***image2***On Oct. 8, 2005, one of the most damaging earthquakes ever recorded ravaged large areas of Pakistan. Showing no mercy, the quake took the lives of more than 85,000 people and toppled entire cities.
The events of that day hit home with Air Force Dr. (Maj.) Fareed Sheikh ï¿½ literally.
Dr. Sheikh, who works with internal medicine at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, was born in Lahore, Pakistan. Although he left at a very young age, he still has numerous family members living there.
Fortunately, his family resided far enough away that they only felt slight tremors.
***image1***As the entire world was scrambling to put together relief efforts, Dr. Sheikh heard of a meeting at Ramstein discussing the issue. He attended the meeting hoping to find some avenues for him to help.
The news wasnï¿½t so good. At the meeting he discovered Ramstein wasnï¿½t sending anyone to Pakistan. Rather, the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital would be going.
That didnï¿½t deter him. The MASH quickly learned of Dr. Sheikhï¿½s intentions and wanted him onboard.
ï¿½They cut through a lot of red tape very quickly,ï¿½ said Dr. Sheikh, who on Oct. 20 was on his way to Pakistan with the MASH.
Despite numerous visits throughout his life, Dr. Sheikh said he had no idea what to expect when he arrived in Pakistan. And as soon as he stepped off the plane in the capital city of Islamabad, he realized the Pakistani people were not alone.
ï¿½I came off the plane into a huge tent city,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½The world military was camped out at Islamabad.ï¿½
Dr. Sheikh and the MASH traveled about 80 km southwest of the capital to the town of Muzaffarabad, which suffered more damage than any other area.
During the first days there Dr. Sheikh quickly became a popular person. He is fluent in the Pakistan national language of Urdu.
Being one of only four people who could speak the language, he was needed in more roles than just a doctor.
ï¿½I had to be a doctor, a translator and help with logistics,ï¿½ said Dr. Sheikh.
As more translators were brought in, Dr. Sheikh could focus more on his primary role, which was being an inpatient medical doctor and managing intensive care unit patients.
The clinic set up by the MASH saw nearly 400 patients per day.
For the majority of them it was clearing up infections. More serious conditions were heart attacks, lung failure and pneumonia.
Over his four-month stay in Pakistan, Dr. Sheikh said he made lasting friendships, not only with the Pakistani people but with Army members from the MASH.
ï¿½Deploying with the Army was interesting; formations were a new thing for me, but now I have a much better idea of what the Army can do. It was an honor,ï¿½ said the doctor.
On top of friendships, Dr. Sheikh will have memories to carry with him for the rest of his life. He got the chance to meet some amazing people including the president and prime minister of Pakistan, Bill Clinton and even celebrities Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But the lasting memory will be his chance to go ï¿½homeï¿½ and help in a time of need.
ï¿½I am an American, but a part of me will always be in Pakistan,ï¿½ he said.