FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

75chap.IIFukushima Medical University Record of Activities [Notes and Messages]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Linewas even worse than what was broadcast on TV and described in newspaper reports. There were many people who looked so worn out and haggard that I was at a loss for words. There were just as many who looked so shell-shocked that it was painful for me to witness. As I watched the doctors and health care workers rushing about to administer care, I was greatly moved by their inspiring efforts and felt renewed amazement at the true kindness and strength of people. Being given the opportunity to participate in the process despite being a student gave me a strong desire to work as hard as I could alongside others. I would like to continue doing as much as I can to lend my assistance to the recovery efforts.Along with offering my sincerest prayers for the peace of those who perished in the earthquake, I would like to express my heartfelt hopes for the well-being of all those affected by the disaster.Volunteers, including myself, were allowed to help with interviewing evacuees at the evacuation shelters as part of the Radiation Awareness Survey. I am extremely grateful to the evacuees and the staff of the shelters who cooperated with us so kindly despite the very trying circumstances they were in.One of the lessons that the survey experience taught me was the importance of communication. Those living at the shelters endured considerable stress and anxiety from the effects of the earthquake, the living circumstances at the shelters, and the uncertain future that they faced in their lives. The greatest problem, however, was their inability to vent and unburden themselves of their feelings on anyone around them. We medical students were unable to implement any of the direct recovery support projects that so many professionals around us are currently working on. However, we were able to at least offer a sympathetic ear. Whether the conversation topics are very small or filled with anger and dissatisfaction, patiently listening to another person is something that I realized is extraordinarily important. Having my eyes opened to the fundamental role that conversation itself plays, I hope that my efforts had some palliative effect, however small, on the people living in the shelters.The coming months and years will be a serious test for the Tohoku region, including Fukushima. I hope that we can all cooperate and complement each other so that recovery comes sooner, even if by one day. Also, I would like to take the experience I have gained through this work and contribute it back to society in the future.I would like to express my condolences to those who fell victim to this disaster and to lament the lives lost.I was kindly offered the opportunity to volunteer in working with incoming patient radiation screenings and with the questionnaire surveys at the evacuation shelters. The experience gave me a very lasting impression of the fatigue involved with living at an evacuation shelter over an extended period, the debilitating fear that evacuees had concerning radiation, and their distrust of the media. I felt that there was a need for quickly disseminating accurate information about radiation so that the evacuees’ anxiety could be assuaged in any way possible.In addition, one of the evacuees made the statement, “I was wrong when I thought that young people today were only apathetic and uncaring. I was impressed when I saw that there were so many young people who joined the ranks of the volunteers and I thought that Japan was in good hands.” I was impressed on hearing this comment. But I also felt much regret that I was still a medical student who could not do anything yet to help these people. I would like to continue contributing my meager efforts until the day arrives when Japan and Fukushima can overcome this tragedy.I would like to take this opportunity to voice my heartfelt sympathy for everyone affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.I was able to spend a week visiting evacuation shelters within the prefecture (mainly in Fukushima City) and working with people distributing questionnaires regarding radiation to the disaster victims. I was tasked with spending 20–30 min with each of the evacuees, giving an overview of the questionnaire and thoroughly discussing with them the kind of feedback that we were looking for. Overall, I spoke with about 100 survivors and noticed that a great many of them were furious and troubled by many things. Not surprisingly, the people in Hamadori were consumed with fear and fatigue from the Visiting the Evacuation SheltersHisataka NozawaFourth year medical school student; native of Fukushima Prefecture (Fukushima Prefectural High School)Akira FunakuboFourth year medical school student; native of Fukushima Prefecture (Aizu High School)