Battling dangerous conditions
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