Monday, June 05, 2006

Medical student recounts how surgeons saved quake patients

Star: YOGYAKARTA: Doctors at Bantul Hospital started amputating fingers and limbs from patients who were late in seeking treatment, as their wounds had turned septic.
“I saw doctors cutting off fingers and legs. They did not use any anaesthetic because they had none. There was no other option left.
“The patients had gangrene. It was a case of either you do it now or the patient ends up losing the whole limb,” said Dashant Thiruchelvam, a Malaysian fourth-year medical student at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) here.
“I saw an old woman having her leg amputated below the knee and another man and woman in their 40s losing some of their fingers.
“This is the first time I had seen such a thing and I really felt sorry for them,” he added.
Dashant and about 200 Malaysian medical students from the university had opted to stay on and help at the Dr Sardjito Hospital after the May 27 earthquake shook Yogyakarta and parts of central Java, killing some 6,200 and injuring thousands.
Many casualties were rushed to the teaching hospital, which is also the main referral hospital in Yogyakarta.
Bantul is about 25km away and one of the most badly affected areas.
Dashant and a team of doctors, including two other Malaysians, headed out on motorcycles to Bantul on Wednesday to help victims unable to get to the hospital.
These doctors-on-bikes went around affected rural areas to provide medical supplies and treatment and follow up on patients with fractures who had returned to their villages.
Dashant said he was impressed by the number of volunteers who had come forward without hesitation to help out at the hospitals in the affected area.
”A day after the quake, the hospital was overcrowded and patients were lying everywhere.
“We had patients with bones jutting out of their open wounds and people with their heads covered in blood.
“There was blood everywhere and not enough doctors.
“It was chaotic. One operating theatre was doing three operations at the same time without following procedures because they couldn't afford delays.
“The volunteers were coming in and asking us – What can I do?” he said, adding that the volunteers helped to carry patients, made sure they were treated, got supplies for the doctors and provided food.
The Klang-born Dashant, who was due to sit for his exams today, said the university only announced on Friday that it was postponing the finals to June 12.
Dashant had returned to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday after learning that his aunt passed away last week.
“If Merapi (the active volcano near Yogyarkata) erupts, I'll be there to help. I'm sure other Malaysians will also be there to help,” he said.
Also returning on the same flight from Solo as Dashant, was Nurul Wafa Mohamed Azman, a second-year dentistry student from UGM.
She had been away on holiday in Bandung during the earthquake and was not able to come home immediately because her passport was at her hostel in Yogyakarta.
“Exams were postponed and my mother called and told me to come home because she was afraid that now Merapi would erupt,” she said, explaining her return to Malaysia.

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