Desperate for aid
Waseem’s experience in disaster areas left him determined to recruit more skilled medics to help deal with the huge need for treatment in the earthquake-affected region. He was the only reconstructive surgeon for miles, so when he had to return to his post in the UK, he was desperate to arrange for aid in his absence.
He contacted the British Association of Plastic Surgeons to set up a rota of surgical teams to come to Abbottabad over the next three months when the need was most critical.
Waseem’s colleague Amjad made a second trip to Pakistan, this time withWaseem’s psychiatrist wife Dr Saika Rahuja, to deliver aid to parts of the mountains that hadn’t yet been reached. Dr Rahuja also helped people who were suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Waseem has offered his expertise all over the world. When a massive earthquake struck China in 2008, he joined a team put together by the charity UK-Med and rushed off to help.
The following year he helped in Padang, the capital ofWest Sumatra in Indonesia, after another huge quake struck the country, killing more than 1,000 people. He remembers seeing a 17-year-old girl who suffered a serious gash on her heel while fleeing a collapsing building.
“It was an open wound and gangrene had set in,” he says. “But luckily we got to her in time and were able to save her foot.
“I also treated a little girl with a nasty facial injury. Hopefully there shouldn’t be too much of a scar,’’ he says.
Waseem credits his father’s friend for inadvertently helping him choose this profession. Waseem’s father Dr Riaz Saeed, a general practitioner, had moved from Pakistan to the UK in the Sixties. As a schoolboy growing up in Manchester along with three brothers (now all doctors), Waseem remembers listening to his father’s friend, a surgeon, talk about the reconstructive work he had done on a patient’s twisted leg; how he rebuilt soft tissue, muscle and tendons to support the bone and give the child a chance of learning to walk.
“That inspired me,’’ saysWaseem, who also visits Muscat Private Hospital in Oman for a monthly clinic to treat patients requiring plastic surgery due to burns or accidents.
Despite a thriving practice in UK, travelling to disaster areas wherever in the world they happen is what he says helps him give something back to society.
After 20 years of saving lives and limbs for victims of terrible accidents, Waseem feels there is a lot more to be done.
“One day, when I no longer have to support a family, I’d like to give my life to humanitarian medicine, because in disasters like these the need is simply so huge.”
And after being saved from certain amputation byWaseem, little Dianne, Danesh and Kulsoom would agree.