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By Marcus Stern
Copley News Service

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Rabia Yousaf survived the killer Oct. 8 South Asia earthquake because she was resting in her mother's lap at the time. The family's collapsing house killed her mother, sister and brother. But her mother's body shielded her from the falling debris, except for her legs.

Two months after the quake, the 3-year-old was sitting in a bed at Children's Hospital in Islamabad. Babbling happily, she seemed oblivious to the death of her mother, brother and sister. And to the amputation of both her legs below the knee.

Muhammad Ahmar lay in another bed. He wasn't physically injured during the quake, but has been catatonic since Oct 8. Doctors here call it shock. A feeding tube keeps him alive as he remains unresponsive.

Both children, with very different problems, are part of a flood of quake- injured children the hospital has treated in the past two months. The day after the quake, 50 arrived. The next day, 100 arrived. Then 100 to 125 arrived every day until the number of quake-injured children it treated reached almost 2,400.

During the early days of the crisis, the hospital staff

added extra beds wherever it could. People from as far
away as Karachi journeyed to Islamabad to provide blood. And the staff worked around the clock. Surgeons flew in from as far away as Cuba to assist.

Two months after the quake, the foreign doctors are beginning to trickle home. The hallways are quieter. But the beds are still full of quake victims. The quake has marked many of them for life. Their children sit by their side 24/7. Some sleep on benches or on the floor by their children's beds.

The injuries are different. Joylessness is the common denominator.

Asghar Hussain cradled his 4-year-old daughter, Nadra, in his arms as he strolled the halls on a recent afternoon. A blanket hung loosely around her bare shoulders, revealing burns over much of her body. A tent fire caused the burns.

Nazir, 12, of Balakot, lay in another bed. His left leg was amputated just below the knee. The third-grader had been in class when the quake hit a little before 9 a.m. A wall collapsed. A large stone from the wall crushed his leg. Doctors had to amputate it.

In the hallway, a man named Shaukat pushed his 2-year-old niece in a stroller. She was dressed in a pink bunny suit. She, too, had been in Balalot when the quake

struck. Because of her age, she was at home, not school. The ceiling caved in, killing five.
The girl, Momna, whimpered as her uncle paused to tell her story. Rescuers pulled her from the rubble 24 hours after the quake. Her scalp had been ripped away, her right hand crushed.

A man named Muhammad Khalid pushed his son, Shoeib, 3, in a stroller. Shoeib dozed quietly as his father explained that the boy had been playing on the veranda of their home in Muzaffarabad when the quake struck. A beam fell from the ceiling, knocking him unconscious. Without disturbing the 3-year-old's quiet slumber, Muhammad lifted his right arm to show the stump where doctors had amputated.

In a nearby room, Komal, 11, stretched her long, very thin limbs while reclined on a bed. She had been on the first floor of a two-story school that pancaked, her mother, Nargus, said. The girl was pulled from the rubble on the second day after the quake. She had lost lots of blood while lying in the rubble, and in the hospital she has lost lots of weight.

Nooraz, 10, sat at her brother's bedside. Sheraz, 6, had been at school. The roof collapsed, breaking his right leg in two places. The boy lay silent as his sister told his story. When she was asked if her brother played cricket, Sheraz broke his silence, saying, "I will play tomorrow."