UCLA Doctor Assists Bali Bomb Victims
Arthur Sorrell, UCLA ER Specialist in Bali to teach at the Bali International Medical Center, wound up joining Indonesian colleagues treating victims of the October 12 terrorist attack.
Arthur Sorrell had considered going out to Paddy’s Discotheque, a popular pub, on his first Saturday night in Bali. A senior resident in emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine, the doctor had arrived two days earlier to teach local physicians at the Bali International Medical Center, a satellite site of the UCLA Center for International Emergency Medicine. Instead of going out, he decided to turn in early.
At 11:15 p.m. on Oct. 12, however, he was awakened by a phone call from the clinic administrator: An explosion not far from the clinic had left hundreds dead and wounded. They needed to get to work immediately.
Only later would they learn that the explosion had been a pair of bombs — one of them a large car bomb — that had destroyed Paddy’s and the popular Sari Club across the street. The bombings were believed to be the work of Al Qaeda terrorists and their extremist allies. When we got to the clinic, there were hundreds of people outside — victims, onlookers and ambulances lining up,” Sorrell said of a scene unlike anything he’d ever witnessed. “I’ve seen many injuries, even some as bad. But I’ve never seen so many critically injured people at the same time.”
Doctors and nurses at the seven-bed clinic treated about 60 victims that night, most of them suffering from severe burns and shrapnel wounds. On Sunday, a call came for doctors and nurses across the island to report to Bali’s Sanglah Hospital. Sorrell ended up being the sole doctor in the intensive care unit that afternoon.
In ensuing days, Sorrell also helped prepare patients for airlifts to medical treatment elsewhere by the Australian government. Even that, he said, “was a chaotic scene. We were literally searching wards for people, trying to find who’s who, had they been treated or not. It was a nightmare.”
Two weeks after the tragedy, Sorrell reluctantly returned to Los Angeles. “I think it was a good thing that I was there. It was something that I could do, and that was good for me,” he said. “I just wish I could have done more.”
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Published: Tuesday, November 05, 2002