A COUPLE of hours before dawn on the first morning of her Bali holiday, Linda Hogg was woken by a phone call from her daughter.
There were reports in Australia of an explosion in Bali, she was told. Ms Hogg passed the phone to husband John and turned on the TV, where reports of destruction at the Sari Club were playing.
As Dr Hogg, a surgeon from Wollongong, phoned Denpasar’s Sanglah Hospital and offered help, neither had a sense of the scale of injury that they had themselves only narrowly avoided.
Ms Hogg, who was born in Indonesia and volunteers at a Bali charity for disabled children, had brought her husband on his first trip to Bali for her birthday.
“I was going to take [John] to the Sari Club but, a few days before we left, my mother decided she wanted to come with us,” she said. They had a quiet meal instead.
When the couple arrived at the hospital the stillness belied a horrific scene.
“It was incredibly quiet, it was very eerie,” Ms Hogg, a paediatric physiotherapist, recalled.
They found ward after ward of mutilated people, some with burns to up to 80 per cent of their bodies. She began compiling a list of patients.
“People were starting to come into the hospital looking for their loved ones,” she said. “They’d woken up in the morning and realised that their bed was empty.”
John started stabilising burns patients so they could be transported to Australia for treatment.
“A lot of [Indonesian doctors] don’t understand those sorts of burns, with 60-80 per cent burns usually you die there,” John said.
He and other Australian and expat doctors improvised among chaos: “We were able to find scalpel blades but not handles; we were just holding the blades between our fingers.”
Over the course of a day, Dr Hogg travelled to half-a-dozen local hospitals: “I would have seen upward of 200 to 300 people.”
Locals aided in the crush, too, by constantly collecting supplies.
“They’d tie someone to their bicycle to bring them in to the hospital, or sat nursing someone while they died,” Linda said. “You have no idea what these amazing people went through because they just wanted to be of help.”
As John helped people hang on to life, Linda went to the morgue and helped to identify the dead.
“I was trying to find something a relative would recognise,” she said. She examined torn rugby jerseys and photographed jewellery and tattoos, trying to put names and faces together. ”It was horrific. There were so many young ones.”
Both drew inspiration from the bravery the injured showed despite excruciating pain and little anaesthesia.
“The wounded people were very stoical,” John said.
But Linda lived with doubts about whether saving people so horrifically injured was futile.
“In Indonesia, they looked at them and said: ‘Anyone with 70 to 80 per cent burns, make them comfortable and let them go to peace.'”
But those fears were quelled by the stories of the survivors whom she’d put on stretchers and accompanied on their way to emergency flights back to Australia. “It makes me feel much better to know they’re getting on with life,” Linda said.
“To see them having children, leading lives, having jobs is wonderful.”
The couple, who’d worked separately all day, finally met at the airbase where the injured lay on stretchers under tents.
“I remember getting back to the hotel and walking into the sea in my stinking clothing to wash off the feeling,” John said. “The sun was just rising, the surf breaking on a distant reef.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.