News / Asia

Deadly Cold Weather Strikes Tsunami-Hit Hospital

Nurse Tomimo Goto prepares medicine in the darkened ward of the Sen-en Hospital in Tagajo, Japan
Nurse Tomimo Goto prepares medicine in the darkened ward of the Sen-en Hospital in Tagajo, Japan

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell

For the survivors of the tsunami that struck Japan earlier this month, the daily struggle to keep warm and find enough food continues.  In the town of Tagajo on the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, the Sen-en Hospital has been without electricity, gas or running water for nearly two weeks. There are shortages of basic medicines.  Several elderly patients have died because of the freezing temperatures in the wards.

A 90-year-old patient at the Tagajo Sen-en hospital screams out that she is cold. The temperature inside is a few degrees above freezing. On some nights, it drops below zero Celsius. There is no electricity, gas or water.

The cold and the shortage of medicine have claimed the lives of 12 elderly patients since the waves roared through the lower floors of this hospital.

Deputy Head Doctor Yoichi Hashiguchi tucks more blankets around one of the 50 patients still under his care. He says conditions are very tough.

“Most of the patients here have had strokes or cerebral infections, so they can’t move by themselves,” he says. “The thing we need the most is the special milk, which we feed them through tubes. We don’t have any of that so they aren’t getting enough nutrition.”

In the darkened wards the nurses do the best they can. They salvaged what medicines they could from the wreckage.

They’ve begun heating bottles of water on a makeshift propane stove, to use as hot water bottles.

There’s no laundry service and while there are enough clean bedclothes to last a few days, dirty sheets are starting to pile up.

“It’s really cold and I can’t do much for my patients so I get really depressed when I get home," says Tomomi Goto, who is one of the nurses working 18-hour shifts. "Today I felt like I couldn’t do anything, it makes me so sad,” she adds. “But if I look miserable at work the patients will get more worried. So I always try to smile.”

The floor of the nurses' station is covered with Japanese futons, thin mattresses on which the nurses grab a few hours sleep.

With their cars in the hospital grounds wrecked by the tsunami and a gasoline shortage gripping the area, they can’t easily get home.  So they stay here refusing to abandon their patients.

Dr. Satsuki Ishigaki says the conditions are starting to take a toll on the staff. “All the doctors and patients also suffered in the tsunami.  Many lost their houses too. So everyone is very stressed and it’s bad for our health too,” she said.

A nationwide gasoline shortage has delayed the delivery of vital supplies.

The army has installed a generator, which operates for two hours in the evening and is a vital window for the doctors to perform the most important tasks.

Then, darkness descends on the Sen-en hospital.

Dr. Hashiguchi uses a solar light, designed for use in the garden, to do his nighttime rounds. He says he and the other staff are just doing their jobs.

“I really want to get things back to normal as soon as possible and bring all the patients back here,” he says. “I want to reopen the hospital again and support the people of this town.”

About 200 patients were transferred to nearby hospitals. Those who remain are the most serious cases.

In normal times, Japan has a state-of the art health service; its people live the longest in the world.  But here in Miyagi prefecture, normality has gone.

The tsunami itself took tens of thousands of lives. It has left behind a deadly legacy for the most vulnerable of those who survived.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid