Friday, April 07, 2006
Medics answer quake's call
The pictures were heartbreaking; the death and destruction overwhelming. Just six months ago, as Pakistan was shaken to the core by a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake, a group of New York City emergency medical workers was watching too, and immediately started making preparations to travel halfway around the world to help.

The quake crushed towns hidden in the shadows of the Himalaya Mountains. The numbers were staggering: 3.5 million homeless, 73,000 dead, 69,000 injured. When this band of medics arrived, they were stunned to find that many of the injured had never even been seen by a doctor.

"It was incredible that this was two weeks after the earthquake," said Phil Suarez, a paramedic. Phil kept a photographic record of the people he met. A few of his photos are featured here.

Their mission of mercy was beset by obstacles. A language barrier kept patients from communicating their pain. The perilous terrain made moving between camps nearly impossible. Shelter was nearly nonexistent, as were medical supplies. And a punishing winter that would cover the mountains in snow was approaching fast.

But still, the wounded kept coming to their makeshift emergency room. "Four men would be carrying these sick people over this rubble that I could barely walk on with a backpack," Phil said.

For two weeks, the medics worked in the harshest conditions, doing what they could with what little they had available for their very grateful patients.

When they returned home to their lives, their jobs and their families, they knew their work in the mountains of Pakistan was not yet done. In March, they made their way back. But this time, they were armed with donations, supplies, even prefabricated shelters for some of those still displaced by the quake, but unwilling to come down from the mountains.

Six months has passed since the earthquake, and little has changed for the people of the poor Pakistani villages buried under the quake's rubble. But much has changed for these medics, who left their lives behind to respond to an emergency call half a world away from home.
Posted By Debora Fougere, CNN Producer: 4:21 PM ET
  14 Comments
Your story, 'Medics Answer Quake's Call' really demonstrates the love and compassion of the members of the medical team who returned to Pakistan to aid injured villagers. Thank you for the wonderful story!
Posted By Anonymous Noel Wilson-Woodard @ Seattle, WA : 7:36 PM ET
This is an amazing story of the human spirit. Here we see people that have little or nothing but the willingness to live and fight to keep going. As Americans we should be thankful for what we have and learn to share with others that go through a tragedy of this magnitude. God bless the volunteers who donated their time as services.
Posted By Anonymous Rosa Hernandez Orlando Florida : 7:59 PM ET
The pictues I'm seeing here are beyond words almost. Heartbreaking. I hope they serve as a wake call to Americans they we simply cannot abandon entire regions and watch them die. What if this had been Scotland instead? And the only ones who could help were Middle Eastern...and they did almost NOTHING to help, even if they were able to? Just a thought. Thank you, for reminding us of myr moral duty to others, despite the fact that they look, speak, and wear different clothes than I do.
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, wheeling WV : 8:01 PM ET
Bad things happen and there's nothing we can do. But why can't the people of the United States get this free medical care. We have our own citizens that can't afford a Doctor but I guess if it's not a tax write off or a popularity boost you won't see a Doctor,medic or nurse helping our thousands of sick and injured, you go to any Hospital in this country and the first thing they want to know is how you intend to pay and payment forms come before treatment, My Grandmother died because all the Doctors went home for the night including the ER who are to stay until the next shift, she was brought into the ER years ago, and since she wasn't wealthy and her insurance wasn't the best the Dr. refused to come in until payment was guaranteed, needless to say her massive stroke killed her and the fact that she could have lived if it wasn't for the greed. It's bad that people suffer but we need to be proud to help our own people with out the greed and help others for the right reason. Our Country first then all others take a back seat.
Posted By Anonymous William Tampa, FL : 8:35 PM ET
In today's busy and self-orientated society it is very rare that, we see such individuals with this kind of courage and dignity. They would have stayed here with ther families and enjoyed the pleasures of America and comfort of their home but instead they answered the call of humanity. The tought of going to such a country as Pakistan in which the "War on Terror" is on and Westerners'are a prime target, these distinguished gentlemen never thought of such a thing and helped those in need; not once but twice and took alot of donations with them. They came home not to just end their experinces on a high note but they raised money and geared up for one more time. I salute you guys from my heart for saving, healing and changing the wounds, hearts and minds of my Native Pakistan. God Bless you and America.
Posted By Anonymous Syed Haider, Levittown, NY : 8:40 PM ET
We need more angels in the world like these wonderful doctors, nurses and medics who truly are doing extraordinary work and hopefully inspiring others to help in their communities. Local, national or global - we're all a part of a
world-wide community!

Thank you for such an inspirational story!
Posted By Anonymous Lori Missoula, MT : 12:53 AM ET
We all should learn from this story - to act when a situation is in need of action. But I must also agree with one of the pervious comments. Are we seeing this same kind of response here at home in America when one of our own citizens goes to the hospital who's in need but has no means to pay? Where is the prompt response then? What, no tax right off or hero story so they get the cold shoulder? Or is it as plain simple as, no money to pay your hospital bills no care? I'm sure victims of the earthquake are not sent invoices. So why not the same treatment when one of our fellow Americans are in the same need as the earthquake victims - medical help? Not to say the victims of the earthquake should not get the help they are entitled to because they should. But Americans should get the same help too, wouldn�t you agree? So we should act when a situation is in need of action, not just for other countries but for Americans. It is still a great story of heroism. We commend you guys.
Posted By Anonymous Asim Tomlin, Greensboro, NC : 4:23 AM ET
I'm speechless... I hope this will show the softer side of America in the world... long live American/Pakistani friendship!

My sincerest thanks to the medics - may God Bless You!
Posted By Anonymous Saqib Dareshani, Ottawa, Ontario : 7:27 AM ET
The pictures remind me of the devastation that recent natural disasters have occured here in America. Are we that much different from Pakistan or any other third world country where most Americans can't afford to be sick much less financially put back their lives after such devastation? I commend the doctors efforts to help others in need but don't forget this country is in serious need with our out of control healthcare costs.
Posted By Anonymous M. Wong, Van Nuys, CA : 4:51 PM ET
We see and hear stories like this all the time. Americans are always going to the rescue of individuals insituations like this. It makes me wonder why all the world hates us like they do. The selfless act these people performed for those injured in the quake brings tears to me eyes yet we have other people around the world burning our flag and proclaiming their intense hatred. They accept our help in situations like this and turn around and kill us. I don't get it. America is filled with heroes and selfless people just like these individuals who came to the rescue in Pakistan. I just wish the fighting would stop and the whole wolrd would be like America. Perhaps if we voted out the corrupt politicians that our government is filled with (starting at the top) and started out fresh, that might help. My prayers go out to the injured and sick.
Posted By Anonymous R Reeves Chantilly, VA : 8:38 AM ET
The poor children...
Posted By Anonymous Ronald T. Hartford,CT : 11:04 AM ET
Imagine how much aid the U.S could have sent if we weren't messing around in Iraq. This kind of aid is what I want my country to be known for, not blowing innocent children up.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 1:09 PM ET
We are all brothers and sisters in this world and borders are only political boundries which seperate us. .We all have much in common with other human beings and when a trajedy happens it is only human to want to help and to reach out. In America we worship the dollar and put more value on things than on being humane--You just have to look at othere current events for more examples.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Columbus,OH : 1:17 PM ET
I am shocked that William in Tampa can turn a mission of mercy into an insensative political rampage. This is about a human catastrophe on an unimaginable scale where people of moral concience are reaching out to help and making a differnce. Not a forum to opine about issues with domestic health policy.
But for the grace of God you're not living in a pile of rubble on a bleak mountainside, William.
Posted By Anonymous Mark Insull, Petaluma, CA : 3:25 PM ET
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