Doc still suffering from 'Iraq' injuries

  • Nation
  • Monday, 10 Nov 2003


MALACCA: Seven months after being shot by gunmen during a Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) mission in Iraq, there is still no sign of Datuk Dr Baba Deni making a recovery on his injured right leg. 

He said doctors at the Pantai Integrated Rehabilitation Services Unit did not see any improvement on his leg and there was no evidence the injured nerves were growing back. 

The 48 year-old doctor still needs painkillers daily for the wound the size of a mug, at his right hip where the bullet exited after he was shot at the left hip. 

The exit wound damaged his nerves causing him to be partially paralysed from the knee down. His leg muscle has wasted resulting in his right leg being visibly smaller than the other. 

“Doctors don’t expect me to make a complete recovery, the most is 70% recovery and that is after one to two years,” he said in an interview while undergoing his three-hour daily physiotherapy at the unit in Pantai Hospital, Ayer Keroh. 

RECOVERING: Dr Baba showing his right leg that was affected by a gunshot wound sustained during a Mercy Malaysia mission to Iraq in April.

Dr Baba and Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood were shot on April 7 when the van they travelling in with Malaysian reporters was ambushed by gunmen who mistook them for Saddam's Fedayeen.  

Although he has progressed from using a walking frame to using a crutch to walk, he needs to wear an ankle guard as his ankle will flop and it cannot lift the weight of his sandal. 

“Without the guard it is impossible to walk. What I hate the most is having to go up and down stairs,” he said, adding that it took him 30 minutes to go down the stairs of the unit at the second floor. 

His daily therapy includes weight lifting, climbing exercises and cycling to tighten the leg muscle.  

“It is crucial otherwise my leg will go stiff,” he said, adding that he was now able to squat but still needed support to get up. 

Apart from the hours he has to spend on physiotherapy daily, the constant pain makes him unable to continue his practice. 

“I cannot sit too long as it hurts too much so I cannot work. I have to take painkillers daily or else I cannot sleep,” said the doctor of a private clinic in Jasin and at the Multimedia University in Bukit Beruang here. 

“Because I do not work and have to employ a locum, my family and I have to cut down on expenses. I have to start working soon,” said the father of three children, aged from 10 and 19.  

Dr Baba, who is married to housewife Fatimah Yunus, 46, said he was fortunate he had his own practice. 

“Volunteers at war zones without fixed income will have a problem when they get hurt especially when the Socso benefit ends as the volunteers do not get insurance coverage,” he said. 

Despite his suffering, he did not regret going to Iraq.  

“I will go if I have a chance to serve in a mission again,” he said without hesitation and added that “accidents happen anywhere.” 

Dr Baba, who had to consult a psychiatrist because he suffered from nightmares after the incident, said he had to take sleeping pills for three months to stop the nightmares.  

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