Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Feb 25th
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Home Feature Stories Great Love After Asia Tsunami Tzu Chi Medical Teams to Sri Lanka - Multiple roles of doctors and nurses

Tzu Chi Medical Teams to Sri Lanka - Multiple roles of doctors and nurses

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Tzu Chi Medical Teams to Sri Lanka
Multiple roles of doctors and nurses
Training local medical volunteers
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Multiple roles of doctors and nurses
Many patients were suffering from upper trachea infections as a result of choking on water, so all the cold syrup was used up in under three days. Fortunately, the medical team had also brought with them many alternatives. However, for many of the younger patients, the pharmacist had to cut pills in half, grind them into powder, and add water to dilute them to the right amount. The whole process was very time-consuming and it was impossible to meet the demands of the waiting patients.

To prevent patients from becoming annoyed and impatient as they waited, Tu Ping-hsu, a deputy chief nurse from Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital who was helping at the pharmacy, suddenly had an idea: while shaking some medicine, he purposely shook it very forcibly as if he was making a cocktail. Laughter erupted from the children watching him, and for a moment or two this joy alleviated the misery of the waiting patients.

Dr. Wu Chao-chun also helped out at the pharmacy. When a particular medicine was out of stock and an alternative medicine had to be used, he would immediately notify all of the doctors. The pharmacists then did not have to run between the doctors and the pharmacy to confirm prescriptions, and instead they could concentrate their efforts on dispensing medicines to patients with as little delay as possible.

Fixed and mobile clinics
Surgeon Li Wei-che remembered 11-year-old Supun Tharanga very clearly. The boy had been pulled into the sea and swept along for two kilometers (1.2 miles) before being rescued. Rocks, lumber, and other debris had kept hitting him and caused a significant number of serious injuries. On the young boy's left hand, a large section of flesh was missing. When his father first accompanied Tharanga to the free clinic, the boy's entire body was covered with injuries, and a wound on his left elbow was cut open to the bone. He was also suffering from a serious infection.

When Dr. Li and an anesthesiologist tried to anesthetize the boy before treatment, three adults had to hold the struggling boy down. At every injection he received, Tharanga would let out a bloodcurdling shriek of terror.

This young boy, who could at first endure no pain, came the following day to have his dressing changed, and by the third day his fear had vanished completely; his mischievous behavior even made the doctor smile.

In addition to treating patients at the station, the medical team also carried out mobile clinics, so that they could help people who could not travel, and at the same time learn more about the survivors' lives in order to find out how to help them more thoroughly.

Doctors and nurses simply carried their medical kits with them to villages and neighborhoods and set up tables and chairs under trees or in the open to treat any patients who showed up. They also went to refugee shelters to see if anyone required their medical services.

Once when plastic surgeon Chang Chia-ning was treating a patient outside in the open air, the scorching sun was burning her scalp and she was sweating profusely. It was hard work, but Dr. Chang said that her sweating was more bearable than the patient's bleeding. If she could help the patient, her discomfort meant nothing.

Dr. Yang Chih-kuo of the respiratory therapy department noticed a woman with an emaciated face and grieving expression and knew instantly that the woman was suffering from severe psychological trauma. Her three children had been killed in the tsunami. The woman had not eaten in three days; sometimes she would weep inconsolably and at other times she would stay completely silent.

Dr. Yang gave her a sedative shot. While he was pondering what to do next, the manager of the company where the woman worked approached and said that he would like to pay for her future medical costs. The manager asked the doctor to prescribe all the necessary medicines and nutritional supplements so that he could continue to buy them later on.

"We could understand the woman's grief," said Dr. Yang, "but I was touched that someone was willing to help her." He added that the medical services were only a temporary measure; what was far more important was that the survivors helped one another to overcome the tragedy that had affected them all.


" Bodhisattvas are not idols made of wood; real Bodhisattvas are people who eat, talk, work, and relieve suffering in times of need. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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