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Surgeon returns from helping patients in Gaza

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A Utah plastic surgeon just came back home today after spending a week in Gaza. He was part of an American team sent to help war wound victims.

The sound of war is something you don't hear every day here in Utah, but Dr. Irfan Galaria wanted to leave his practice at University Hospital to help the wounded in Gaza.

"Going there, I was aware of the risks. The opportunity to help these people outweighed any of these concerns," he said.

He was one of 14 physicians from the United States. He represented Utah. The group spent five days in Gaza working at the main trauma hospital.

Galaria said, "I would say almost all the people I worked on were children, except for one patient."

By the time their team arrived, most acute injuries had been cared for, so their job was to reconstruct wounds that were cared for incorrectly.

"The second day I was there I was called to the emergency room to repair a laceration, a cut on a 1-year-old child, pretty extensive across the lip and cheek," he said.

Galaria says in Gaza they had few resources and staff, and supplies were limited. "There was no sedation, there was no local anesthesia, and the nurse was used to hold the child down. So usually one parent and one nurse were holding the child down," he said.

The Utah surgeon says he saw so many disturbing injuries resulting from bombs, shrapnel and a chemical called white phosphorous. It burns victims, leaving them with second- and third-degree burns.

"That was difficult to deal with and try to understand why a 5-year-old child, why half her body is burned or why we're repairing cuts on little kids' faces without anesthesia," Galaria said.

He says he'd do it again, though, especially since the Palestinians were so grateful, kind and generous to him at a time when their lives were falling apart.

Galaria says he is actively trying to plan another trip in the coming months. He wants to take supplies, new equipment and other doctors to help teach the staff in Gaza.

E-mail: ngonzales


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