Lost and found

In the aftermath of a bomb explosion the possessions of those fatally wounded accumulate in a hospital room: keys, boots and money. Here one of the keys is returned to the son of the deceased opening up a trunk of much needed valuables for the family.

No one ever tells you about the things that happen after a bomb explodes. The newspapers write about the acute events, but rarely does anyone mention the aftermath. For a hospital the aftermath of such an event is severe – not least of which are the meetings, reports, e-mails back and forth, discussions and talks and finally more reports. These are standard, but then there are the things that are not covered in any protocol nor dealt with in any previous memo. I have recently learned about a few such examples at our hospital:

If you went to the Radio Room of our hospital today, you would find a box of black boots. They come in a range of different sizes and look like they were made for heavy duty work. They are among the hospital’s vestiges of an explosion in January. Many of the victims were police officers – some lost their lives and some lost their limbs.  Now, what do you do with all the shoes that have become superfluous? They were kept in a box, so that they could be handed back in the event that someone came to claim them – we are still waiting.

There were also keys and (amazingly enough) a wad of money that has neither been claimed nor pinched. We did know that the keys and money had come from the torn trousers of a blast victim. Unfortunately he never got to spend his money nor unlock whatever lock the keys were for.

Yesterday our field coordinator had business to do in the area where that bomb blast took place. He made sure to take the keys and money with him. It seems he had a plan. Once in the market, he and his assistant started asking different vendors if they had relatives who had passed away at MSF. Many were interested to hear their story but initially no responders. Then one boy, he must have been about seventeen, came from behind a tin walled shop and began asking about the keys. He had a trunk for his shop with some valuables in it. On the lid of the trunk was a padlock and, lo and behold, yes, the keys were a perfect fit!

It was a small stall and had one table, crowded with different kinds of snuff in plastic bags.The boy and his father had previously been the vendors. The shop had since become a one man enterprise. He is now responsible for the snuff stall as well as looking after his younger brother. But this young man wasn’t aware that his father had money with him at the time of the blast (enough Afghani to support a family for a few days!)

To most of us it is unimaginable to lose a parent in such a traumatic way. As a humanitarian organisation we feel utterly helpless when we cannot save them. Sometimes we can help and we feel our efforts are rewarded. Other times all we can do is return money and keys to their rightful owners. Though on a very small scale, it does give a sense of restoring a fragment of the natural order; as if it somehow lessens the impact of the explosion. If only someone can now make a plan with those boots...


The family business continues ©MSF