Doctor on a mission of mercy to aid earthquake victims in Indonesia

PUBLISHED: 12:55 06 November 2009 | UPDATED: 22:02 31 May 2010

Dr James Gough treating a patient in India during Khandel light Health Camp in 2008 Picture: SUBMITTED

Dr James Gough treating a patient in India during Khandel light Health Camp in 2008 Picture: SUBMITTED

A FORMER Newport Grammar School pupil is home recovering after a whirlwind 10-day mercy mission to aid earthquake victims in Indonesia. Dr James Gough – a former head boy and rugby captain at the school – had scrubbed a planned South of France holiday, bo

A FORMER Newport Grammar School pupil is home recovering after a whirlwind 10-day mercy mission to aid earthquake victims in Indonesia.

Dr James Gough - a former head boy and rugby captain at the school - had scrubbed a planned South of France holiday, booked an Etihad Airways flight to Jakarta on spec and joined a rescue mission.

On his way to the earthquake disaster the 26-year-old had met two Australians and was whisked away to join the Sampoerna rescue team in Padang, Western Sumatra.

For six days with two Indonesian doctors and a 20-strong rescue team Dr Gough treated 1200 victims of the earthquake which had ripped apart villages and towns.

He said: "We ran a mobile clinic, drove for miles, were winched up landslides and set up in the remains of remote villages.

"We were treating second phase victims - diarrhoea, trauma, psychologically disturbed - fairly basic medicine. We got up at 5.30 am and returned to our camp beds at 7.30pm. We were working non-stop.

"When we got there first my initial reaction was probably the inconsistency of the devastation. There was a row of shops and houses and from the outside they appeared to be hardly damaged. Next door there was a hospital, completely devastated.

"They did not have enough equipment to remove rubble. There was a four-star hotel in which 200 people died. They got some people out alive but there were just bodies and the smell of rotting flesh was indescribable.

"One thing that stuck in my mind was a little 12-year-old girl who I treated for a cut knee and a cough. What I didn't know then was that she had lost her whole family. Her mother had sent her out to get some food. When she returned her whole house had been destroyed. Her family - 12 people - were all dead.

"It was harrowing but a hugely enlightening experience. Later I want to do disaster and conflict medicine. It was a defining experience in disaster medicine."

For Dr Gough, whose parents live in Chrishall, it was not the first experience of bringing aid to communities out East. His father founded Khandel-light, the fund which helps drought-stricken villagers in Rajasthan, India. Dr Gough has been there on three occasions.

When he joined the Indonesian rescue team he said "they were so lovely and couldn't believe I had come all the way from England to help - they thought I was off my head."

Dr Gough was back at work at A&E in the Morriston Hospital, Swansea within 12 hours of his return. But he is looking forward to returning to Indonesia in 2010 - on holiday.


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