* This blog is published as part of a series of blogs provided by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to celebrate World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19 *
In 2006 I was taking a weekend off while working for the Red Cross in Indonesia, and I had gone to the city of Yogyakarta (Yogya) in central Java. As it happened, Yogya was hit by a massive earthquake early in the morning of the Saturday I was there.
I ran out of my hotel to find buildings collapsing. Of course I went straight to the nearest Red Cross centre, which was in Bantul, the most heavily affected area, and found volunteer doctors already treating hundreds of patients right there at the Red Cross post.
Everyone was bringing injured people there – people were bringing bodies and damaged people in the backs of trucks and pickups. The Red Cross people were sending out cars just to go round neighbourhoods picking up survivors and bringing them back. The post was basically turned into a hospital.
I remember a car park and a football field next to the post, all with people being laid out one after the other and getting treatment for head wounds, for broken bones, being resuscitated, everything. I remember speaking to one doctor in particular. He was doing triage.
I found out afterwards he had lost a family member that morning in the earthquake, and he had just decided he was going to put all of that on hold and go down to the Red Cross to help. And it was so soon after the earthquake and he had already done so much work.
I guess on one level he was doing what doctors do. But what really stuck with me is that five weeks later I went back and he was still there, still working. He just kept working, as a doctor, on patients. I’ll never forget him.