A review by humedica doctor Thomas Katzenbach

by Thomas Katzenbach/LKO,  2015/06/09

Initially, humedica doctor Thomas Katzenbach wanted to travel to Romania in the mid of May, in order to treat needy persons in prisons and children’s homes there. But then, everything turned out differently:

“The two-week humedica operation in Romania had been planned long ago, but completely unexpectedly it had been cancelled because of problems about our work permits. When two days later a heavy earthquake shook Nepal, it was clear to me that it was time for something else. And immediately, the humedica headquarters were demanding if I couldn’t fly to Nepal as a medical coordinator in a few hours. I didn’t have much time to decide, but I felt that it was right to go. On the next morning I was sitting in the plane, heading for Kathmandu.

Already at our approach for the landing I discovered colored spots, which I couldn’t classify, everywhere in the mountains, in the small villages and in the capital. Only when we got nearer I noticed that they were tents and plastic foils of the people who had become unsheltered. Even if in Kathmandu itself “only” ten to 15 percent of all buildings had been damaged or destroyed, that is quite a lot. In the rural areas the destruction is much higher, with up to 90 percent.

It is hardly imaginable, but no matter where you go in Nepal, there are only debris on the left and the right sides of the roads and in between those who have survived are looking for shelter in tents, under plastic foils or in makeshift sheds. In the hospitals, the corridors, terraces and gardens are full of severely injured patients.

Everywhere, there are homeless people, and this happens just now when the monsoon season starts, during which it will rain cats and dogs for two or three months. Many of them have lost everything and hardly any possibility to rebuild their house with their own, empty hands.

One of our first tasks there was the care for the hospital in the village Jalbire, for which humedica has been given the responsibility. As they have lost everything themselves, the clinic staff is living in tents next to the building now, in order to be able to help the others around the clock.

And even if the most injured had already been flown to Kathmandu by helicopter, we met patients with serious injuries every day. Like this young man, who had been seriously injured on both legs during the second earthquake and had been lying on the ground for two days before being found and carried to us.

During a meeting at the Ministry of Health we suddenly received an urgent demand for medical help in isolated mountain villages near the Tibetan border. As the people in this region didn’t have any medical care, we immediately decided to go there, in order to help them. Thus, my colleague Dr. Margrit Wille and I left immediately the next morning for a dangerous and hours-lasting trip to the north.

There we had to cross a suspension bridge over a 160 m deep gorge and then upwards for about half an hour into a village where we had put up our treatment tent. All houses in this village of 200 inhabitants had been destroyed by the quake; the people were facing ruin and our help was urgently needed. Many people came from villages which were four or five hours on foot away to be treated, so that we were able to treat several hundreds of ill and injured persons within a few days.

Already on the first day, there was a crying mother amongst the patients, who brought us her four-year-old child on her outstretched arms. First we thought that the child was sleeping, but then we noticed that it was in a coma and didn’t practically show any pupillary reflexes any more. Without any intensive medical care the girl would have died within little time. As we didn’t have any other alternatives, we only could put our bus at their disposal, give them money for the treatment and hope and pray that the little one would survive the four-hour trip to Kathmandu.

The next days passed, we worked hard and treated as many people as possible. The day before I returned home, I looked for the girl and her parents in the hospital in Kathmandu. I found them after a short time – she had survived and she was well. Thank god! Now, I also knew the girl’s name, which I hadn’t heard in all the hectic of our first meeting: She is called Esther.

On the whole, this has been an intensive and risky operation. During the night, in our tents we repeatedly heard avalanches of rocks coming down nearby. Moreover, there were different kinds of animals and the permanent danger of infection due to the catastrophic hygiene circumstances around us.

But at the same time, it has also been a very effective operation, during which we have been able to help many people, to ease their pain and to offer them some hope and solidarity. It was impressing, how great the heartiness and thankfulness of the people were, despite their distress. I am very grateful that I could be part of it!”

The word of humedica doctor Thomas Katzenbach show, how big the distress of the Nepalese is, even six weeks after the earthquake. Many months will pass, until the poor Himalayan state will have recovered. humedica accompanies the victims on their way back to everyday life, by organizing comprehensive reconstruction projects and distributions of aid supplies. Become part of this commitment and support our help with a directed donation. Thank you very much!

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