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Hurricane Maria Relief in Dominica- Volunteer Reflection

December 4th, 2017 Posted by Disaster Relief, Volunteering No Comment yet

He was so happy just to see us there at the hospital from a different country caring.


September 1st, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

TAL AFAR, Iraq Since leaving Mosul, we had been in an exclusively masculine, militarised environment. Our team was evenly mixed between men and women, but all of the Iraqi people we worked alongside, and saw around the front lines, were men. It was only the second day of the mission and so far, our patients had all been men. Our base camp was in a house which seemed devoid of any trace of the family who once must have lived there; there were no clothes, no pictures, no soft furnishings, just concrete walls and floors, a squat toilet, a generator and water tanks out back. Closer to the front lines, we had set up a mobile clinic in the forecourt of what had been a mechanic’s workshop, next to the main road. We had spent the morning treating men with war wounds: shrapnel from grenades and mortars, burns, ankles blasted open.

The war seemed to have ripped away every trace of family life, and perhaps that is why the small group of women and children, walking down the middle of the road in the blazing sun, emerging from a thick cloud of beige dust, seemed like a mirage.

The women wore long black abayas and hijabs, with serious pale faces. They carried their babies, and their older children walked beside them, a shy-faced tow-headed boy of about four, and a six year old girl. The girl wore a cheap lilac velour dress, studded with diamantes, and purple leggings. Her curly blonde hair had been pulled out of her ponytail and matted by the wind, forming a halo of yellow fuzz around her pink face. She strode across the forecourt, her head high and her gaze straight ahead, ignoring, or bored by, the armoured personnel carriers, the sound of the artillery, the plumes of smoke trailing into the sky from the city she’d just walked out of.

One of the women was limping; she explained she’d been hit by shrapnel 4 days ago. We cleaned her wounds, gave her antibiotics, advised her to see a doctor in the displaced persons camp, who would be able to arrange an x-ray to identify any fragments of shrapnel left in the tissues. She was fourteen years old, serious-faced, blank eyed.

They sat in the shade of the forecourt for a while and we gave them some water and dates.  Then they thanked us for our care, stood up, brushed the dust off their clothes, and stepped out into the scorching sun, onto the dusty road, and resumed their journey, walking towards a place they hoped they would be safe, the fourteen year old girl limping slightly still, and the six year old radiantly beautiful, the only flash of colour I’d seen in the city.
-NYCM Dr Emma Butterfield


July 2nd, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — Our ride to Erbil was delayed a few hrs so we saw a brother and sister, ages 6 and 8, who were the only survivors when a rocket hit their building. Both parents killed. Little boy with multiple injuries, which will require operative intervention. Little girl with minor injuries only. She drew this picture while we were working on her brother.
-NYCM PA/Paramedic Eric Holden


June 30th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — Today is our last full day in Mosul. We head back to Erbil tomorrow when team 12 with my friend Davis Perkins arrives to relieve us. Yesterday was not our busiest day, but likely the day with highest acuity. We had at least 9 critical burn/trauma patients, not including our more typical sniper or shrapnel injuries and many less acute yellow or green patients. Our busiest day was around 60 patients, most days we saw around 45. We will have a few hours in Erbil to grab dinner and see the city. Monday we head to Istanbul. We have a long layover there and hope to do a quick bus tour of the city. Travel Portland to Erbil took 34 hrs coming out with layovers. I think my return is scheduled a bit shorter. Home tuesday. Back to work thursday.
-NYCM PA/Paramedic Eric Holden


June 26th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — As the army clears large areas of the old city, we are seeing more and more civilians with dehydration, malnutrition, and various infections. Our pediatrician, Michael Falk, stayed up all night with a 5 yr old with pneumonia, dehydration, and possible sepsis. We have been on lock down several times over the last 48 hrs following reports of isis fighters outside the old city. There have been several bombings in previously cleared areas. We are surrounded by the Iraqi special forces whenever this happens with humvees on both ends of our street and spotters on the roof so I feel our situation is secure.
-NYCM PA/Paramedic Eric Holden


June 25th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — Busy day yesterday. Lots of GSWs to head, neck, torso extremities. The pattern seems to be hours of quiet punctuated by runs of 3 or 4 serious patients. The heat is getting fairly oppressive. 109 yesterday and 111 or 112 today…and our generator just blew so no fans until we get it fixed. Saw a few rockets launched from a mobile unit yesterday. Took a short trip to a nearby doctors without borders facility for some supplies. The whole city looks like Port Au prince Haiti the week after the 2010 earthquake. We have been adopted by 2 local cats. Even trash kitty won’t eat mystery meat. All are well. May not have service for a few days. Don’t worry. Everyone is fine.
-NYCM PA/Paramedic Eric Holden


June 22nd, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — Rough day yesterday. Several patients DOA during major offensive as well as several critical patients w GSWs to chest, abd, and neck. After things slowed down, the soldiers we are staying w prepared a major feast, which we ate sitting on carpets laid out on the ground with a 30 ft long tablecloth in the center. Multiple courses.lots of fresh fruit. Someone even found ice cream and sugar cones somewhere. They have a soda here that is gum flavored. Tastes like amoxicillin suspension. We are all well. Temps have been better due to lots of nice breezes. We are all starting to acclimate too, as we are not drinking 24/7.
-NYCM PA/Paramedic Eric Holden


June 21st, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — The theme of the day yesterday was head injuries. Several varieties; large lacerations from shrapnel, penetrating eye injuries, gunshot wounds, etc. We are really getting into a rhythm as teams. We have 15 min after patients arrive to get trauma survey done, bleeding controlled, IVs , dressings, and splints done, antibiotics and pain control on board, and paperwork done. We do not have opiates, so use sub-dissociative doses of ketamine, typically 25 mg or so, and an IV formulation of tramadol. When we have TXA we give it to anyone with significant bleeding. We are constantly cleaning and restocking in preparation for patients who may arrive without notice. Female patients here can only be cared for by women, so when needed we shuffle teams to create a “team pink” and have the ability to curtain off a bed in back. Between runs of patients the soldiers are feeding us very well. I had 4 breakfasts yesterday. Most meals are seved from a single large pot and eaten with fresh pita bread. I am continuing my tradition of no mystery meat like in Haiti. We are all well.
– NYCM PA/ Paramedic Eric Holden


March 15th, 2017 Posted by Iraq, Photography, Volunteering No Comment yet

MOSUL, Iraq — As U.S. coalition-backed Iraqi forces trying to reclaim Mosul from ISIS continue to push forward into the western part of the city, NYC Medics’ mobile medical teams are following close behind. DISPATCHES media volunteer Ann Stevens caught up with NYC Medics Operations Coordinator Phil Suarez, just back from a two-week rotation on the front lines. Here’s an edited version of their interview:

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Q: The photographs you took and recently sent back from the front lines (see IMPACT STORIES section on this site for Phil’s updated photos from Mosul) recently pictured the emergency medical clinic that NYC Medics set up during your most recent rotation, located in an abandoned home. Is that a permanent headquarters?

PHIL SUAREZ: No, these are temporary locations. We’re on the move, and this week, we’re moving again. I just got off the phone with (Executive Director) Kathy (Bequary), and she and one of the generals of the coalition forces are scoping out new locations for our next clinic just behind the front lines. As the front moves—as coalition forces eat up ground from ISIS—we will keep moving. The object is for us to always be about 10 minutes from point of injury, from the front. Right now, we are about a 10-minute drive from the front. We had been in Abu Saif, but that has now been cleared of ISIS, so now the forces are on the move again, advancing closer to center city (Mosul). We’re preparing to move now, too, right behind them. In that new location, we will be something like 5 to 8 kilometers from the front. Up until now, we have been setting up our clinic in abandoned homes, in places still left standing. As we advance, we could find ourselves in evacuated airport terminals. It’s a little weird, knowing you’re in a place that used to be someone’s living room.

Q: Throughout history, medical teams treating people in conflict zones have often had to set up clinics in the homes of civilians no longer on site—during the American civil war, physicians converted civilian mansions at the edges of small towns near the battlefields into surgical theaters.

SUAREZ:  Given the destruction, though, these structures are all there is. Moving forward, it’s most likely that we will not stay in one place more than a week or two, unless the (U.S.-backed) coalition gets tied down, where it’s not gaining ground. That may happen once they advance to city center, and it could mean more civilians are thrown directly into the line of fire. 

Q: News reports here say that bombardment and gunfire are getting heavy, and The New York Times is reporting that coalition forces have recently recaptured a branch of the central bank, an archaeological museum that jihadists ransacked after taking the city in 2014, and a bridge that crosses the Tigris River in the center of the city. Other buildings retaken from the Islamic State have included a courthouse where ISIS militants had carried out whippings, stonings, and beheadings. These are fairly grisly environs.

SUAREZ: In nearby structures, we see evidence all the time of civilians having to flee quickly. It’s not unusual to see piles of clothing strewn across rooms, and pieces of things left behind in a hurry. These homes also show evidence of heavy fighting. Many have bullet holes in the facade and broken glass. 

Q: How vulnerable are you, as medical teams, to counter-attack? 

SUAREZ: We’re definitely close to the activity in the region, and as troops advance, we can hear more and more of the shelling. From the rooftops of our compound, can see smoke from the front lines. Some nights, it’s hard to sleep because of the artillery and shelling going back and forth. It’s pretty intense. But the place behind the front lines is also one of the safest places to be under these conditions, and we put all of our volunteers into mandatory training for these crisis zone conditions before they hit the ground here. I’ve been very impressed by the efficiency and caliber of our volunteers and how our advance teams have made these clinics as safe as possible for them to help the soldiers and civilians who get injured. We’re basically there to keep people alive long enough to get them transported to hospitals and surgical teams much further from the fighting.

Q: What is the ratio of children and civilians to soldiers that you’ve been treating so far?

SUAREZ: Early on, we were treating mostly soldiers because our mobile medical teams, early on, were mostly in towns that were largely unpopulated. But now, as we start pushing closer to the center city of Mosul, we are getting more civilians, and we’re also seeing civilians fleeing down the roads from us. Mosul is still a very populated place, with hundreds of thousands of people still trapped amid the fighting. Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city. Those civilians are one of the primary reasons we’re here. To get them out safely as we advance to retake the city is core to our mission here. 

Q: What’s your favorite story so far from this experience?

SUAREZ:  The children. They are inspiring. They’re no different than any children—and those left behind are very ambitious. A few the other day sold us sunflower seeds, very popular here as a snack. But they didn’t pocket the money. They reinvested it into their inventory and bought more varieties of snacks and then sold those to us, too, as the days went by. Each day, more variety. Very cool. Budding entrepreneurs with good business sense. Microeconomics, right? Start small and build it. It think that’s also what we’ve got in common here—a determination for better days ahead for the people here, and for these children, in particular.

To see more of Phil’s photos from the front, check out the IMPACT STORIES section of this site, under Iraq.

—Ann Stevens

(PHOTOGRAPHY: Phil Suarez, NYC Medics.)




March 4th, 2017 Posted by Iraq, Uncategorized, Volunteering, W.H.O. No Comment yet

ALBU SAIF, Iraq—One month into our mission, CNN found us to see how we were working on the ground in Iraq to help those injured by ISIS in the fight to re-take Mosul. Here’s the clip, and thanks to uber-volunteer Jeff Evans, a physician assistant quoted in the story. Jeff and nearly a dozen volunteers just arrived in Mosul, our second NYC Medics team on the ground since we deployed in early February to this war zone. Let us know what you think, and thanks to all of our participants, supporters, and influencers out there for your help and encouragement. It means the world to us—and ultimately, to the kids of Mosul who have been caught in the crossfire.

(VIDEO: Courtesy CNN International, March 3, 2017)