Diary of doctor Rebecca - written on April 30, 2015
At 11:56 (local time) a 7,8- magnitude earthquake strikes, northeast of Kathmandu, the epicentre being in Lamjung. This is the worsed and most fatal catastrophe in Nepal since 1934.
Our Organization asks my college Josh and myself, to support a medical emergency team in Pokhara. Invited by the Nepalese government itself, they put together a relief intervention in Gorkha. Gorkha is near the epicentre and badly hit by the earthquake on Saturday.
At 5am we meet with 10 different people of the medical aid team. The team leader drives us over to Gorkha in a Jeep. Next to me a media correspondent has taken his seat. He is constantly talking on the phone, trying to get all the news out to BBC, CNN and other important news sources. This is a completely new perspective for me.
We set up 2 external clinics in 2 different villages. By foot they are both a couple hours away from Gorkha. There are 4 pediatricians responsible for about 400 patients.
We spend the night under a large makeshift tarp at the Gorkha Army Camp.
After a meeting with our teamleader and the health officials it is decided, to send a team for medical aid via helicoptopter a remote part of the Gorkha region. After they finish their job there, they were supposed to hike back to this centre. Josh and I were chosen for this job. Quickly packing up the bags, 20 minutes later we were on our way to the helicopter landing pad. There we have to wait for about 3 hours till an helicopter is available. While we wait, reporters from Financal Times, Associated Press, Du Mode and The Guardian are all interviewing us. And I realize again, I have never before been in such a situation.
At 1:15 we take off, along with us a Nepali reporter and a young women, who is trying to get back to her village, which we are flying to. Her name is Urmila and she explains a lot of details about her culture, which becomes a huge help and true treasure for us. On our way we take aerial pictures of villages we pass by, that are totally destroyed by the earthquake.
Due to bad weather conditions and poor sight, our pilot is forced to land on a peak of a mountain, about halfway of our journey. There we wait for better weather conditions. After about an hour the sight is clear and we continue our journey. Finally we reach our destination. There we stand face to face with about seventy villagers, who unfortunately without success are trying to cover their heads up with jute sacks to hide from the rain. We see, that there is practically no roof available for them to hide under. After a while some villagers decide to take us to the former health center of Keraunja.This used to be the only healthcare center before the earthquake, by foot about six hours away. There are no roads and no vehicles around in this area. First of all we take care of the patients.
With growing anxiety we look at the situation. Through landslide risk, caused by the heavy rain, the few available ways become more and more dangerous. We are looking for a new solution to get back to the base camp. But without mobile network and dwindling battery power, we are unable to contact the base team in Gorkha.
Its still raining. We are not sure, if and where we could spend the night. So we are all really excited, when we find some pads, mats and blankets, that were delivered by the helicopter. Never before have I experienced such joy over these well needed things. A laughter of relief comes out of my mouth when I see the content of this plastic bag. It was so good that we didnt have to sleep with the leeches in the mud. It really hurts us, that this is the reality for the earthquake victims. There truly is no other spot to lay down. A few ladies cooked a small meal Dal Bhat (rice and lentils) over an outdoor fire. After the meal we layed down with a few members of local family under the pad and tried to get some sleep.
At 6 a clock we hike up the hill as planned before and finally can contact the rest of our team in Ghorka. We share with them about the situation here. An helicopter is coming in to evacuate us and three other patients. Before we fly out we are asked by the villagers to come down the mountain and give medical help to the locals there.
I take care of two other patients with severe crush injuries and I am convinced, they need to be evacuated. All of a sudden we see an Indian Army helicopter circle over our heads and finally landing at the bottom of the hill. Since we have no possibility to contact them via phone or radio, we ran down the hill to make sure to inform them about the situation here, before they leave supplies and take off again. Its not easy to communicate clearly what we want, but somehow we manage to express ourself in a way, that the pilots understand the need. We also get new information on five other patients and are able to bring them here. We all fit into the helicopter. So we start our journey back to Pokahara and arrive at 12:30, less then 24 hours after passed, since we left our base in Gorkha Bazar. But it feels like a whole year.
During this totally surreal and bizzare time period I feel pulled into two different emotional extremes - on one side there is a real fear and worry about my physical security inmidst the crisis. On the other side I have the assurance, that I am totally safe and are hold firmly by the hand of the almighty God.