Nepal: "We Evacuate Those with Serious Injuries, Earthquake-Related Or Not"

Maila Gurung, 26, is assisted off of a helicopter when returned home to Diol village, Gorkha District, Nepal after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck on April 25.
Brian Sokol/Panos Pictures
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"I was lucky the doctors found me. I was in terrible pain, I thought I would die," said 26-year-old Maila Gurung. "Most of the nearby health posts were destroyed, the only one I could go to was an hour’s walk, but it only offers basic services, and it was closed in the immediate aftermath of the second quake. And, besides, I couldn’t walk."

Gurung’s remote village in Diol is high up in the mountains, isolated from most basic amenities. In fact, he broke his leg when, together with others, he was carrying poles up the mountain in an effort to convince the electricity company to supply them with electricity. But he was unlucky, and a pole fell on him, fracturing his leg. Then the earthquake struck and prevented him from going to the hospital. His family was worried, and the village was devastated.

A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team first reached Diol via helicopter while conducting assessments after the April 25 earthquake. The village is in Gorkha district, which was the epicenter of the quake. “When we conduct assessments and mobile clinics, we treat those that can be treated on the spot, and evacuate those with serious injuries, whether or not their injuries are related to the earthquake,” said Dr. Khalifa.

Lying in a bed at Arughat hospital, run by MSF, Gurung listened to MSF nurse Aloise Vimard explain what he should do when he got home. With the cast on, he could now walk, being careful not to put too much weight on the fractured leg. He will wear the cast for five weeks, during which MSF teams that conduct mobile clinics in the nearby villages will follow up on his recovery and eventually remove the cast.

"I will take care of him—I will cook for him and work in the fields so that he can have a rest and heal,” said Maili, Gurung's wife. Their daughter, Ranjana, plays with her father’s phone beside the examination bed. They accompanied Gurung and stayed with him during his admission. They too were happy he was doing well and excited to get back home.

When the helicopter touched down in Diol village, the community was waiting; excitedly clearing the ground for landing and directing the pilot. They were there to welcome back home one of their own. MSF medical coordinator doctor Hani Khalifa reminded Gurung and his family what he needed to do during the five weeks he would have the cast on: “You must take care of your leg, ensure that the cast does not get wet, and you must eat and eat well.”

Video: Evacuating Patients after Nepal Earthquake

Maila Gurung, 26, is assisted off of a helicopter when returned home to Diol village, Gorkha District, Nepal after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck on April 25.
Brian Sokol/Panos Pictures