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Reaching Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

Northwestern doctor on site providing emergency care at a critical time

CHICAGO --- In the days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Northwestern Medicine® emergency room physician Rahul Khare, M.D., started preparing himself for a trip to the devastated area.

His first disaster relief mission was in 2010, just after the deadly earthquake in Haiti. This time he traveled to Tacloban, Philippines, one of the areas hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan.

“We will likely see significant gastrointestinal diseases due to tainted food and water,” said Khare, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an emergency room physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“Disease is the worst in the 10 to 14 days after this kind of disaster,” he said. “We saw this in Haiti, and we plan to see in the Philippines. We will see severe dehydration and nasty infections from unclean environments and multiple lacerations due to the typhoon.”

Khare plans to blog about his experience in the Philippines.

On Nov. 15, Khare left for Manila, Philippines, with Clarion Global Response, an organization that sends volunteer doctors, paramedics and first responders to aid disaster victims during any crisis that is too large for the capacity of that country’s domestic government to manage. From Manila, the U.S. military flew Khare and his teammates to Tacloban, where they will stay for about two weeks.

News reports from Tacloban change every day, and the conditions Khare and the other volunteers will face are uncertain. His team plans to sleep on the ground in sleeping bags and is unsure if they will have access to electricity.

“We do have an evacuation plan, and we trust each other,” Khare said. “I have traveled with many of these people, and I can honestly say that they are the best people to be with if you're in a disaster.”

In Tacloban, the team will enlist local medical experts and provide support and provisions to create camps and field hospitals for as many displaced people as their supplies can support. The most immediate action required is to ensure that disease is kept in check with clean water and medical supplies.

“I truly enjoy giving health care to those who desperately need it,” Khare said. “It makes me realize how much we have here in Chicago. And while what I do locally is extremely different from what I do internationally, the work is oddly similar -- and I love it. At the end of the day, we are all human and have needs.”

When Khare saw the pictures and the reports coming from the Philippines, he immediately was motivated to use his skills to help.

“I am confident that our team will truly help the wounded and sick in the Philippines,” Khare said. “I am grateful that I have the skills to help out, and I am grateful for the Northwestern community in their support and love they have given me.”

Northwestern Memorial Foundation is collecting donations to support Khare and other Northwestern physicians, nurses and caregivers who travel to the Philippines in the coming days.

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