FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

82Our Message, “Laboring on the Frontlines of Disaster Medical Care”Along with offering my sincerest prayers for the peace of those perished in the Great East Japan Earthquake, I would like to express my heartfelt hopes for the well being of all those affected by the disaster.After the earthquake, I had the chance to speak to many of the disaster victims at the evacuation shelters. Among them were families embracing each other—wracked by fear of the radiation exposure—and families depressed after witnessing their houses being carried away in the water. I shared a moment with them, stroking their wrinkled fingers. The elderly folks had the strongest impact on me. I felt that these senior citizens taught me the true meaning and importance of bedside manners, which is the real heart of medical care.Moreover, having our regular visitors to the hospital—patients who struggle with the difficulties of chronic diseases—say to me, “Take care. You must be tired,” made me feel like it was them who were taking care of me. There were many times when I was moved to tears.With much gratitude to these kind teachers of life’s lessons, I felt an ever stronger determination to do my work of helping preserve the health of disaster victims, even if of one.Gratitude toward “Mentors in Life”Nobuo SakamotoAssistant Professor, Department of Cardiology and HematologyAllow me to express my sincere prayers for all those who perished in this disaster.When the earthquake struck, I was in the operating room for an emergency surgery. I was surprised by the length of time the quake lasted—longer than any other I had experienced. We immediately stopped the surgery, and then, I contacted the prefectural government office’s Disaster Response Headquarters through my role as a member of the disaster management assistance team (DMAT).As the government office itself was damaged, there was considerable confusion. The scene was similar to that of a war zone because the inquiries for medical-related information kept coming all through the night.Later, I also worked on the response to the nuclear accident and helped transport patients from within the evacuation zone, although the success of these efforts were very much owing to the close collaboration of the various divisions of the Self-Defense Forces, the fire department, police department, Coast Guard, government agencies, and other medical institutions. The breadth of the evacuation area was larger than anything previously experienced.We were all able to display considerable teamwork. I hope Japan keeps this admirable strength when facing future disasters.Facing TomorrowTakao TsuchiyaLecturer, Department of Regenerative SurgeryI extend my sincere condolences to all the victims who were affected by this earthquake.After the disaster struck, we were dispatched to the Disaster Response Headquarters in the Fukushima prefectural government building. We are working to formulate and implement plans to move patients who were hospitalized within the evacuation zone as well as those who were at welfare facilities for the elderly. These patients need to be moved outside the area, and medical support also needs to be arranged for those living at the evacuation shelters.Many readers have probably seen the images showed on TV; the prefecture’s Disaster Response Headquarters was chaotic. When I first set foot in the room, I was overwhelmed by the heated atmosphere of the place. All government officials and employees in the headquarters were hurriedly helping evacuate residents, confirming their safety, and obtaining supplies. In addition, Self-Defense Force members, fire department officers, police officers, and members of the Coast Guard who were gathered from across Japan were similarly working to help residents evacuate and to deliver recovery support. All of these dedicated individuals were literally working without sleep or rest.Being in the Headquarters shows me once again that the medical services we offer are the product of the concerted labor of a diverse group of people. In addition, I was able to see firsthand that we, the people of Fukushima, have an amazing “Fukushima support group” sustaining us.The “Fukushima Support Group”Toshihiko FukushimaAssociate Professor, Department of Organ Regulatory Surgery