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Addenbrooke’s doctor who escaped war-torn Syria returns to help country after earthquake

An Addenbrooke’s doctor who escaped war-torn Syria as a young medical student is returning to the country to help hospitals hit by February’s earthquake.

Dr Tirej Brimo, an emergency medicine doctor at the Cambridge hospital, will be supported by two charities - Cambridge Global Health Partnerships (CGHP) and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) - as he aids three hospitals in Syria struggling in the ongoing crisis.

Dr Tirej Brimo. Picture: Abbey Hespin
Dr Tirej Brimo. Picture: Abbey Hespin

They are working on an £80,000 fundraising campaign on JustGiving called ‘Together for Northwest Syria Medical Aid’ to provide direct support to healthcare workers and equipment for hospitals.

Tirej, who has also volunteered in the Greek islands’ refugee camps multiple times since his graduation as a doctor, as well as in Ukraine, said: “Since my graduation as a doctor six years ago, I have been working humbly for the NHS.

“I also devoted most of my free time and holiday to support those who are going through adversity and displacement. However, following the devastating earthquake, my home town Afrin and other parts of Syria need my help, and I need people’s help.

“I cannot thank RCEM and CGHP enough for helping me on this journey. Ten years of war has caused significant infrastructural damage in north-west Syria and left its population in desperate need for humanitarian and medical aid.

Dr Tirej Brimo in Ukraine
Dr Tirej Brimo in Ukraine

“Following the earthquake in February, the devastating aftermath has escalated these needs significantly.

“One doctor in Syria has told me that during the earthquake, they relived 10 years of the Syrian war in just two minutes.”

Tirej has made contacts with Syrian clinical leads on the frontline, key non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the health directorate in north-west Syria, who have identified key equipment that would have a massive impact in supporting their health care systems, but which is currently unobtainable for them.

The campaign will support:

  • The neurosurgical department at Bab Alhawa Hospital in north-west Syria, the biggest of its kind in the region and the largest brain tumour centre, but one lacking in resources;
  • Aaqrabat Hospital, a specialist hospital for plastics/reconstructive surgery and orthopaedics surgery, where just a single, overworked plastic surgeon is working - one of just three for the whole north-west region; and
  • The general surgery department at Al-Shefaa Hospital in Afrin, which serves a large population but is lacking in some basic equipment.

Tirej plans to go to Turkey and north-west Syria to help with procurement, with oversight and support from CGHP and RCEM, and take photographs and videos to keep supporters up to date.

CGHP director Evelyn Brealey said: “We are very glad to be supporting this campaign for north-west Syria, and to be doing this jointly with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and their international team, who we know well. With Tirej’s determination, our help, and public support, we can support healthcare colleagues dealing with the most difficult of circumstances.”

Dr Tirej Brimo in Ukraine
Dr Tirej Brimo in Ukraine

Andrew Fryer, head of international at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, added: “This partnership aims to provide the necessary tools for healthcare professionals in north-west Syria, who are working tirelessly to treat the local population in extremely challenging conditions.

“The public’s contribution towards the purchase of medical equipment will make a significant impact in restoring health and hope to those affected by the earthquake.”

Tirej arrived in the UK as a refugee in 2013 and graduated as a doctor at St George’s Medical School in London in 2017.

His gritty determination to become a doctor took him through four countries, four medical schools, 10 cities and 21 homes.

What could donations buy?

  • £25 could buy a laparoscopic trocar, which will help provide critical keyhole surgery.
  • £250 could go towards buying a neurosurgical drill, which will help provide crucial, life-saving neurosurgical operations.
  • £2,500 could go towards buying a C- Arm X-ray, which will help manage fractures and injuries sustained during the earthquake.
  • £25,000 could buy a CO2 fractional ablative laser, which will help in treating children’s scars and burns.

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