By Antony Balmain, Australian Red Cross
“Come quickly, please, Ibu is in pain,” a young man calls out to the Red Cross mobile health team visiting Sigi in Sulawesi.
Dr Vidi Davitan looks up from applying a plaster cast at the makeshift medical clinic on the side of the road. “We’ll come as soon as we can,” he says.
Dr Davitan is treating Nona, 60, for a fractured arm suffered in the tragic earthquake that shook parts of western Sulawesi to pieces late September. Minutes later, the Indonesian Red Cross ambulance navigates the cracked and damaged road, following the young man on his motorcycle. Seconds after arriving, the doctor and paramedic carefully assess Asriyah, 57, discovering a fractured upper leg. It’s the biggest bone in her body, the femur.
Grimacing with pain, Asriyah recounts the horror of being pinned to the ground when the wall of her house collapsed in the earthquake. The doctors offer Asriyah the option of a medical evacuation for further treatment though she decides to stay at home with her family. Asriyah’s new baby granddaughter has just been born and is considered a good omen, a beacon of hope amid the death and destruction of the earthquake.
Perspiration pours off the doctor and the volunteer paramedics in the tropical heat as they work feverishly to treat Asriyah and apply a full-length plaster cast. Her sister’s courtyard becomes a makeshift medical clinic as Dr Davitan massages the plaster into shape with expert precision. His hands are the tools and the floor is a work bench. The plaster cast is a new protective home for Asriyah’s leg over the next two months.
Just metres away lie the ruins of Asriyah’s home. Moments later with the cast applied, Asriyah sits up for the first time in two weeks. Bright hopeful eyes replace the pain and despair etched on her face when we arrived. Asriyah is one of more than 4,100 people treated by Red Cross mobile health clinics since the tragic earthquake and tsunami struck central western Sulawesi. Nearby we meet Asriyah’s new granddaughter, considered a miracle baby by their community. Seven months pregnant when the quake struck, Fatnidah, 34, still can’t believe how she survived.
“The earthquake was severe. Suddenly the cupboard fell on me. I tried to get up and couldn’t. I thought I would die. I managed to crawl free to the door and my husband gave me a hand. The next two days I felt no movement and was worried my baby had died. A nurse discovered a heartbeat and one week after the earthquake, in the middle of the night, my baby was born in a tent,” says Fatnidah.
Husband and proud father, Zulfiyadin, 46, is beaming with joy. “When I knew my wife was about to have the baby, I called to my wife: ‘I will catch the baby’. I was so happy that the baby had survived.” The baby, Siti Nurul Humairah has been named after a volunteer medic who helped them and their community in the days following the earthquake. At least 68,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, taking a tragic toll on communities across Sigi, Palu, to Donggala and beyond. “I’m so very happy that I’m still alive after the earthquake and that me, my husband and our baby survived. It gives us hope,” Fatnidah adds with a huge smile.