A dream in the midst of an earthquake, The story of Interburns
By: Shariq Ali
In October 2005, a devastating earthquake struck the Northwest Frontier region and Kashmir in Pakistan. The worst of its kind for 500 years. The casualty figures were eventually assessed as 140,000 injured with approximately 80,000 deaths.
During this tragic time, I worked as a volunteer Medical Coordinator in the effected area for few weeks immediately after the earthquake.
Once the acute phase was over, one major problem quite obvious was the need for help from plastic surgical expertise in dealing with these severe crushing injuries causing extensive soft tissue damage that had occurred because of this massive earthquake.
British Association of Plastic Surgeons and IDEALS, UK decided to help the victims in collaborate with Pakistani Plastic Surgeons . Being a British trained Plastic Surgeon and a close affiliate of IDEALS, Professor John Beavis, the Chairman of IDEALS , asked me to coordinate this effort. I accepted this request as an honour.
After a lot of logistic effort, the official team of plastic surgeons finally came to Pakistan in December 2005 and undertook the delayed work on many of the plastic surgical problems that still existed as a result of the crushing injuries.
Following is a memorable photograph of this team which was taken in an earthquake affected shattered rest house of Abbotabad.
From left to right, Dr Akbar Khan (trainee), Theatre Sister (Oxford), Dr Emily Su (Oxford), Dr Tim Goodacre (Oxford), Dr Shariq Ali (Karachi), Prof. John Beavis (London), Dr Tom Potokar (Swansea) and Prof Amir Khan (Peshawar)
This was my first encounter with Dr Tom Potokar, a Consultant Plastic Surgeon from Morriston Hospital, Swansea. We immediately realized that we had a lot in common. After spending few days together during that time of extreme distress and tragedy, we had many chances to have long conversations. We mutually discovered our passion and common dream to reduce the global burden of burn related suffering. It was the beginning of a life long friendship!
In the background of this dark tragedy of massive earthquake, we found the shiny focus of a common purpose for the rest of our lives.
In summer 2006, When I was heading the largest Burns Centre of the country, IDEALS supported me to visit Swansea, the largest Burns Centre of UK and I had an opportunity to work with Tom and his team in Swansea and to further refine the idea of working together in future.
Even before meeting me in Abbotabad, Dr Tom Potokar was already working closely with Dr Shobha Chamania of Choithram Burns Unit of Indore, India. from the platform of European Club of Paediatric Burns (ECPB) on various aspects of Burn care in the developing world.
After my introduction with Dr Shobha Chamania by Tom and after our regular communications through emails on various issues around burn care, we three decided to launch our own organization to make a difference and to contribute in the area of global burn care. Finally we three, as Co Founders of Interburns, agreed to develop the philosophy, domain of activities and the course of actions for our global organization. This was the birth of INTERBURNS (International Network for Training, Education and Research in Burns). We three soon met in person in Brazil and then in India to further our friendship and cause.
More than 90% of burn injuries occur in the developing world and approximately 70% of these are in children. Lack of staff, training, and facilities, and the overwhelming workload, all hinder the provision of optimal care.
In order to improve the existing situation, Interburns is making various efforts. One of them is Essential Burn Care Course (EBC)
The course was inaugurated in Burns Centre of Dow University of Health Sciences in June 2007.
Today Interburns is a global organization having affiliations in 16 countries of the world and have trained 1189 Burn Specialists and burn care professionals through its Essential Burns Care Courses and Regional retreats in Asia and Africa and this global network is expanding from strength to strength.
The tragic situation of global burn care demands our immediate attention and Interburns is doing whatever it can to improve the situation because we believe that tomorrow is too late!
Dr Shariq Ali FRCS
Co Founder Interburns