'50 Feet from Syria': Documentary chronicles Portland doctor's j - KPTV - FOX 12

'50 Feet from Syria': Documentary chronicles Portland doctor's journey

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Dr. Hisham Bismar Dr. Hisham Bismar
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

It is estimated that as many as 4 million Syrians have fled their country because of the civil war.

Many have gone into refugee camps in neighboring Turkey, which has set up some make-shift hospitals along the border.

A Portland doctor originally from Syria went to one of those "hospitals" recently to try and help.

Dr. Hisham Bismar is an orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente.

Here he deals with injuries and chronic problems, including arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

In Turkey, on the Syrian border, his patients were more often than not victims of the conflict, wounded by shrapnel, barrel bombs, bullets or even a building that collapsed on top of them.

The injuries were always multiple and complex.

"Lots of missing extremities," Bismar said. "I would say it was extremely rare to see someone, a patient, who comes in with just a simple injury, broken bone."

Bismar is the subject of a new documentary called "50 feet from Syria."

He says he saw many refugees who had been injured for years and had gone untreated for years.

A few were demonstrators who oppose the Assad government, but the vast majority were innocent victims

"Had a lot of actually injuries in kids, I was really surprised by that," he said.

Bismar grew up in Damascus, Syria, left for school in the U.S. when he was 18 and has lived and worked here ever since.

He said to be in Turkey, so close to the border that he could see Syria, took him back to his past.

"In some way it was just exciting to see the land where I grew up," he said.

His personal history is of course why he wanted to help, but Bismar SAID he doesn't think he always lived up to the refugees' expectations:

"They heard I'm a hand surgeon, they have bad problems with their hands, they come expecting it's going to be fixed, it's going to be normal and a lot of times I had to turn people away because it was really beyond fixation," he said.

The rehab and follow-up these refugee patients need may also be non-existent.

It is the individuals Bismar met that he cares about, but also his former country which he now says is becoming more and more like Afghanistan or Somalia.

"Now you have a failed state in the Middle East right on the border of Europe. What are you going to do with that?" he said.

Bismar would still like to go back, but he says the situation on the border is more dangerous now than ever.

The film "50 feet from Syria" will show Thursday night at the Portland Art Museum.

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