FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

90window, and was facing his desk. After the earthquake, an emergency disaster response headquarters was set up at the university. Professor Omori, the vice president of the hospital, was an active participant. We started triage and preparations to accept victims of the earthquake and nuclear disaster. At 8:00 am the next morning (March 12) in the hospital conference room, all the staff and faculty gathered and checked on the status of each other’s families. From that day on, emergency all-staff meetings were held at the hospital three times a day at 9:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. We discussed a variety of topics, including the state of triage and the disaster medical assistance team (DMAT), cuts in water supply and other lifelines, water conservation, and the release of hospitalized patients. At the request of the hospital, 2–3 physicians from the otorhinolaryngology department stayed in the hospital around the clock, accompanied by a member of security. We also made a “medical school mailing list” with email addresses of the medical staff’s cell phones in hope that we could accurately share in real time, as much as possible, decisions from the all-staff meetings, reports on our whereabouts, and other information so that those at home could feel less worried. I must have spent 3–4 days (without sleep) after the earthquake either at meetings or in front of the office computer, sending information. Normal outpatient examinations were ceased, as were surgeries. A cut in the gasoline supply became a major problem, and people waited in queues for 5–6 hours for gas. About one week after the passing of the earthquake, the hospital regained its water supply, and outpatient appointments and surgeries were gradually restarted. Internal medicine outpatient examinations resumed on the 22nd, most of which were operational, and on the 24th outpatient surgeries were reinitiated. Triage and radiation survey work ended on the 25th, and on the 26th we stopped having physicians keep watch over the hospital. All staff meetings were now conducted on a weekly basis. The hospital fully resumed normal operations on Monday, April 4. Widespread emergency medical support began at the end of March, with medical professionals visiting evacuation zones. The otorhinolaryngology department also participated, starting in the Iwaki area. When we began, there were many problems: insufficient medicines; hindered communication; some patients, who required care at some of the evacuation zones, were not traceable; and occasional overlapping of bookings of medical support crews, causing awkward situations. My visits to the evacuation site exposed me to the harsh reality of the enormity of the disaster, and led me to believe that further support was imperative. Thereafter, medical support teams from Thailand accompanied the otorhinolaryngology department. As of now, the end of June 2012, the support program has ended.Honestly, after being caught up in this disaster, I have come to the realization of just how important a calm, everyday life is. I am truly proud that even in the face of such an unimaginable situation, our staff stayed closely united and grew stronger to overcome the obstacles. My heart is filled with gratitude for the staff members who supported me. I can only hope for the situation to improve from this day on.Triage at the hospital entranceExperiencing the Great Disaster