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Post-typhoon Philippines: "It is all becoming real and sinking in"

PhilippinesAs previously reported here, a group of Stanford physicians and medical responders are in the Philippines to provide care to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit early last month. In a blog entry, Kim Woolley, mental health specialist with the Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response, describes what she has observed during her time in the country:

The area of destruction has no epicenter and is not isolated to Tacloban and the seaside communities - the 200 mph winds destroyed homes and took lives for many miles. The best way for me to describe it... It is as if the entire southern half of the State of Iowa, from west to east, was destroyed by a 60 mile wide tornado with 200 mph winds. Every tree is snapped or uprooted, every roof is missing, and many slabs of cement are standing where a home once was.

As for the condition of people there, she writes:

We are... seeing compound leg fractures with homemade bamboo splints, infected wounds from wood and metal falling on people, untreated asthma, and our miracle baby Joas who was brought in with a parietal skull fracture from the roof falling on his head... He survived the previous weeks because the fracture gave his brain room to swell. He was laughing and smiling, while his Mom was crying tears of joy when Dr. Barbie & Dr. Julieta both agreed he looked to be okay.

The mental health needs are starting to present and are critical at this time. How people are attended to 3-4 weeks in will determine their overall recovery. It is far enough in that people are no longer talking as much about their emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental devastation but wondering if they should buck up and ignore their tremendous loss. A group of women including the clinic midwife who was helping me with some translation said, “The first week was a blur, the second week we got to work and worked nonstop with sleeping when possible, but now in the third week it is all becoming real and sinking in.” Trouble sleeping, high anxiety, elderly very worried and crying, are the signs that people are having difficulty coping. We encourage that people continue talking about their anxiety with family, not isolating, using simple relaxation deep breathing techniques, attending church and praying. People are deeply touched and feel loved by our caring presence.

Previously: Providing medical care to typhoon survivors in the Philippines and Stanford emergency-response team heads to the Philippines
Photo courtesy of SEMPER

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