A mercy mission

The team of physios from Blackpool Victoria Hospital, with Mr Hakimi, who went out to Turkey to treat victms of the conflict in Syria

The team of physios from Blackpool Victoria Hospital, with Mr Hakimi, who went out to Turkey to treat victms of the conflict in Syria

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IT certainly wasn’t a holiday when these Blackpool medics jetted off to Turkey.

The five physios and occupational therapist made a mercy dash to help victims of the conflict in Syria.

They spent the time using their skills in a rehab centre established in a converted hotel, in southern Turkey, helping people injured in the troubles.

The visit was led by Syrian doctor Mounir Hakimi, who is based at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and helped establish charity Syria Relief last year to help his fellow countrymen.

In just over a year, the charity has raised more than £1m.

Mr Hakimi said patients were treated as emergency cases in Syria, then transferred to Turkey for rehabilitation.

“There are a lot of people who have been treated for their injuries, but there is a need for them to be supported after treatment has ended.

“There is a shortage of expert physio support and this visit helped injured people with their recovery.

“Everyone was very grateful to the staff from Blackpool for giving up their time. The feedback was really positive and I am humbled the team has gone to such lengths to help people in real need.”

Physio Suzanne Lane said she volunteered after hearing about the work Dr Hakimi had already done in Turkey.

“Mr Hakimi had told us about his previous visits and I thought I could help.

“People were keen to get involved – everybody was pleased to have the chance to be able to do something to help and share our skills.

“There is not the same medical equipment or advances over there, though it was better than we thought it might be.

“The main injuries were gunshot wounds and those caused by shrapnel.

“There were a lot of amputees and some spinal cord injuries, some paraplegics.

“It was quite distressing to see, especially some of the children. We were treating those involved in the conflict and fighting directly, and civilians – ranging in age from four to the elderly, but lots who were 19 or 20.

“The trust has been really supportive, allowing us special leave.”

The team took donated equipment from medical suppliers with them, including splints.

As well as providing expert care, The Vic team were involved in training and educating medical staff in Turkey.

And the trip was also a chance for the UK physios to learn themselves – particularly without access to the same technology and equipment.

Yvonne Allen, amputee physio, said her work involved trying to help injured patients become as independent as possible.

“It was completely different surroundings to the UK, with limited resources.

“We learned a lot ourselves – thinking under pressure, thinking outside of the box.

“It was a chance for us to develop our skills too and it was really nice to be able to do something to help.”

Among the patients who captured the hearts of the team was a four-year-old girl left paralysed from the waist down after shrapnel damaged her spinal cord.

The physios are hoping the charity might help her come over to the UK for more treatment.

They were able to assist with splints – including boots to help the girl’s feet stay in the best position, made out of cerise pink thermo-plastic cast they took with them.

Paul Stewart, clinical lead in orthotics, works in the splinting department and was able to use his skills in this field.

He worked on the boots for the young patient and said seeing her face light up made the journey worthwhile.

“That was the most enjoyable part of the trip for me. She was just fantastic.

“She was in a push-chair meant for a two-year-old, obviously it was too small for her – so we are now trying to get a wheelchair to her.

“My job involves working with splints, so my work out there was about modifying and fitting splints. It was hard work, but enjoyable at the same time, knowing we were helping.

“We are used to seeing trauma injuries, but not quite like this.

“You don’t realise when you see on TV the extent of the damage bullets and shrapnel can cause. One bullet can cause multiple injuries.”

The physios are hoping to go back again in March when they feel their previous experience will help them.

Colleagues at the hospital helped get behind the team, raising money through raffles and donations to help pay for the travel costs.

The charity’s website is www.syriarelief.org.uk