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Small US hospital makes big impact on Iran

mr mahs

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This is a good article for the US haters who paint us as the imperial evil nation.. The impact we are having over seas



There was nothing grand about the opening of an American field hospital in devastated Bam yesterday, except the symbolism. The hospital was small, arrived late and according to many observers was surplus to requirements. But if little pebbles make big ripples, US-Iranian relations are headed for a thaw.

Often blinking back tears, the 81-strong American team got to work with vigorous goodwill, openly appalled by the agonies inflicted by an earthquake inside a regime that George Bush has branded "evil". And the people of Bam reciprocated, welcoming the henchmen of the "Great Satan" with mild curiosity, quiet good manners and generous thanks.

"What these people are going through, it's unimaginable; so many have lost their entire families, we just had no idea," said Dr Tim Crowley, a general physician from Boston, standing scrubbed and ready for action outside the hospital's five modest marquees. "And, you know, they're just getting on with it. I had no idea the people here were going to be so friendly, receptive, welcoming. It's really incredible."

Dr Crowley had time to talk because patients were in short supply. The hospital opened at 1pm and five hours later its 14 doctors and surgeons - some of whom gave emergency help to the survivors of the September 11 terrorist attacks - had seen just a dozen patients. But in another sense he was already overwhelmed.

One of his first patients was nine-year-old Fatima, who arrived, having already been treated for a broken arm, complaining of headaches. Dr Crowley diagnosed a brain haemorrhage and packed her off to the airport to find a neurosurgeon in Tehran.

"That little girl, if she hadn't made it here, she'd have died in a few hours," he said, wiping back tears with a gloved hand. "But if she finds the right treatment, she'll live. That would make it all worthwhile."

Another patient limped in with a pinned right leg, having also been previously treated in one of the 13 foreign field hospitals that began opening in Bam on Monday, 36 hours after the earthquake. Security - non-existent in any other field hospital - was tight. Majid Vafiee, 29, had first to limp through a cordon of Iran's elite presidential guard, then to be vetted by Deputy-Sheriff Bob Boomhower, the mission's security chief.

"OK, we're the only team with security officers, but we're pretty relaxed, and we're going to get more relaxed the longer we're here," said Mr Boomhower, a thick-set police officer from Massachusetts with a greying walrus moustache. "There was a bit of fear from everyone on the way because it's been a long time since [Americans] were here. But because the government invited us, we weren't really worried about our safety."

Shortly afterwards, Mr Vafiee limped out. "I'm very grateful to the Americans and all the foreign people for coming to help us; they are very kind people," he said, blinking before the cameras of a dozen international journalists in the pale evening light. "But, to be honest, it doesn't make any difference which hospital I go to because they can't help me." It turned out he needed a major operation to reset his leg, which the Americans could not provide.

Though mobilised within hours of the emergency, the US team took five days to arrive - three days more than a group of South African trauma psychologists. The first hold-up was logistical, when the team's unusually large size called for a C-17 military transport plane to fly it the first leg of the journey to Frankfurt. The second was political, after the Iranian government got cold feet about allowing a US military plane into Iran.

Dr Crowley was sympathetic. "Five minutes ago it was raining steel down on the Iraqi people and now, gee, we're bringing humanitarian aid. I think that worried the government a bit."

By the time the team was cleared to proceed, its search and rescue component was considered superfluous by the government, and was dropped off in Kuwait. Only a handful of survivors have been pulled from Bam's suffocating rubble this week, and none by international rescue teams.

The team landed in Kerman on Tuesday, where the emergency relief team was forced to remain inside the plane for six hours before visas were issued. After further logistical troubles, the team arrived in Bam on Wednesday, only to find that no site had been allocated for their clinic.

At last, the American "can-do" spirit triumphed.

"We just said, 'Okay, we're setting up,' and this Iranian general said he had no problem with that, so we didn't wait a second," Dr Crowley said. "We don't want to be political showboats; we came here to treat people."

Twenty metres away, Dr Georgyi Roshchin, the head of a 100-bed Ukrainian field hospital that has been operating since Monday and which treated nearly 200 patients yesterday, took a five-minute break.

"The American hospital is a political question," Dr Roshchin said. "They have a very small hospital. We have a very big hospital."

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  • 5 weeks later...
Originally posted by marksimons

it's good to know that politics doesn't get in the way of some genuine emergency humanitarian concerns.

can't say anything bad about this.

however, this is one tiny piece of the overal picture, a good piece, but a small one.

anyone have the statistics of what nations helped- how much $$$ to contributed to helping the earthquake victims??

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