A smile despite deep sorrow

by Dr. Irmgard Harms/RBU,  2011/02/05

At the beginning of January, Dr Irmgard Harms packed the bare essentials into her bag within only a few hours in order to start out on a disaster relief mission with humedica. She has been working as a medical coordinator in Brazil for three weeks now and she has experienced both deep sorrow, and also the first rays of hope returning to the affected Brazilians. The experienced humedica assistant was deeply touched by the fate of one patient in particular.

Dr Irmgard Harms helps the people by means of her medical expertise and she always has an open ear and open arms for them. Photo: humedica/Katrin Hoffmann

"Every day we set out in order to treat patients at our mobile hospital. In the morning we put drugs, dressing material and everything else we need into our car and drive to various different treatment locations.

It is an advantage that we return to the same places in regular intervals of two or three days, since in this way we are able to see our patients not only once, but on a regular basis. For me, this means that apart from offering continuous medical treatment to the patients, we can also accompany those affected by the disaster on their way and can in some cases share their joy.

At one of our treatment locations we met a young woman called Vania. She told us that her little son had been buried by the immense mudslides and was dead. As to her husband she only knew that he had been taken to a hospital in the city of Rio de Janeiro with severe injuries. At our first meeting, she did not have any more information. She did not even know whether her husband was still alive.

Sadly, we could not do anything else to relief her from this uncertainty and her mental injuries than listening and giving her the feeling that she was not alone. Her physical injuries, however, we could treat more efficiently. Her entire body was covered with bruises and scratches. She had also sustained a particularly bad wound to her leg, which was already festering severely.

Also the next few times we visited Vania at this emergency accommodation for people who had lost their homes, our treatment showed only minor results. And when we asked her about news from her husband, she could not give us a positive answer.

Many of the remote streets are still hardly passable. Makeshift bridges had to be built across parts of the road that had been swept away. Photo: humedica/Christian Simmons

At our latest visit, however, everything had changed: the injury to her leg had healed almost completely, pain was bearable for Vania, and, most important - and this was probably the best news to the young woman - she had finally received news of her husband.

His chest and lungs had been pierced by a wooden pole that had been dragged along by a mudslide. Although due to this and other injuries he would not be able to leave hospital for some time still, his condition was no longer life-threatening, she told us. All of us shared her joy.

And despite the deep-set sorrow for her child, Vania could smile once more for the first time."

The fate of young Vania and her husband, who have lost their little son in this tragic way due to the disastrous landslides, is shared by several hundreds of families. Also Odette, who has been cooking for the children attending the humedica day care centre for three years, has to live with a hard loss - she has lost her son and her granddaughter.

And sadly, we now also know for certain that members of two of the families taking part in the humedica sponsorship programme have also lost their lives during the landslide. Ten persons who over the years have grown very dear to the humedica employees and their German sponsors are dead. Two little boys are facing a life as orphans.

There is a future

While we are trying to help those two boys and many other children to overcome their hard and traumatising losses, the buildings of the day care centre are still serving as emergency accommodations, both for those supported by the family sponsorship programme and for other families of the neighbouring Favelas, who have lost their homes.

Please give the people of Brazil a future by means of taking over a sponsorship. Photo: humedica/Katrin Hoffmann

Those women and young persons who had received our support even before the disaster lend a hand wherever they can. Everyone is cleaning, cooking and playing with the children. Everyone is living Charity in Action and company and support give the mourning people a reason to find new hope for their future at least in some moments.

In order to strengthen hope and confidence for a future, we depend on your help, dear friends of humedica. After our first medical aid projects we will start long-term construction measures with the objective of giving a new home to those who are currently living at emergency accommodations.

Furthermore, we intend to return to normal operations at the humedica day care centre as soon as possible and, by sending the children back to school, giving them regular meals and playing with them, we will give them back some of their old every-day life. Please support our efforts!

      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference „Landslide Brazil
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Please also donate online for our relief efforts in Brazil or support us by means of sending a text message: send the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90 and make a donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros being directly channelled into the humedica project work.

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