On September 19, 1985, Dr. Francisco Bucio was getting dressed for work. His room-mate, Angel Alcantara, was combing his hair. Both Francisco and Angel were doctors in Mexico City. They lived and worked together on the fourth floor of General Hospital. Suddenly the hospital began to shake. “Earthquake!” Francisco said. The hospital shook and shook. Then the hospital collapsed. Francisco and Angel fell four floors to the ground below. Three floors of hospital fell on top of them. The doctors were trapped under a mountain of steel and concrete.
“Angel!” Francisco called to his friend. Angel moaned in pain. Then he was silent. Francisco knew that his friend was died.
Francisco wanted to cry because his friend was died. But he told himself, “Keep calm.” That he realised that his right hand was hurt. “Oh, no; oh, no!” Francisco cried. “I can’t lose my right hand. My right hand is my future.”
For the next four
days, Francisco was trapped under the hospital. Every twelve hours, Angel’s watch beeped at exactly 7:30. “Angel’s watch helped me,” Francisco said. “I new what day it was. But I wondered about my family. Where they safe? And I wondered about Mexico City.”
On the third day, Francisco became very thirsty. He dreamed of rivers with no water. He dreamed of ships on dry land.
Then, on the fourth day, rescue workers found Francisco. His right hand was trapped under concrete. Rescue workers wanted to cut off Francisco’s hand. “No!” said Francisco.
When rescue workers carried Francisco out of the hospital, he still had his hand. But four fingers were badly crushed. Doctors had to cut off all four fingers on Francisco’s right hand. Only his thumb remained. During next months, Francisco had five operations on his hand. His hand looked better, but it didn’t work well. Francisco wanted to be a surgeon. But he needed his right hand to operate on patients.
Then Francisco heard about surgeon in California who was an expert in hand surgery. Six month after the earthquake, the surgeon operated on Francisco. He cut off two of Francisco’s toes and sewed the toes on Francisco’s hand. The toes became new fingers for Francisco, and the new fingers worked well.
A year later, Francisco returned to surgeon in California who had operated on him. He didn’t go back as a patient; he went back as a student. Francisco wanted to be expert surgeon, and his doctor was and expert. Francisco studied with his doctor for three month. Then he returned to Mexico and became a plastic surgeon.
“I know how patients feel,” Dr. Bucio said. “I can sympathise and understand. I had six operations, and so much pain – too much pain. Sometimes people joke. They say I’m the surgeon who operates with his feet. OK, my hand isn’t beautiful, but I like it. It works.”