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Wounded presage health crisis for postwar Syria

Many don’t have access to care as half of country’s hospitals have been destroyed.

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One of the bright spots is a 50-bed emergency care clinic set up six weeks ago in a former elementary school in Atmeh.

Largely funded by a wealthy Syrian expatriate, the Orient clinic, with five ICU beds, handles some of the most serious cases in a radius of some 150 kilometers (90 miles), said its director, orthopedic surgeon Abdel Hamid Dabbak.

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In the past, seriously wounded patients had to go to Turkey, risking dangerous delays at the border, he said. Now, once patients are stabilized in Atmeh, they are sent to a sister clinic across the border for follow-up care.

In Orient’s ICU, a 24-year-old rebel fighter was breathing oxygen through a mask. He had been brought in a day earlier, bleeding heavily from stomach wounds and close to death, said Dr. Maen Martini, a volunteer physician from Joliet, Illinois. After surgery, he stabilized and was taken off a respirator. A delayed crossing into Turkey would have killed him, Martini said.

The fighter’s neighbor was little Fahed, whose house had been struck by a missile on Saturday in the village of Kafr Zeita in Hama province. "The roof collapsed on us," his mother said of the attack. "We ran out ... I saw him bleeding from his head, but it was just a small cut."

The local clinic said the injury was more serious than it seemed and the family rushed to Atmeh, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north.

Since surgery, Fahed has been nursing and has moved his arms and legs, and the doctor is hoping for a near-complete recovery.

"Clinically, he has improved dramatically," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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