When they told Mustafa* that he had been buried alive for more than seven days, he simply could not believe it. “No,” he groaned in confusion. “It’s only been one day.” As he spoke, a small tear formed a path along his debris-dusted cheek. His body was emaciated, dehydrated, and injured—making each movement agonizingly painful. His uncle who had brought him into the hospital rubbed his feet and tried to warm him. A local interpreter slowly poured water into his dried, cracked lips.
Astonished that he was alive, the Samaritan’s Purse medical team quickly began examining the 14-year-old boy while hooking him up to an IV and monitoring his vital signs closely. While the worst was over, Mustafa had only just begun the long road to recovery.
On Feb. 13, Samaritan’s Purse officially began receiving patients at our Emergency Field Hospital located in Antakya, Turkey—one of the hardest hit areas of the previous week’s catastrophic earthquakes. As reports of death tolls reached into the tens of thousands and communities were robbed of their local healthcare system, we deployed nearly 100 disaster relief specialists to set up and operate one of our largest field hospitals to date. The effort was covered in prayer by concerned believers spanning the globe and in the first 24 hours alone, nearly 80 patients were treated at the facility—including Mustafa.
Mustafa and his family had recently moved into a new home. His mother, father, and three siblings would have never dreamed of the events that Feb. 6 would bring. It was then that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Turkey and stunned the world. The violent tremors crumbled Mustafa’s home in Antakya, with him and his family inside. The hope that any of them had survived seemed all but lost.
“I remember waking up and hearing the birds,” he began. While recounting the early morning of the earthquake, Mustafa’s heart rate began to climb, triggering the hospital heart monitor to beep rapidly. “My father was running towards us, but the building started to fall.” As he spoke, he stared at the tented hospital ceiling with tears welling in his eyes. “At that time, I knew that my father and mother had just died,” Mustafa said.
During the fall of the building, he clutched his 8-year-old’s sister’s hand tightly, working to stay close to her as they plummeted to the ground along with their home. “At first her hand was warm, but then got cold,” he said. “She did not speak at all.” While interpreting this tragic story, a Samaritan’s Purse translator fought back tears of her own as she gently patted Mustafa’s shoulder to comfort him.
He went on to explain that as he lay underneath the rubble, unable to move, he could hear his brother’s voice. They talked with one another for some time, until, eventually, his brother no longer responded. Mustafa realized he had died along with the rest of his family and that he was now alone.
As he lay helpless in the ruins of what was once his life, Mustafa slipped in and out of consciousness. He shared that he dreamt of his family bringing him oranges and honey to eat while saying to him, “Keep calm, they will rescue you.” As the days went by, search-and-rescue efforts took place throughout his neighborhood, but they did not find Mustafa. He was overlooked and felt certain that he would die.
A week after the earthquake, local crews arrived to Mustafa’s house with white body bags, ready to collect the human remains of him and his family. As they began to prepare the equipment to remove the bodies, Mustafa’s uncle heard a faint cry for help. In shock at the possibility of a survivor, the men rushed into and were able to save the teenage boy who at that time was barely alive. “I was so happy,” he shared.
Today, Mustafa is being cared for and loved by the Samaritan’s Purse doctors and nurses who are responding to the devastation in Turkey in Jesus’ Name. Each day, he is making strides towards recovery and is now able to sit up and into a wheelchair. We are hopeful that he will make a full recovery and begin to heal from the trauma of losing his family.
Less than 48 hours after the Emergency Field Hospital opened its’ doors, more than 120 patients have been met with compassion, love, and a willingness to be cared for. As our teams continue to work through winter conditions and long hours, they remember that for thousands of Turks and others in the region, cold nights and exhaustion pale in comparison to the suffering that has been experienced here over the past week and a half.
Please continue to pray for the hearts and souls of those such as Mustafa who are coming to terms with all they have lost due to last week’s earthquakes. Additionally, pray for wisdom and protection over our staff as they selflessly work to exemplify God’s love.
For more from our ongoing response, visit our Turkey earthquake response page.
*Name changed for privacy.
Update (Feb. 15): Mustafa was just discharged from the Emergency Field Hospital. Our team is confident that he will make a full, physical recovery. Internal scars from the trauma of losing his entire immediate family in the earthquake need God’s healing touch. Please continue to pray for Mustafa.
Samaritan's Purse is responding to the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of multiple earthquakes that affected the Middle East. Your support enables Samaritan's Purse to respond in Jesus' Name by assisting people impacted by earthquakes.