'It was heartrending' - James Paget Hospital medical team returns from Nepal
PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 June 2015
Archant Norfolk © 2015
A medical team has told of the devastation they worked amongst in earthquake struck Nepal - and have made an emotional call for the disaster not to be forgotten about.
General surgeon Kamal Aryal led the four-strong team of professionals from the James Paget University Hospital who travelled to the disaster zone to carry out life saving surgeries and treatments.
Mr Aryal, who was born in Nepal and trained in the capital Kathmandu, was joined by anaesthetist Andreas Brodbeck and orthopaedic surgeons Mike Flores and Emeka Nnene on the 10 day mercy mission. The team were able to fly out just a week after the first earthquake struck and were still in the country when the second hit, causing even more damage.
They were based at the Kirtipur Hospital in Kathmandu, which escaped unscathed from both quakes, but was working “beyond its capacity” as so many wounded were brought into its wards.
Mr Aryal said: “That hospital is used to taking 40 patients at a time, when we were there it had to take about 150.”
He said as their plane landed the view did not look too bad but as soon as they stepped outside the devastation quickly became apparent.
“There was a lot of tents in the open space and most of the shops were closed. Kathmandu looked very quiet in the street, it used to be very busy. We could see many houses, which had either crumpled down or broken,” he added.
Upon arrival the team immediately got to work, attending to trauma patients who had suffered fractures, some which were severe, to their upper and lower limbs, back and chest. They also treated open wounds, many of which had become dirty as locals had walked for miles to get treatment.
Mr Flores said: “Many of those patients had walked for many, many days to reach the hospital; there were some that had walked for 10 days.
“And it was heartrending to see people who were hugely disadvantaged because of their injuries but very stoic people who were not complaining.”
For Mr Aryal, whose family still live in Nepal, the medical mission was particularly emotional, especially when they visited the rural epicentre of the first earthquake.
“My sister’s house was damaged and the village where I was born was completely effected, and in my maternal village my uncle’s house was completely destroyed. That was very difficult to see,” he added. “I’m very grateful to my colleagues who came along, they helped me disseminate the pain and sorrow I had.”
The team said there was a resilience among the locals but when the second quake struck it brought back everyone’s fears and people “emptied onto the streets.”
They said it was now important to keep the disaster on the international agenda, especially as the monsoon season is about to hit as the country begins the slow process of rebuilding. “It will take several months or years and a lot of resources,” Mr Aryal added.
They also thanked their JPH colleagues for stepping in when they were gone, chief executive Christine Allen and charity Nepal in Need which funded the trip.