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Doctor hopes to heal tsunami-ravaged village -

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Doctor hopes to heal tsunami-ravaged village

Reporter: Mick Bunworth

MAXINE McKEW: One of the first Australians to provide assistance to victims of the tsunami that
devastated the coast of Sri Lanka was Melbourne pediatrician Dr Sian Hughes. Dr Hughes and her
family were lucky to survive the deadly surges themselves, but having done so, she began treating
survivors with whatever medical supplies she could gather in the chaotic aftermath. Now safely
home, she and her colleagues are trying to organise long-term assistance for the Sri Lankan village
of Unawatuna. But Dr Hughes is worried that, in the reconstruction process, the people will be left
to fend for themselves. Mick Bunworth reports.

MICK BUNWORTH: Those that were there don't need television images to remember the force of the
Boxing Day tsunami; it's been indelibly etched into their memory.

SIAN HUGHES: It was just unbelievable. I mean, it still seems like a dream now. It was when the
water got to our first storey and came over the top of the balcony that we started getting
extremely scared.

MICK BUNWORTH: Dr Sian Hughes, husband Tony Heselev and their children, Sam, Rosie and Matilda,
were in the village of Unawatuna, near Galle in Sri Lanka's south, when their holiday adventure
turned nasty.

SIAN HUGHES: The children were, fortunately, all upstairs. I mean, it would have been such a
different story if we'd gone to breakfast at that time, because our waiter in the hotel where we
had breakfast - which was right on the very edge of the sea - he was killed. But we were all on the

TONY HESELEV: The downstairs was totally devastated, you know, and had we stayed down there, well,
who knows? But we went upstairs and we were able to see the wave come in, and we just got up there
in time.

SAM HESELEV: I wasn't really scared at first, but then everyone started screaming and running up to
our room, and I just panicked.

ROSIE HESELEV: I went up the roof and I could see - there was actually someone stuck in a tree, and
there was someone crying for help, and so the people from the hotel was down in the water actually
helping people, and it was really scary up there.

SIAN HUGHES: I went into doctor mode. I just went back to work for three days. It was my children
who were really brave and really tolerated not only having survived a tsunami, but not having their
mother with them.

MICK BUNWORTH: Dr Hughes, a Melbourne pediatrician, was joined by two other tourists with limited
medical knowledge. They set up a makeshift hospital in a small hotel which had survived the

SIAN HUGHES: We asked everybody in the complex to give us whatever medical supplies they had, and
most tourists do carry a small medical kit with them, and we got quite a few supplies. We had
antibiotics, we had painkillers and we had disinfectants, which is really what we needed, and
sterilising solutions to put onto wounds as well, antiseptics. We did manage to get enough. When we
did return short of antiseptics, we were actually using scent to spray on the wounds to try and get
them clean.

TONY HESELEV: She's that sort of person. She always give 100 per cent of herself, and we were very
proud with what she was able to do, although we would have to say that, selfishly, we missed her a
hell of a lot during those three days.

MICK BUNWORTH: The children put their own trauma behind them and decided to help their mum at the

SAM HESELEV: Well, there were a lot of people with cuts. There was a lot of barbed wire around, so
a lot of people with cuts, and me and Rosie were tearing up sheets for bandages. We tore up
hundreds, yeah. Matilda especially was a great help with mum. She stayed around and got things for
her like cream.

MICK BUNWORTH: While they survived the tsunami uninjured, Dr Hughes' children are not without their
own scars.

ROSIE HESELEV: Well, at night I still get a bit freaked, but I try and get over it.

MICK BUNWORTH: But their trauma is minor in comparison to the Unawatuna community, who showed
incredible care for them when it was feared that the Australian family might have perished in the

TONY HESELEV: We came across some Muslim boys. So friendly, so fantastically welcoming, and they
were really nice guys. About 20, 22, about four or five of them. Played cricket with them on the
beach. We rang 'em later, and they said on the Sunday night, the Boxing Day night, they actually
came down to Unawatuna to look for us. I mean, you can imagine trying to actually get in there
would've been so hard, yet they went out of their way to try and find us.

MICK BUNWORTH: Dr Hughes and her family are now determined to help the people of Unawatuna rebuild
their lives, but good intentions will be difficult to act upon.

SIAN HUGHES: It's not an easy issue. I mean, there's lots of issues with setting up charities and
how we can get the money. Although Friends of Unawatuna has been established in the UK, I'm looking
at how to establish an Australian branch or whether we donate through a major charity to them in
the UK, and how we go about organising the infrastructure on the ground.

MICK BUNWORTH: Doctors John Hodgeson and Andrew Ramsay, principals of Melbourne's Coolaroo Clinic,
where Dr Hughes works, have agreed to set up a long-term assistance package for Unawatuna. But
first, a new medical clinic will need to be built.

MAN: There's things like needles and syringes and crepe bandages...

MAN: And maybe even have some interchange with the doctors themselves, like you'd have like an
exchange situation, where we could swap over. Would you see that working at all?

MAN: Yeah - you'd have to be a bit careful, I suppose, in what we thought we were actually going to
do. We'd actually go there, I suppose, to educate doctors.

MICK BUNWORTH: The Australian Government's Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Horvath, is
responsible for coordinating Australian medical assistance to tsunami-hit countries. He says he can
only respond to requests from the governments of those nations.

we've got to be very alert to is that you need a lot of support to deliver the type of care you
give. It's hard to know what the reconstruction of each of these areas is going to take, and which
of the countries will take primary responsibility for helping each of the communities.

MICK BUNWORTH: Dr Hughes' fear is that her adopted community of Unawatuna is not on the Sri Lankan
Government's radar and will miss out.

SIAN HUGHES: We saw very little support in the first 36 hours that we were there, and as I said,
the Sri Lankan people don't depend on government hand-outs for their existence, and we really feel
that we need to focus on this particular village and make sure that they get the support and the
help that we can give them.

MICK BUNWORTH: If Dr Hughes, her colleagues, family and friends can do that, the effects might
extend well beyond one village.

MAXINE McKEW: Mick Bunworth reporting there.