Telegraph & Argus 6th December 2005

Surgeon returns to help victims

A surgeon has returned to Pakistan for the second time from Bradford to offer crucial medical care to survivors of the South Asian earthquake.

Almost two months after it struck Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Kashmir, people are still coming to terms with the disaster’s devastating aftermath.

Bradford Royal Infirmary orthopaedic surgeon Asad Syed worked around the clock in the wake of the disaster with a team of West Yorkshire doctors at a hospital in Abbottabad to help people suffering from horrific crush injuries after being trapped under rubble.

The surgeon, who is setting up a limb-fitting service for children who had amputations, returned to the region at the weekend for a ten-day mercy mission at the District Headquarters Hospital For Women and Children in Abbottabad.


Before leaving, he said: “Previously we all worked as a team in one hospital because it was an acute emergency. This time, because the huge emergency is over, we will separate into two teams.”

Dr Syed will work alongside plastic surgeon Waseem Saeed from St James’s Hospital in Leeds – with whom he worked during his first mission.

“The need has changed,” said Dr Syed. “It is now for salvage operations, to operate on people who have survived the initial damage and now need to have limb re-constructive surgery to prevent them from having their limbs amputated. We are taking medical supplies with us – life-saving antibiotics, pain killers, plasters, bandages for wound care and infection management. Also lots of surgical items, mainly for plastic surgery.

“The rest of the team will go up North to a field camp. Part of the time will be spent in Manshera and Alyei because in Alyei, I am told, there is still volcanic activity and gasses coming out of the ground. We have been told it’s quite desperate in these two places.

“People are reluctant to move because their whole livelihood is in their land. If they leave they will lose the land.”

Dr Syed was shocked during his first trip to discover vast numbers of people who had suffered amputations needlessly.

“Now in Muzaffarabad whenever people hear the word `amputation’ – even those who are illiterate – they say they want a second opinion from the English doctors,” he said.

Dr Syed has teamed up with medics and MPs including Glasgow MP Mohammad Sarwar and Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik and the Limbless Association UK to formulate a proposal to International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, asking for help in setting up a limb-fitting service.

“We are looking for £2 million, British expertise and the transfer of technology,” he said. “We need the technology in Pakistan to be modernised. We also need to do research and development to adapt these prosthetics to different terrain and we need help training technicians in Pakistan to make the prosthetics locally and maintain them.”

Dr Syed and his colleagues have had to take annual leave for the trips and they are now lobbying the Department of Health for special leave for medics who want to help the devastated region.

” If we can make a difference to so many people in such a big way, we ought to go and try to do a bit more because they are really struggling for doctors who have special skills.”