Everyone has a scar or two. Although some may wear theirs with pride, others wish theirs would disappear. Not just a physical reminder of the event, scars can amplify emotional and psychological trauma. Such is the case for many of the people in Beirut who were affected by the two explosions on August 4.
It tore through the city shattering glass and destroying buildings, many of which were the cities hospitals and medical clinics. With some forced to evacuate, the chaos that ensued saw more than 180 deaths and over 6000 people suffering significant injuries many of which were stitched up on the streets.
A strong community that stands together even at the darkest of times, the Lebanese people are coming together to support one another. One such person is Beirut based plastic surgeon Dr Joe Baroud. Offering free surgery to the victims of this tragedy, his work is more than just skin deep.
Why did you decide to start offering free plastic surgery care?
We have been living in harsh times in Lebanon. We had the revolution before, COVID and really we are in a revolution against our political and government systems. We feel that even despite all the efforts we are making we don’t have a say and the system is not changing. Banks went bankrupt, the healthcare system is also bankrupt so I decided I have to help in some sort of way and the only way I found to be able to make a change, is by what I know how to do best. This is why I started to offer free care. I’m frustrated by the lack of change in my country and I really want to make a difference. This is how I felt I can make a difference right now.
What traumas caused by the explosion have you experienced?
The main traumas that I’ve experienced by the explosion are mostly glass injuries. The shockwave you can never imagine or ever see by videos, the only real picture is if you go down to Beirut and walk for miles and see buildings all destroyed down to the concrete. The people that experienced the explosion explain it as a tsunami of glass shattering from the buildings. The glass exploded and shattered and injured everybody, so the majority of the trauma is cuts, deep cuts to the face, to the hands, and to the body. Shattered glass randomly cutting people.
Why is fixing these scars so important?
People are just horrified by how people have some really extensive scars on their faces. I’ve experienced a scar on my face within the past year. I know the feeling that the person passes through when you have an opening in your face and it’s really not pleasant. Neither for the mental effects. Having someone support the people and fix their scars in the best way possible, especially on the face, will have a big mental effect. A positive influence on their feelings in this hard period.
How long will you be offering this care?
I will be offering my service for as long as there are people that have been hit by the accident and need help with plastic surgery. I am revising the scars of people who especially in the first five or six days had been sutured randomly because 4000 people were hit at once in 30 seconds. Imagine 4000 injured in a city that has four major hospitals shattered and evacuated. People were getting sutured on the street, getting stapled in the face. So, yes I will be offering my support and scar revisions for as long as there are people. I’m not expecting this to be anything less than months, even the year ahead.
Is there any support you need from the global community?
I have had a lot of volunteers who have offered their help. One doctor named Dr Anis has come to my clinic and showed up and brought me some supplies. He is also a facial plastic surgeon, so he is also offering his help and is a very sweet doctor.
We are getting a lot of support from all around the world. People are asking how they can help, how they can send money, how they can send supplies. The global community should be aware that the best way to donate is via NGO’s. Our banking system is now not trustworthy so they are better to contact the people directly to know the best way to send help whether it’s finical or medical supplies.
Do you have a message for the Lebanese people?
My message that I would like to send to the Lebanese is our county has always proven to stand strong in times of hardship and we will stay standing strong. As pillars of Lebanon, we will not allow Lebanon to fall. We will keep on fighting for our country to become a better place and we will not give up on it.
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