December 11, 2014

Syrian opposition activists commemorated International Human Rights Day on Wednesday by launching a social media campaign to raise awareness of the plight of East Ghouta, surrounded by regime forces for more than two years and lacking fuel and electricity.

The campaign, reports the pro-opposition news agency al-Souria, is called #BigPrison, and documents the human rights violations of the 850,000 civilians still trapped in the Damascus suburbs.

The blockade means nothing and no one can go in or out of Ghouta, including those injured and needing urgent medical care. The few doctors left in the rebel-held suburbs are left to their own devices in treating patients.

That means performing amputations in many more cases where it would not otherwise be necessary, says a Douma-based doctor and the head of media relations in the pro-opposition Unified Medical Bureau in Douma, who goes by the pseudonym Abu Adnan.

Many of the amputations could have been prevented if there were more vascular surgeons in Ghouta who could help prevent the tissue damage that leads to amputation, Abu Adnan tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou.

With no other options for prosthetic limbs, Abu Adnan says he cuts the limbs of store mannequins for his patients to create some sort of relief for amputees.

“In the shadow of the blockade, no one or organization is able to manufacture prosthetics, especially the parts that need to have joints.”

Q: How many debilitating injuries or disabilities have been caused in East Ghouta by the war?

There have been 2,500 such cases in East Ghouta – the number is far too high for an area that [once] held 1.1 million. The dangerous thing is that one out eight injured face amputation.

Campiagn 'Ghouta demonstrators support #BigPrison campaign'. Photo courtesy of Douma.Revolution.

Q: What are the hardships that amputees and the disabled face inside the blockaded areas? Does the blockade on these areas increase the number of amputation cases?

At first, most cases begin with dirty lacerations and severe necrotic tissue. Then the cases become worse because there aren’t enough neurologists [to treat the patients]. There is only one vascular surgeon in all of [Ghouta]. That definitely increases the number of amputation cases.

Q: Would the presence of more specialized doctors lessen the frequency of amputation?

Doctors cannot prevent tissue and organ damage, and thus protect the patient from getting to the point of amputation. In cases of laceration, no doctor in the world can regrow the tissue, but the care and treatment with specialized doctors are much better in terms of quality of medicine, antibiotics and anesthetics, especially with regard to the serious injuries that require tens of complementary operations and months of medical intensive care.

Q: Do the patients who have lost body parts receive artificial limbs after treatment? If yes, how are the prosthetics made in or delivered to blockaded areas?

It is not an easy thing. In the shadow of the blockade, no one or organization is able to manufacture prosthetics, especially the parts that need to have joints. Despite the difficult situation and lack of raw materials, we are able to produce some artificial limbs. We bring the disembodied parts from clothing shops [mannequins] and cut the needed parts.

Q: Do the medical centers in East Ghouta give psychotherapy treatment for the injured people to help them understand their situation?

Of course we don’t provide psychotherapy treatment.

You had better ask about first aid treatment. We only give the first aid treatment and in a primitive way.

Q: Are there any civil organizations that help patients reintegrate into society?

In Ghouta, there is only one organization that specializes in amputation and all of its efforts go towards finding financial support to cover the cost of these amputation surgeries. The organization does not have rehabilitation and psychological support programs.

Q: Who takes care of the injured people after they finish their treatment period? Does any organization help cover their life expenses?

There are aid organizations, but their priorities are women and children. Generally people with disabilities are not supported by these organizations. The injured military peopletheir brigades support their living.

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