People walk beside rubble left by collapsed buildings

With amputations and complex injuries, doctors see need for long-term rehabilitation

Amir* is the director of an orthopedic and reconstruction hospital—a local partner of Humanity & Inclusion—in northern Syria.

In the first three days following the powerful earthquakes, they received 680 injured patients. All of them will need rehabilitation care. 

Warning: This account includes descriptions of earthquake-related injuries.

We have received 680 patients and performed 150 surgeries in the past three days. The entire 150-member staff has been mobilized since Monday to handle the emergency caused by the earthquake.

The hospital is crowded with patients of all ages: children, women, men. They are all suffering from crush syndrome, amputations, broken bones, damaged muscles and tissues, and other injuries caused by falling walls.

We work from 4 o’clock in the morning until midnight. Personally, I have slept only 10 hours in three days.

Many amputations

Yesterday, rescue teams had to amputate the leg of a 13-year-old girl who had been trapped for 20 hours in the rubble. It was impossible to remove her from the rubble as she was stuck under a wall. They had to amputate her on the spot.

All the patients we have treated since Monday will need long-term rehabilitation, some of them will require artificial limbs and braces.

For example, we have many patients with external fixators (pins and wires are connected from the bone to an external device). They will need long-term follow-up and rehabilitation in order to avoid permanent disability. People with damaged tissues or muscles or open fractures will take a long time to cure and the risk of infection is very high.

People in shock

Today, the number of cases has decreased slightly as they find fewer people under the rubble, but we are receiving more patients from other cities and rural areas.

Most of the people are in shock. Some of them remain silent when you talk to them, unable to answer anything. Some are disoriented or very stressed.

My teams are also exhausted. I have an experience in war emergencies, and an earthquake is perhaps more terrifying than air raids. It lasts longer. With an airstrike, the explosion just lasts for one or two seconds—you are dead or you are alive. The earthquake Monday was more than one minute. It was really frightening.

*Name has been changed

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