I heard someone crying softly “Sister will you help me … ” For some reason, suddenly my head started to spin. It was 12 pm in the afternoon. It has been four hours. I was moving from one ward to another, helping patients especially the ones without attendants, to assist them to the toilet, change, take a sponge bath, or anything else that needed done. I quickly held on to the rails on the side of the bed for support. I was inside the Urology ward of Enam Medical College and Hospital. It was the fifth day of the Rana Plaza building collapse.
I reminded myself that I wanted to be here on my own will. I also wanted to gather information on all the patients and their requirements in hope that I might get a small donation and gather some immediate relief and supplies for the victims.
The voice called again “Sister can you please help me?” I opened my eyes. It was a woman who was badly injured. She had stitches on the back of her head, and the injuries on her arms and legs which were still very raw. She had a 5 year old son, same age as my daughter. He was very upset and wanted to get up on the bed with his mother. Instinctively I picked him up. It gave me some comfort and familiarity. The woman wanted to contact her husband. I took the contact number and dialed – the phone was switched off.
I took the patient’s details and moved on to the next patient. We had to cover all four floors before I could make an assessment of what the patients’ immediate requirements were.
It was me and a friend – Shopna, who went that day. She was covering the top two floors. I moved to the next floor. The doctors and nurses were all working very hard, around the clock. It was the same scenario, same horrifying stories of being stuck under the rubble, waiting to be rescued.
By eight in the evening we had all the information. As soon as I got home, I put up a post on Facebook. I briefly shared my experience and also wrote “Patients require dry food, clothes, and cash at Enam Medical, and if anyone wanted to donate, I would be happy to hand them over personally.”
The request was picked up immediately by Shahana Siddique, Navin Ahmed, Iresh Zaker, Riyad Ahmed Husain and Chisti M A Iqbal who were working very closely for the same cause. They gave me the links to volunteers, funds and ensured that they would help in every way. Friends, family members, colleagues in the country and abroad started calling, and wanted to know how they could send me cash donations. And in three days, food supplies, toiletries and clothes started to flow in, including the cash donations
On Friday May 3, we started for Enam Medical College and Hospital with all our supplies. There were eleven of us, some I met for the first time.
It was overwhelming at first when we started distributing. By late evening we were able to hand over clothes to all the 141 patients and their attendants, dry food items, juice, saline soap, Dettol, bed sheets, children’s clothes, toys and cash donations.
In the next two weeks we were able to visit Pongu Hospital, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Suhrawardy Hospital with bigger supplies and cash donations. We were happy to see many young volunteers working tirelessly. We all shared the same sentiments – we just wanted the patients to recover physically, mentally and have a life again. I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who has kindly donated and all the people who helped with the packing and sorting.
Many attendants told us “We will finally be able to take a shower and change our clothes after 8 days. We did not bring anything from our villages”.
And last but not the least a huge thanks to all the brave and kind volunteers – starting with my biggest support, Shakeel, Junaid, Navin, Shomo, Zubair, Zara, Tashish, Raisa, Nafis, Mohaymin, Anabil, Tahira, Chisti, Monika Hikmat, and Naima.
(The writer is a private service holder who worked at Dhaka Medical College with the distribution of supplies during the Savar Tragedy.)