By Dr. Manzoor Tariq
I returned from an eye opening visit to Joplin, Missouri a few days ago and would like to share my experience with you and provide an update of what is happening in Joplin. As Joplin is about 300 miles Southwest of my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, members of the St. Louis community and I were driven to take action. On Saturday, May 28th, Nadeem Ahmed, Member of the Social Welfare and Disaster Relief Committee, Dr. Omar Quadri, and I drove to Joplin. We were also accompanied by Dr. Ahmedâ€™s son and daughter, Zohair and Sarah, and Dr. Quadriâ€™s son, Bilal.
We were in touch with the Joplin APPNA family prior to the visit and they informed us that they were in dire need of medical supplies as well as Halal meat and Pakistani food. A St. Louis grocery store, Mideast Market, donated meat, rice, and flour for Joplin. Fresh Pakistani food was cooked by Mideast Market and my wife for the Joplin community taking shelter at the local University and mosque. We arrived at the Joplin Islamic Family Center at the same time as a team of volunteers from Kansas City arrived, led by Dr. Faisal Jafari. The true miracle of the eventâ€™s timing was that we arrived in the midst of the wedding of a newly converted Muslim bride and were able to utilize the food as her wedding meal, which served over 70 people. This was a miraculous coincidence that everyone who attended will never forget. The food was thoroughly enjoyed and made for a great wedding celebration.
Dr. Navid Zaidi then took us on a tour of the areas affected by the tornado. Words cannot describe the devastation and destruction that we witnessed. For miles all one can see are demolished buildings and homes, totaled cars, and trees stripped of their leaves and even branches. The images reminded us of the true power of nature. Homes were demolished, robbed of their ownersâ€™ belongings and full of belongings from homes miles away. Medical offices and practices were difficult to identify in the rubble, as they no longer had any medical files, patient tables, or other medical equipment. Dr. Navid Zaidi also took us to the local shelter in which thousands of people were gathered. One would expect such a place to be full of grief and sorrow; however, we were amazed to see the strength and courage of the local residents.
St. Johnâ€™s Hospital, one of the biggest medical facilities in Joplin, was completely destroyed. Local physicians have not let this prevent them from fulfilling their duties as they are working out of shelters and constantly on call. A temporary medical unit has been established in Joplinâ€™s Memorial Hall. Dr. Zaidi took us to the temporary medical unit where we were able to give them medical supplies for which they were very grateful. We provided them with several medicines including samples of commonly prescribed drugs. Local Pakistani pharmacists, Rehan & Atique, donated several medicines. The team working told us that APPNA was the first organization to donate and deliver medicines and they were eagerly anticipating such medical donations. The joy and happiness on their faces upon receiving these medical supplies are indescribable.
The experience was a sobering one and we have never seen anything like the devastation we saw in Joplin. We admire the spirit and strength of all those in Joplin and of our Joplin APPNA community in particular. There are about 14 Pakistani physicians in Joplin, including Dr. Navid Zaidi, Dr. Waqas Chishti, Dr. Shiraz Anwer, Dr. Mateen Nagaria, Dr. Iftikhar Ali, and many others. Many have lost their homes and practices, such as Dr. Navid Zaidi, but they have not let that prevent them from being full optimism and hope. They are all continuing to fulfill their duties as physicians as they volunteer in the local shelters.
I want to thank everyone who contributed to this noble cause and especially Dr. Nadeem Ahmed, Dr. Omar Quadri, Zohair Ahmed, Sarah Ahmed, and Bilal Quadri for representing APPNA and visiting Joplin to deliver supplies and provide support to those in need.
Let us continue to pray for the tornado victims in Joplin and do our best to hold their hands in this difficult time for them.
Manzoor Tariq, MD, FACC, FSCAI