HARD BRUCE STLER THE FOUNDER OF YEMENI AMERICAN MEDICAL RELATIONSHIP TO SERVE THE OSTRACIZED [Archives:1999/45/Health]
Second of two parts
Dr. Yasin Al-Qubati,
Director of the National Leprosy
Skin & Venereal Diseases Hospital, Taiz
He arranged for attendance of a training course on leprosy at the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana for Dr. Roshdi Mohareb from Egypt and me. He also went to Germany and held discussions with the headquarters of German Leprosy Relief Association in Wurzburg to support the leprosy control activities in Yemen.
Then, in December 1994, Bruce and Marian visited Yemen again. During this visit he rendered his services for leprosy patients and trained the junior ophthalmologists in Sana’a, Taiz and other cities. In addition to that, he also visited the people in different inaccessible villages in the rural areas to asses the situation relating to other eye problems.
Bruce continued to help leprosy patients in Yemen through his visits, as well as providing equipment and different drugs.
Bruce and Marian visited the Al-Noor City again for one month in December 1988 along with Dr. David Heiden. They also started another project for help of Sowda patients in the Taiz province. He visited the American Embassy and the American International Development Program (AID) in Sana’a soliciting their help to eradicate leprosy through PL-480 (the international agreement for American rice and wheat). Plans for another project involving the construction of a skin and eye hospital in Al-Noor City by the University of California were also initiated.
In 1989, Bruce’s efforts in fighting leprosy in Yemen were crowned with success when an agreement between the Ministry of Public Health – Republic of Yemen and the German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA) Ð Wurzburg – Germany was signed in this field.
After the unification of Yemen, on 30th May 1990, Bruce held a meeting in Washington with the Director of State Department of A.I.D., Mr. P. H. Deinken and the Architect, Mr. M.J. Griffiths who was appointed by Bruce to design a plan for the new skin and eye hospital in Taiz. The participants voiced their concern for the increasing incidence of corruption in Yemen. However, Bruce convinced them that I was a powerful crusader who could stand as a barrier against corruption for the success of the project. An agreement was drafted, feasibility study maps were drawn, and a budget was allocated from the PL-480. But the frankenstein of corruption became so overpowering in the country that after three years Bruce had to pay for the cost of the architect himself.
His last visit to Yemen was on 2nd June 1991 with two of his colleagues. He went to the so called Southern Yemen and worked under very difficult conditions in Hadramout; using kerosene lamp for conducting external eye surgeries. 151 leprosy patients from Taiz, 19 from Mukalla and 9 from Wadi Dawaan in Hadramout were treated. When he left, he donated equipment and instruments worth USD 7,015 for the Al-Noor City leprosy hospital. In July 1991 Bruce financed a scholarship to Dr. Al Amrani, a junior ophthalmologist from Taiz for attending a short training course on Ophthalmology in San Francisco.
Inspired by his letters to finalize the skin and eye hospital project, I did my best and traveled many times between Taiz and Sana’a to finalize the project. However, it failed to take off specially after the termination of the USA A.I.D. projects in Yemen and the PL-480.
Then in 1993, I met him while attending the International Leprosy Congress in Orlando, Florida. I noticed that his health had run down Ð considerably as evident from his frequent coughing even at rest.
On 3rd April 1994 Bruce sent a letter to me informing me about his ill health and that he had undergone several investigations confirming diagnosis of progressive pulmonary fibrosis. He seemed to be losing hope of a cure but at the same time expressing the hope that he would be cured. Still he did not lose his sense of humor. In one of the paragraphs he mentioned that he had less cough and that he was sad because with an eighty percent capacity of his lung he could not run a marathon race. To me it seemed as if he wrote this letter under the obsession of his memories of the pigeon race. He also mentioned that he had delegated his duties to Dr. David Heiden. Finally, he remembered his Easter Sunday in 1982 when he was in the Al-Noor City Hospital comparing it to the day of his writing that letter.
On one of the darkest days of Civil War in Yemen, the telephone bell rang. It was Bruce! As soon as he heard about the war on the television, he called me to ensure that we were all right. That was for the last time I heard Bruce! On 6th May 1994 Bruce passed away leaving unforgettable memories about him, his love for this country and his indelible impressions in our hearts.