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Medical team offers care and comfort to elderly

By AN BAIJIE and XU WEI (China Daily)

09:29, April 26, 2013

Sitting on a stool in a temporary shelter covered by tarpaulin, Ma Wenyu did not want to talk about what she remembers of the earthquake four days ago.

But that does not mean she has forgotten.

Any noise in the night can wake up the 79-year-old from Xinmin village in Baoxing county or make her want to shout out to others "it's coming, it's coming".

For many, the real trauma of the magnitude-7 quake that hit Ya'an city, which administers Baoxing, only started to surface days after it struck, especially among the elderly, some of whom have now started to show aggravated symptoms on top of the conditions they normally have to cope with.

"Being scared is more common among elderly people in the quake area, and it could result in an increase in their blood pressure or aggravate any diseases they had before the quake," said Gao Jiarong, deputy dean of Chongqing-based Xinqiao Hospital, which is attached to the Third Military Medical University.

Gao has led a team of 30 doctors into the quake-hit Lushan and Baoxing counties — the first medical team from outside Sichuan province to arrive at the epicenter.

Most of the houses in Ma's village, located at the foot of a mountain, were wood-built structures, which made them more susceptible to falling rubble and stones.

One boulder as large as 4 meters in diameter crashed down the mountain and landed just meters away from Ma's bedroom, flattening her storeroom.

The dreadful trauma of the event has raised her blood pressure and left her needing psychological counseling.

Another patient treated by the medical team was a 97-year-old patient in the Wulong township in Baoxing, who had refused to eat since the earthquake struck and was becoming nervous when others tried to communicate with him.

"As a woman, I thought I might be able to get him to relax enough to talk, but then I learned that his son was severely wounded in the earthquake and he said he was very worried by that," Gao said.

To make matters worse, many of the elderly residents were slow to react to the disaster, and some living in remote areas have been unable to access any medical help as the emergency centers were only located in densely populated areas.

"Some older people are unwilling to come to the medical centers in the settlements and have only come if they absolutely have to," Gao added.

"They would not normally go out much, and now the narrow mountain roads are suddenly risky with landslides and falling rocks, that's even less likely," she said.

Hu Kaixiang, a 71-year-old neighbor of Ma, who normally suffers from hypertension, is now suffering dizziness and arrhythmia.

Her husband, 73, hasn't dared to go back to their house, which suffered cracks in the walls, with parts of the roof damaged. He's decided to go back, instead, to their old family home on higher ground.

"It is impossible for medical teams to reach every village due to the poor road conditions," Gao said.

"Some villages in remote mountainous areas have still not been reached and we don't know whether elderly people there need help or not."

The quake areas were hit by steady rain on Monday and Tuesday, and the change in weather conditions has resulted in a number of residents catching influenza.

Antibiotics to treat alimentary and respiration infections are desperately needed as the number of patients increases, said Zhou Zheng, a neurosurgeon on Gao's medical team.

Meanwhile, there's also a growing need for diabetes and high blood pressure medicine, as the team gradually continues to work its way through quake-hit villages in the area, he added.

Most of the 30 doctors in the team from Xinqiao Hospital had experience of treating victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and say the experience has proved valuable this time.

Touching moments:

Daily life of quake victims in Sichuan

High school students prepare for exam in tent

Rescuers struggling to reach every household

Soldiers bring hope to earthquake-hit region

First night after deadly earthquake

Rescuers work hard at quake-hit area in Sichuan

>>>Quake-hit China grows in pain

The principle of sparing no efforts to save lives cannot be more stressed. No minute or even second should be delayed during the "golden rescue period" in the first 72 hours after the quake.

>>>Pilot cancels wedding to participate in quake relief

When the 7.0-magnitude quake happened, Zhang Shangnian, a pilot from an aviation brigade of Chengdu Military Region, was about to hold his wedding.

>>>Nurse returns to work after losing mother

Just likes other medical staff, she was busy with rescuing people injured in the earthquake in SW China, but no one knew her mother just died in the quake.

>>>Wedding ceremony without bridegroom held on schedule

Zhuo Jia, the bridegroom, is a solider of the Chengdu Military Region; he had to leave his beautiful bride behind to participate in earthquake relief.

>>>An injured girl's smile moves many

"Your smile makes the entire world beautiful,” a photo of a smiling girl with bandage on her head has moved so many Chinese netizens.

>>>Teenager saves mom with his bare hands

The mother moves away a precast slab weighing over 50 kilograms alone to save her son in the earthquake. She said she did not know where her strength came from.

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