It’s been over a week since 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port of Beirut, injuring thousands and killing over 200 people. As ‘broom warriors’ tirelessly sweep the streets and medical professionals work round the clock to care for the wounded, many Lebanese people are doing whatever they can to help others recover from the damages of this horrific incident.
In a bid to do his part in providing relief to those injured from the blast, one plastic surgeon has been offering his reconstructive services free of charge to anyone who sustained facial wounds or injuries from the explosion. Dr. Joe Baroud understand how the pain of a traumatic event can extend beyond physical discomfort, leaving victims with harsh reminders of the nightmare they endured on August 4.
The Beirut-based plastic surgeon speaks to Bazaar about the role reconstructive surgery plays in helping to heal victims from both the inside out.
Harper's Bazaar Arabia: It’s been over a week since the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut occurred. How many queries per day have you been getting from victims of the blast?
I started offering my services on the third day after the explosion, as on the first day I was in the emergency room helping other doctors. The second day everybody was in shock. It was on the third day that I realised I could offer this service.
From that day onwards until about August 8, I had about 20-25 people per day. Now, the patients are starting to decrease in number.
I saw patients with major injuries on the very first few days, and quite a few glass injuries. As it was a disaster situation, nobody was being properly sutured (stitched) within the face.
HBA: What’s been the most common procedure you’ve had to perform on victims of the explosion?
JB: Many victims of the blast who survived sustained glass injuries; the people who didn’t survive had rubble and heavy machinery thrown on them. Therefore, all are heavy wounds inflicted by shattered glass, pieces glass in the skin and face.
HBA: What sort of role does reconstructive surgery play in the healing process for the victims? Why is it important?
JB: First of all, I consider the flesh wounds victims sustained to their bodies to be the minority of the damage done to the Lebanese people, but the degree of relief they are getting from the ‘fine-tuning’ of their wounds – so they don’t have to look in the mirror every day and be reminding of that terrible day – is important.
I don’t call this work reconstructive, but there is a reconstructive element within its essence, as it gives back function and can help integrate people back into their life and society.
HBA: If anyone is looking to support your clinic in any way, what is the best way for them to do so?
There are a lot of people from aboard donating and there are a lot of people from Lebanon donating, both material and monetary. I mostly needed sutures and I was sent a lot of boxes of sutures.
Many Lebanese abroad are sending me messages, especially after the BBC interview. So, from this point of view, everybody is being supportive. I also have some volunteers now to help suturing, some plastic surgeons helped me here at the clinic and also some nurses, who volunteered to help me treat the patients, however, it will be manageable.
For more information on how you can help the people of Beirut during this difficult time, click here.
Lead image courtesy of instagram/drjoebaroud