Wrexham surgeon tells of battle to save Haiti earthquake victims

Reporter:

Garth ApThomas and Matt Sims

A SURGEON who flew to earthquake-devastated Haiti has spoken of the part he played in helping to save and improve the lives of the country’s people.

Orthopaedic and trauma consultant Asad Syed, who works at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, flew to Port-au-Prince, the Caribbean country’s capital, as part of a 10-day mission with a number of other doctors and nurses, and personally operated on about 20 young people.

Mr Syed, who returned to the UK earlier this week, said he was deeply shocked at the extent to which people’s lives had been thrown into complete and utter chaos.

About 230,000 people are believed to have died in the earthquake on January 12, with a further 300,000 left injured.

Mr Syed said: “There is a sense of total devastation. I have previously been to earthquakes in Kashmir, China and Indonesia but never experienced anything as bad as this.

“In so many places there is an absolute stench of death in the air – there is an overpowering smell of rotting human flesh. The injuries are horrific and there are a very large number of patients.”

Mr Syed said that humanitarian aid sent from other countries is only slowly trickling through to help the general population and added that resources were scarce.

At one stage he saw a food riot break out which began over a struggle for the contents of a carton.

He said: “It was very disturbing. People are hungry, their communities have been broken and there are so many victims who have been badly injured.

“We had to do everything during the daytime because at night it became extremely dangerous.

“Because there was no electricity we were running generators. which meant we were the only building lit up, which made us a target.”

Along with another surgeon, six nurses and an anaesthetist from the UK, Mr Syed was part of a group who operated on a large number of patients over the course of his 10 days there.

After a fundraising bid, he was able to take his own x-ray equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds to the site in Delmas 33, one of the poorest areas hit by the earthquake.

He said: “We set up our own A&E there, we were doing X-rays, and we also had a pharmacy.

“We were taking on many different roles and doing whatever was needed.”
Speaking about those he treated, he said: “There was a girl called Collette in her 20s.

"She was on top of her roof when her house collapsed. She fell and and a boulder fell on her leg and hand.

“Both were badly crushed and she was in a lot of pain. The wound had also become infected and one finger had to be amputated.

“We tried to put pins in from the outside but then had to open the fracture and fix it with a plate and screws.

“When we arrived she had been lying in bed for three weeks, in pain, and by the time we left she was up and walking.”

He continued: “There was another child, called Emile, who was 12-years-old.

“He came in with a piece of bone sticking out of his elbow. It had been like that for some time and was clearly infected. I took him to theatre and he is now able to move his arm again and the wound is now healing.”

Despite soaring temperatures, stretched resources and having to deal with heartbreaking situations, Mr Syed said the time he spent in Haiti was definitely worth it.

He said: “None of us wanted to come back. I wish that it would have been possible to spend more time there. I took up medicine for this kind of work.”

Mr Syed, who lives in Chester, said he would very like to become involved in future charity activities for Haiti and continue to raise awareness of the terrible situation so many people are facing.

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