As health emergency in Kashmir sent huge wound load to SKIMS, a 24/7 demanding health services freaked medics amid mounting assaults. Almost 40 days later, the hospital is still grappling with gory scenes, reports Muhammad Raafi
Men, women and children are wailing outside SK Institute of Medical Sciences’s Emergency entrance. A teenager has met an accident in north Kashmir’s Baramulla. He is critical.
In a corner, a couple of elderly guys and a youngster are mumbling. One of them is puffing a cigarette, telling others: “Khuda Kares Reham!” (God, will have mercy on him!)
Inside SKIMS wards, scenes are heart-wrenching. Cutting across age and gender, patients injured in Kashmir’s fresh upheaval are making the ambiance mournful.
Latief Ahmad from Narbal was part of a Friday congregation on August 5, 2016—the day when Hurriyat had called for Hazratbal chalo. “After Friday prayers,” said Abdul Ahad, Latief’s relative, “as we walked back to our homes, Latief was hit on his leg when forces opened fire on protesters.” Doctors at a local dispensary referred him to SKIMS.
“On way,” Ahad continued, “we were regularly stopped, bleeding Latief badly.” After twists and turns when Latief finally reached SKIMS, the doctors diagnosed him of bullet-torn arteries. He was immediately given many pints of blood. One week later, doctors are yet to declare him out of danger.
Many such cases where patients hit by bullets/pellets faced ‘transitional trauma’ kept SKIMS—one of the premier medical institutes in Kashmir—on 24/7 freaking medical emergency. It has tackled the worst wounded since the civilian uprising started in Kashmir on July 9, a day after Burhan Wani’s killing.
Around 4pm on the same day, first injured was taken to SKIMS. And since then, says a senior doctor, it has become a routine. “Most patients were hit above the waist,” the medico said, “leaving them critically injured.” Doctors termed it mayhem triggered by war-like situation. “At times, there was chaos. Blood was all over Emergency. There was sloganeering, while bodies kept piling up.”
One surgeon who operated upon injured said that he had to perform multiple surgeries at a time. “The rush was so high that three patients were being operated simultaneously. Some injured had to be provided emergency medication in porch of Emergency ward.” In view of rising injuries, the doctors had to shift the critically wounded from the Emergency.
Many such patients had their popliteal and fermoral arteries damaged in a street shootout. “I have not been able to sleep properly since July 10 2016,” a young doctor said. “I have had hallucinations. I am not able to even sit with my family.”
Some SKIMS doctors said that the horror of treating massive injuries has left them doubtful about their profession. “I am so disturbed that I keep thinking to quit this job. It is simply insane to treat such harrowing injuries! Even my family calls me repeatedly during my duty hours — for they know, how disturbed I am!”
Till August 12, SKIMS had treated 206 patients of whom 75 were pellet hit, 30 bullet hit, 25-30 assault cases and rest were hit by shells. (Since SKIMS doesn’t have ophthalmology department, therefore those hit by pellets on their eyes have been shifted to SKIMS Bemina.)
On bed number 7 in SKIMS’ ward 6, a man in his late twenties from Kupwara is lying bewildered. His hand was injured by a shell. Sameer underwent plastic surgery to reshape his maimed hand. There were several other patients who underwent plastic surgery for their hands, faces or arms, the doctor treating Sameer said.
Till date, among 206 patients admitted in SKIMS, 12 have expired. “Those who expired had either bullets in head or in chest,” a senior surgeon said. “They had vascular injuries. I saw some injured whose brains were out of their skull. Those were gruesome scenes.”
One of the deceased patients was Haseeb Ganaie (22) of Branti Dialgam. The doctors said he had lost part of his brain on spot while the other half was dangling from his shattered skull. A 16-year-old Danish Ayoub Shah of Magraypora Achabal was admitted in SKIMS with brain clanged around his head.
“Some patients have also paralysed for life and have very bleak chances of recovering,” said a weary surgeon informing that SKIMS have so far performed 50 major surgeries. “Their spinal cords have broken.” Some paralysed youth had jumped from bridges upon forces chase, the surgeon said.
With rush swelling, SKIMS administration recently met to provide free admission and medicines to patients. “Everything from medicines to food and other hospital charges are taken by the hospital,” a senior doctor said. Some local NGOs are also taking care of patients at SKIMS.
“I am admitted here since July 11,” said Tahir A Lone, a Kupwara man referred to SKIMS after being lynched by forces. “And throughout, I was provided cash, food, footwear, clothes and medicines by local volunteers.” Among them, Aanchar relief committee, an amalgam of locals from Aanchar, Soura are being credited for working tirelessly for the welfare of injured and their attendants since July 10, 2016.
“We have been serving around 2000-2500 people on daily basis,” said Bashir Ahmad, who heads the committee. The committee has been bearing the expenses of medicines of the injured. “We were concerned about the wellbeing of cancer patients. Then we decided to pay them Rs 50,000 per head.” Many other organizations are equally taking care of injured at SKIMS.
Amid volunteering, the SKIMS medics are praising the district hospitals for absorbing huge wounded rush and trickling only critical cases to tertiary hospitals like SKIMS. “This year compared to 2010 civil uprising,” said a senior doctor, “SKIMS received minimum injury cases. It happened after the district hospital Islamabad and Kulgam—closer to the dissent epicentre—attended to major rush.”
Meanwhile, another line of wailing attendants of bullet/pellet hit injured has fallen before SKIMS’ Emergency entrance.