Quake victim sacrifices right leg to live

PORAC, Pampanga -- It was a regular Monday for Maria Lourdes Martin as she tended to a small cellphone stall at the ground floor of Chuzon Supermarket in Barangay Babo Sacan. Little did she know that a few hours later, she would need to sacrifice one of her limbs for a chance to live.

Martin, 25, has been working as a cellphone vendor for almost two years. Few customers visited her shop that day. When she was about to close shop, tragedy struck.

At 5:11 p.m., a magnitude 6.1 earthquake jolted Porac town, sending a few weak houses down and destroying the belfry of the nearby Saint Catherine of Alexandria church.

Inside Chuzon Supermarket, Martin felt the earthquake like a rumbling of earth and stone. There were shouts all around her as customers and employees tried to flee. Martin tried to run to the nearest exit but was pinned down to the ground. Then there was silence.

In just about 30 seconds, the four-storey Chuzon Supermarket was reduced to rubble as its floors collapsed. Only the fourth floor was left, but it was barely intact.

First responders who arrived at the horrific scene knew that there were casualties inside the Chuzon rubble. Fortunately, there were signs of life. They heard shouts and banging from the rubble, which means there were survivors -- and one of them was Martin.

After a few disorienting moments, Martin tried to assess her situation. She could not move. Her right leg was trapped under something heavy and she felt pain when she tried to yank it. All around her was rubble of concrete and steel.

She was alive but could not get out. Panic struck her as she shouted for help and cried.

"I saw something that resembled a knife and for a moment, I contemplated on cutting my own leg just to get out," Martin said.

It was a miracle that she was even alive, for the possibility of surviving at the ground floor of the collapsed supermarket was slim. When first responders found her after three hours, they saw Martin's right leg pinned down by parts of a concrete beam. Extricating her whole body was difficult and would prove dangerous for her, as she was already losing blood. If the responders have not found her in time, she would not have made it.

It was then that doctors told her that they would need to cut off her leg to get her out of the rubble. It was a rhetorical question and her answer was merely for formality for there was no other way. Medical center chief Dr. Monserrat Chichioco of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital said that Martin's right leg had to be removed for her to survive.

"I agreed because I wanted to live for my family," Martin added.

The rescue team amputated Martin in the rubble site and she was immediately rushed to the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital for follow-up procedures.

Recalling her ordeal, Martin said she was thankful to God and her rescuers for her second chance at life.

Martin is one of nine survivors who were rescued by first responders at ground zero of the Chuzon rubble as of Wednesday, April 24.


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