Area Doctors Return From Volunteering in Turkey and Syria Following Earthquakes

More than 50,000 people are dead after two major earthquakes rocked Syria and Turkey last month. Millions more were injured or left homeless. 

Those who have a home are afraid of sleeping indoors, fearing more tremors.

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MedGlobal, a humanitarian organization based in Chicago, is composed of 12 physicians who deploy to disaster-struck countries to help in times of need. Most recently, three physicians traveled to both Syria and Turkey to help those affected by the disaster. 

Dr. Zaher Sahloul is president and co-founder of MedGlobal, an associate professor at UIC and a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Saint Anthony Hospitals. He was one of the doctors who traveled to Turkey and Syria. 

Sahloul says it’s hard to grasp the devastation until you are on the ground.

“You see signs of a previous life, you see the homework books, you see blankets, pillows, toys; things that tell you that there were people there under the rubble,” Sahloul said. 

Dr. Imran Akbar is an anesthesiologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center. He and Dr. Thaer Ahmad, who is the global health director and assistant residency program director at Advocate Christ Medical Center, joined Sahloul in the trip. 

Akbar performed surgery on a 4-year-old boy who was injured by the rubble. The boy not only lost part of his foot but lost all of his family, except for his father. 

Akbar points out that a natural disaster of this magnitude will have lasting effects on the people affected. 

“To see that, to see how his life is going to be affected from here on out, not just from the trauma from losing his foot, but losing his family, his place of living and so forth and the trauma that his family will have to deal with,” Akbar said. 

Ahmad says the health care system in Syria was already compromised after years of war, but a natural disaster is only making access to life-saving medical care more difficult. 

“When you have an earthquake of this magnitude and this many people have been devastated by it the burden on the health care system is going to be one that is not going to be able to respond,” he said.

More information about MedGlobal’s work can be found on their website.

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