─ AFP/File

'Their cries still ring in my ears'

The only female medical officer present at Quetta Civil Hospital at the time of the blast recounts her experience.
Published August 26, 2016

Dr Shehla Kakar of Civil Hospital Quetta recounts the day of the horrific attack.

She was the only female medical officer present at the time of the blast and has been awarded honorary membership of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society for her brave service.

All I could see as the dust settled was black, white and red. Black suits, white shirts turning crimson.

A string of lawyers lay dead, bodies scattered around the hospital premises. Those who were still alive cried for help. Their cries still ring in my ears.

Moments after the blast ripped through the hospital, chaos erupted. I rushed to the emergency ward where the explosion had taken place. The acrid smell of smoke and the stench of burning flesh permeated the air. Body parts lay strewn across the ground.

I made my way through the growing crowd, ears ringing from the sound of the explosion, unable to comprehend the scene before my eyes.

Seconds earlier, I had been prepping the Operation Theatre in the gynaecology ward of the hospital to operate on a patient. In the blink of an eye, the room had been turned upside down. There were shards of glass everywhere, lying on the floor, lining the operation beds, sprayed across counters.

Back at the ER, the ground lay blanketed with men wincing in agony. Lawyers battled for their lives while their colleagues and friends had already succumbed to their injuries. As I walked deeper into the bomb site, the condition of the casualties appeared to worsen.

Most of the staff had darted off, fearing for their lives. I took off the neck-ties of the injured and used them as bandages and tourniquets to staunch the profuse bleeding. Heads, torsos, limbs were gushing blood. How many body parts could I possibly cover with a neck-tie?

I used whatever cloth was available ─ coats, shirts, the clothes of relatives of the injured ─ anything to stop the bleeding and save their lives.

As I realised the extent of the casualties, it became clear that what remained of the emergency ward could not be used to treat the wounded.

We started shifting the injured to Combined Military Hospital Quetta for treatment. Without any stretchers or ambulances, the injured had to be moved in vehicles belonging to those who happened to be near the blast site at the time of the attack.

I did what is expected of any doctor, paramedic or nurse in the face of such a catastrophe ─ I implored the people: "Don't be frightened of death. The day of our death is fixed."

Header photo: AFP

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