Paul Auerbach is in Nepal to aid victims of the recent earthquake and has been sending periodic reports.
The earthquake in Nepal caused immense damage to people and property not only in Kathmandu, but in a widespread area extending to Mt. Everest and in many other directions. Victims on Mt. Everest and in Kathmandu proper appropriately received a great deal of attention, but equally important has been the plight of persons trapped in villages remote from the big city. These communities are located in steep and isolated terrain, so that it is difficult to reach them by road, and sometimes even by helicopter. Part of the mission of International Medical Corps (IMC) and the other responding organizations has been to identify these areas of need and attempt to locate and treat the victims.
We continue to see improvement each day, and the number of volunteers from around the world is impressive
After a discussion with three health officials - the senior district health officer for Dhading, a pediatrician assigned to lead the district medical response to the earthquake, and the medical supervisor for the Dharding District Hospital, we were asked to consider finding a way to approach one of several villages that were reported to have urgent medical needs, but which had not yet been visited by rescuers and medical professionals. We selected Kumpur, a rugged 90-minute approach requiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We excluded others that required helicopter access, because these aircraft have been in short supply.
At the Dhading District Hospital, we witnessed arrival of a dozen earthquake victims choppered in from Darkha, which is at a high elevation in this region. They were suffering from trauma, with broken limbs and wounds in various stages of infection. The Nepalese doctors who volunteered their time by leaving Bangladesh to respond at the request of IMC, alongside a (literally) busload of surgeons and other medical professionals volunteering from India were skilled and swift in delivering treatment despite the limited resources and surge of patients.
The next day, we took a team into Kumpur and witnessed widespread destruction amid the beautiful surroundings. Many dwellings composed of mud and stone had collapsed, and the residents are now living in tents. With the monsoon season approaching, they will need assistance to rapidly create more suitable structures. They were busy clearing the remains of their homes and other structures, but always gave us a smile and a greeting. Their resilience and work ethic are amazing.
The health outpost has been rendered largely unusable, with large cracks in its side, holes in the wall, and instability in every direction. So, we worked mostly in the single safe room remaining and on the porch leading to the entryway. With a stellar support team, including two recently graduated doctors from Nepal, we were able to interview and examine many of the villagers, dealing with complaints both related to injuries sustained in the earthquake and medical conditions for which they sought advice.
As the days pass, fewer patients will present with acute earthquake-related injuries, and the medical care will shift to resumption of adequate primary care, surgeries related to orthopedic and soft tissue injuries, and aggressive detection and management of infectious diseases that might cause an epidemic. Public-health experts are on-scene, as are epidemiologists and other experts in sanitation systems, water disinfection, and so forth. Given the large geographic area affected by the earthquake and difficulty reaching many locations, the logistics are extremely important.
We continue to see improvement each day, and the number of volunteers from around the world is impressive. We hope for the best and appreciate all the support we’ve received from family and friends.
Paul Auerbach, MD, is a professor and chief of emergency medicine who works with the Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response (SEMPER).
Click here for a statement on Nepal from Michele Barry, MD, senior associate dean of global health and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health (CIGH). Additional updates related to the Stanford relief efforts will be shared on the CIGH website in the coming days and weeks.