Doctor Çelik, we often spoke to you about your work on the Covid ward in the Darmstadt Clinic. In the future, we want to talk to you regularly about other health care topics that concern us all. As a helper, you are currently in the earthquake region in Turkey for the second time. How is the situation there?
When I first came to the port city of Iskenderun, they had just got over the initial chaos, which was about two weeks after the earthquake. We set up a field hospital here and I’ve been following it from a distance ever since – promising to come back when I have time. Of course I wanted to know how the people are doing now, how the medical care is going, how the clean-up work is progressing. This first impression left its mark, I couldn’t just brush it off like that. This is the case for many helpers. In the meantime, at least the rubble of the collapsed houses has been cleared away. Not all buried persons could be recovered beforehand. The rubble was dumped into large pits, an eerie sight as human remains lie beneath the rubble. But in a city of 400,000 people like Antakya, which is near Iskenderun, almost every house is so damaged that it has to be demolished – and that hasn’t even started yet. This is an incomprehensible sight, there are only a few people left in this ghost town. Some live in containers, but hundreds of thousands have moved away.
What complaints do your patients have in the earthquake area?
It’s a very colorful picture. Today, 225 patients were cared for here, covering the entire spectrum of medicine, from things that a family doctor would actually do to emergencies such as a suspected stroke or heart attack. There are now some state and some NGO-run field hospitals. The one I work in is run by the city of Istanbul. Indeed, with the medical infrastructure completely collapsed, the field hospitals have to provide everything from writing prescriptions to intensive care. At the moment, many respiratory infections can be observed. Many patients have complained of coughing since the earthquake. People were exposed to large amounts of inorganic dusts; this can cause chronic lung diseases such as COPD, pneumoconiosis and pulmonary fibrosis when inhaled. The full extent is yet to be seen as the disease progresses slowly. It brings back memories of the lung disease suffered by the 9/11 first responders. Various chronic lung diseases have developed in them as a result of the dust – this could happen to an even greater extent here. You have to take care of that at an early stage, people must not be left alone with it. Even if many are not yet ready to take care of their own health.