PESHAWAR: Close encounter with severed limbs, bloodied faces, tears and screams have left their scars on the most dedicated of health workers at the LRH.
It was Sept 22 when the accidents and emergency department of the very familiar Lady Reading hospital witnessed myriad casualties, unrelenting agony and gloom. Some of the staff members muse over the day telling the bloody scenes haunt them time and again.
Ajab Gul is subliminally preoccupied by the bloody scenes he witnessed while working at the LRH. Ajab claims, he hears women crying and children screaming. “I can’t sleep,” he says. Ajab Gul is a 25-year-old medic posted at the very familiar hospital in the restless KPK that predominantly attends to victims of terrorist attacks in Peshawar and close by areas. Gul’s job is on the whole hard; posted at the Lady Reading Hospital’s accident and emergency department he had to stitch and bandage wounds of the victims brought that day. “I see flashes of bloodied faces and bodies. The cries of women and children who were brought there for treatment ring in my ears every night,” Gul tells. Their wounds may not be visible, but run deep. “Most of us are likely to develop psychological problems,” says Gul.
Professor Arshad Javaid, chief executive officer of LRH, says, “Healthcare providers treated terror attack victims and have seen their trauma from a close range. Many use anti-depressants, tranquillisers and sleeping pills to avoid nightmares. The state-owned LRH has treated more than 6,000 victims of violence since 2005.” “It is our mission to reduce mortality from terror attacks,” Javed says resolutely.
A 28 year old nurse Rifat Bibi says, “I keep seeing the charred bodies of children in my dreams, many times I wake up. It is heart wrenching to see children suffering or dying for no fault of theirs. They reminded me of my own children, sisters and mother.” Rifat candidly exposes the extent of trauma she and her colleagues had to go through saying, “About a dozen of my A&E colleagues have got themselves transferred to other wards because they couldn’t stand the stress.”
The twin suicide bombings at All Saints Church on Sep. 22, in which more than 300 people were killed, are still fresh in Bibi’s mind. “A woman, with a bloodstained face, who lost two young brothers that day, wept so much over their bodies that the memory still haunts me,” Bibi tells.
Dr Amjad Ali, a psychiatrist at LRH, says,”Healthcare providers are also vulnerable to rough treatment at the hands of victims’ families. “Refering to the Sep. 22 Church attack, he says, “That day we received 233 victims within one hour. All were provided treatment. But the angry relatives of some victims attacked health workers. However, Nurses and paramedics often develop mental health problems.”
“They burst into tears when they see people in pain. One in 10 shows symptoms of psychological illness. I have examined dozens of health workers who required anti-depressants and counselling,” Amjad Ali says.
When you see bloodied bodies so often, how can you not be affected? he asked.