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When rebels are wounded in Syria comrades try to get them out, away from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. The escape route often leads to the border with Turkey, which is where this story begins.
Turkish ambulances at the border pick up as many as 30 wounded Syrians every day. Some then travel to Antakya, known in ancient times as Antioch, and there Syrian-Americans are working to improve their care. NPR's Deborah Amos reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: This office, opened in May, is an example of something new in the Syrian revolt - a direct link between rebels fighting the Assad regime and a humanitarian network to support wounded fighters and civilians.
The Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations was founded by an American doctor from Texas. This office is run by a fashion designer from Syria. His managerial skills are crucial for the work here. For the first time, compiling complete case records of Syrian patients in Turkish hospitals, with recommendations for follow-up care.
Across the street, a medical supply warehouse is run by another Syrian-American, a clinical pharmacist from Cincinnati.
KHAULA SAWAH: My name is Khaula Sawah, originally from Syria.
AMOS: Sawah is working on a system to organize what has been an ad hoc smuggling operation.
SAWAH: I'm all the time here to organize medical supplies inside Syria, as well as taking care of the injured here.
AMOS: The shelves are filled with supplies paid for privately by Syrian exile groups. It's not nearly enough, says Dr. Ammar Ghanem, from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
DR. AMMAR GHANEM: I mean, what's going on in Syria is disaster.
AMOS: Ghanem is one of 30 American doctors who recently arrived here. They all came with full suitcases packed with a million dollars worth of vital supplies donated by an American medical manufacturer.
GHANEM: QuickClot is like a gauze that stops bleeding for the injured. So it can save lives. This is very needed. When we come here we brought about like 3,000 pieces. They are gone within, like, one day.
AMOS: The clotting gauze went to a field hospital inside Syria. Syrian activists are now stationed on the border now, a stretcher brigade trained to transport seriously injured cases to Turkey. Dr. Ghanem is an intensive care specialist in Indiana and he says for many it will take years to recover.
GHANEM: There's a lot of complicated spinal cord injuries. And I think that the regime and their snipers are targeting these areas. They are targeting, I mean, like the spine. They're targeting areas of the brain. They're targeting areas that can leave a person with a long - I mean life - disability.
AMOS: With so many Syrians still dying on the long trek to Turkey for treatment, there's a race to organize and streamline this emergency operation inside and outside Syria. Turkish hospitals are overwhelmed by the caseload here. This is a resort town. Turkish doctors don't have much experience with battlefield injuries and have no resources for follow-up care. So, Syrian-American doctors have stepped in to help.
DR. YAHIA ABDUL RAHIM: Yahia Rahim from Panama City, Florida.
AMOS: Why is it important for you to be here?
RAHIM: I feel I am paying back some of my duty for my homeland, who has been suffering for years and years, and decades.
AMOS: Dr. Abdul Rahim was the first member of the American medical team to arrive. He organized a rotation of volunteer doctors willing to cross into Syria, and psychiatrists to counsel trauma victims in the Turkish camps.
RAHIM: And some of the psychological scar is going to be a major problem, especially women who have been raped or children witness the death of their mother is going to be a major problem.
AMOS: Despite all the suffering, Abdul Rahim says he's optimistic. And that was tested when the interview was interrupted by news from inside Syria.
RAHIM: Just an hour ago, one of my best friends been shot and killed, and he is one of the most nice person you can imagine. He was big asset for the medical mission in Syria. Just an hour ago. I just heard about it a few minutes ago.
AMOS: As we talk, Dr. Ghanem, the intensive care specialist from Indiana, arrives from a full day at the warehouse. Now he straps on a large red medical backpack.
GHANEM: I'm leaving my family here. I'm going to go to the other side.
AMOS: Are you going to walk in?
AMOS: Carrying a full medical kit for resuscitating severely wounded patients in the field, he's on his way, on foot, across the border to Syria.
Deborah Amos, NPR News, Antakya, Turkey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.