soom’s hand. “While she will al­ways use her left hand for most things, hav­ing that us­able right hand is far bet­ter than an am­pu­ta­tion,” saysWaseem.

Many of the quake vic­tims also ap­peared to be suf­fer­ing from men­tal trauma. One pa­tient, a lo­cal politi­cian who had been trapped, wedged up­side down in a nar­row space for days by the earth­quake, was so ter­ri­fied that another

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