My Work on the Front-lines of my Country’s Floods

Ever since I was a child, I have suffered from polio. Despite my debilitating disease, which paralyzed my right arm, my mother had always dreamed that I would become a doctor. After years of struggle and hard work, I finally received my bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery (MBBS) in February 2009.

After graduating, I became the only doctor in my village in Multan district. During emergencies, everyone in my village used to call me for help. Patients with extremely serious cases would be rushed to Multan city from their villages because there was just no one else to call.

One day in July 2010, I was studying for my postgraduate exams when I learned of the terrible floods that were devastating many areas in Pakistan. The floods were horrible. Thousands lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods, while a great deal of Pakistan’s infrastructure was wiped out.

After a couple of days, I received a call from my primary school teacher. A victim of the floods, he told me that his nephew was suffering from severe diarrhea and was on his way to Multan for treatment. As I waited for them to arrive, I received another call: my teacher’s nephew had died at the doorstep of the hospital.

I was shocked, and in that moment I realized how useful my services could be in remote areas without any access to medical care. When I shared this with a friend of mine, he told me about International Medical Corps, an organization working to rehabilitate the lives of our Pakistani brothers and sisters through many different inventions, including health care in the flood-affected areas.

With a paralyzed right arm and debilitating disease, I was skeptical that International Medical Corps would hire me, but when I met them, they were welcoming and friendly. I soon accepted a job with International Medical Corps and in October 2010, I started my journey from Multan to Layyah, a remote area of Pakistan.

As I started to work at Laskaniwala Health Center, I was blown away by the utter devastation I witnessed up-close. There were thousands of people around me who were homeless, ill, malnourished, and severely physically and mentally shaken by the flood. These people were constantly battling each and every day—just struggling to live and help each other survive.

When I worked in Laskaniwala Health Center, I met a 12-year-old girl named Shabana. All four of her limbs were paralyzed and she suffered from severe diarrhea, oral thrush, and extreme malnutrition. Her parents felt hopeless, as they did not have the money to give her the medicine or the health care she needed.

Seeing Shabana reminded me of my childhood experiences with polio. I strongly believe that if I had been treated for polio early on or had access to health services like those provided by International Medical Corps, I wouldn’t have had to struggle with paralysis my entire life.

Thankfully, I could do something for Shabana. Our medical team was the first one that was able to reach Laskaniwala immediately after the flood hit, and we had the medicines and care she needed.

I started treatment immediately, but it was a long struggle. When I saw Shabana’s beaming smile after she finally recovered, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Since her recovery, Shabana has become more like a friend to me than a patient.

After six months of working in Layyah, I returned to Multan. International Medical Corps offered me an opportunity to train government Female Health Workers on how to promote key health messages to flood victims. I accepted, and it has been extremely rewarding work because our efforts have the power to reach thousands of flood-affected women and children in areas where there are no health services.

I am so grateful, proud, and fulfilled that I am able to treat and educate flood-affected communities, so that they are able to recover and start anew. When I think back to my childhood, and all my hard work and struggles to become a doctor, I know that today, with International Medical Corps by my side, I am fulfilling my mother’s dreams for me, and ones that I never knew I had for myself.

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