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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 17:56 GMT
Quake survivor amazes doctors
By Zulfikar Ali
BBC News, Kamsar camp, Pakistan-administered Kashmir

Naqsha Bibi
Naqsha's muscles have stiffened in the foetal position she was found in
Doctors say it is a miracle.

Naqsha Bibi, 40, was recovered alive from the debris of a collapsed house in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 10 December.

The unexpected rescue came more than two months after the 8 October earthquake destroyed large parts of Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir and northern areas in Pakistan.

Naqsha Bibi, now under hospital treatment, is suffering from muscle stiffness and is so weak that she can barely talk.

She weighs under 35kg - about half the weight of an average woman her size.

But since being brought to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, she has been put on a liquid diet and is showing signs of recovery.

Doctors say that on Tuesday morning she gave them a smile.


"We were not even looking for her," says Faiz Din, her cousin who found her.

Faiz Din, who rescued Naqsha, giving an interview to the BBC correspondent
Faiz Din, Naqsha's cousin, accidentally found her in the debris

Naqsha Bibi and her family are residents of the Kamsar refugee camp some six kilometres from Muzaffarabad.

The camp was set up in 1990 for people from Indian-controlled Kashmir trapped on this side when borders were closed amid rising tensions between Pakistan and India.

Her family included a brother and their father - their mother had died before they entered Pakistan-administered territory.

Faiz Din says both her father's legs were broken in the earthquake and he was flown to Islamabad aboard a rescue helicopter within a week after the quake.

Her brother went with their father as an attendant.

"At that time, we thought Naqsha had either fallen down the hill or gone to live in some relief camp in the city," says Faiz Din.

Part of the hill that houses the Kamsar camp had collapsed into the river below.

Anyone who was not found immediately was thought to have fallen with the crumbling hillside and died.

"Frankly, we were all so busy taking care of our own families that no one was thinking of the house next door," Faiz Din says.


It seems that Naqsha was trapped in her kitchen when her small house collapsed around her.

A Pakistani paramedic takes care of Naqsha who lies in a hospital in Muzaffarabad
Naqsha is on a liquid diet but too weak to talk

The space where she was found was not even big enough for her to stretch her arms or legs.

Over the 63 days that she spent in this grave of sorts - her muscles frozen in a crouching position.

Even on the hospital bed now, she maintains her embryonic position and doctors say she will need extensive physiotherapy to return to her normal self again.

What remains a mystery - at least till Naqsha Bibi is able to tell her story - is how she managed to survive for so long.

Faiz Din says there were some traces of food, most of it rotting, in the kitchen when he found her.

The air in the tiny space was fresh, which implies that some airway must have remained open through the debris.

And there was a trickle of water on one side of the kitchen, probably from one of several tiny streams that dot the Kamsar area.

"We started clearing the debris of her house on 10 December, mainly to pull the iron sheets off the collapsed roof to build ourselves a shelter," says Faiz Din.

"But as we cleared one side of the house, some of the debris fell away exposing the cavity where she was holed up."


Naqsha's nightmare, however, was not immediately over.

The debris of Naqsha's house in Kamsar camp
Naqsha's collapsed house where she was stuck in the kitchen

"We first thought she was dead but she opened her eyes as we were pulling her out," says Faiz.

Naqsha was unable to respond to repeated offerings of food and water.

Apparently, her condition convinced her rescuers that she was on the verge of death.

That was why Faiz Din didn't take her to a doctor immediately despite being so close to Muzaffarabad.

"We thought she was going to die any moment," he says.

"So we just put her inside a tent and let her be."

Two days later when a team of German doctors visited the Kamsar camp, they were told about Naqsha Bibi.

They contacted the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) who sent Dr Hafeezur Rehman to bring Naqsha to Muzaffarabad.


At Muzaffarabad's PIMA medical camp, Naqsha was examined by a Danish doctor of Pakistani origin, Mariam Bashir.

"She seemed to be physically stable but in shock," Dr Bashir told the BBC.

Collapsed shelters at Kamsar camp, where Naqsha lived
Part of Kamsar camp had collapsed into the river below

The first challenge for the doctors was to feed her.

Starting intravenously, they moved within hours to a liquid diet and were greatly encouraged by her body's response to nutrition.

On 13 December, a psychiatrist spent three hours with her checking her responses and said she was able to understand most of his requests.

But she was still unable to carry out even simple tasks such as sticking out her tongue or speaking.

PIMA now plans to bring in a physiotherapist to help revive her limbs which are still stiff.

Most of the doctors are now convinced that given the right treatment Naqsha may be able to lead a normal life once again.

Dr Abdul Hamid was one of the doctors treating Naqsha.

When asked how someone could possibly survive for such a long time, he said, "medical science may struggle to accept it but there are miracles in this world, you know."


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