Yumiko Kurashige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi--At first, her intention was to volunteer. But after helping people in the Tohoku region following the Great East Japan Earthquake, doctor Naoko Ishii decided to relocate to the area to give consultations.
On May 29, Ishii, the director of an internal medicine clinic in Minato Ward, Tokyo, will open a makeshift clinic in Ishinomaki.
Ishii, 50, has visited evacuation centers with her husband, Hajime, 37, who manages an audio equipment distribution company, to help people afflicted by the earthquake.
Hajime recently submitted a change-of-residence registration form to become an Ishinomaki resident, the area that will be his new home.
"We want to join in to recreate a town where those who love their home can live safely," Hajime said.
Right after the massive earthquake hit the Tohoku region, the Ishiis started volunteering in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures and sent relief aid to affected areas.
On March 21, they arrived in Ishinomaki to find the city-run Ogatsu Hospital in the Ogatsucho district was badly damaged and closed.
"We thought we were needed here," said Naoko. They switched their efforts from relief goods shipment to medical support by establishing "Magonote Medical Support Team."
Currently, Naoko consults with patients in evacuation centers, while Hajime, who is an executive officer of their Tokyo clinic, helps with sorting out clinical records.
Evacuees eagerly await Naoko's visits and chat with her over a cup of tea after consultations.
"Despite overcoming unimaginable experiences, people I interact with stay positive. I feel like I'm a member of a big family being surrounded by those people and I feel warm," Naoko said.
It was not one of them, but both Naoko and Hajime that started feeling that they wanted to live with those people and then talked about opening a clinic here.
The couple decided to borrow a storage room of a seafood company for their medical office.
Hajime submitted his change-of-residence registration to move to the city on April 20. Naoko will commute between Tokyo and Ishinomaki for the time being but will soon officially move her home base to Ishinomaki. She will do medical consultations and make home visits a couple of days a week for now in Ishinomaki.
Hiroshi Ito, 74, the president of the seafood company that provided the storage room, said: "I was moved by the couple's determination. If we have a doctor, more people may decide to stay in the district."
Takiko Sato, 78, who has received medical treatment from Naoko, said, "I was thinking of moving to the center of the city. But if she's staying, I'd like to stay, too."
Hajime said he was thankful many people have accepted the couple.
"We want to support restoration of the area," Hajime said.
Said Naoko: "In the future, we'd like to collect donations to open a full-fledged hospital and increase the number of doctors."
(May. 12, 2011)