Mumbai: City doctors say wounds in Nepal will heal, but scars remain

15 doctors and surgeons from the city had gone to set up a medical camp to tend to those affected by the devastating earthquake; while they treated over 2,000 patients, they say the trauma of the tragedy has taken a toll on residents

Doctors from the city who had gone to Nepal to tend to those injured in the earthquake have a heart-breaking story to narrate. While the treatment may take care of their physical wounds, it is the psychological scars of losing homes and livelihoods that will remain for a long time.

TRUE GRIT: This three-year-old didn’t flinch when doctors sutured his wound
TRUE GRIT: This three-year-old didn’t flinch when doctors sutured his wound

mid-day had reported on April 29 that 10 doctors from the city, along with a medical assistant, were leaving for Kathmandu to set up a medical camp in Nepal after the devastating quake that has, till date, left more than 8,000 people dead and injured nearly 18,000.

After the report was published, five more doctors and another clinical assistant volunteered to join the group. All of them flew to Kathmandu on April 30, armed with 450 kg of medicines worth lakhs of rupees — and of course, their medical expertise as an orthopaedic surgeon, trauma surgeon, paediatrician, cardiologist, etc.

Dr Anjana Thadhani (above) and Dr Dhiren Kothari at the medical camp
Dr Anjana Thadhani at the medical camp

Immediate attention
The team set up their medical camp in Sindhupalchowk district, 85 km away from the epicentre of the earthquake. With a mobile van to reach out to villages like Balkagaon, Daayandi, Jaamune, Barabise, Thumpakar and Chaku, the doctors managed to treat over 2,000 patients. “Having permission beforehand was crucial. Most of the teams that had arrived there from various parts of the world were stranded for several days, as they had no official go-ahead,” said Dr Amit Thadhani, who, along with his paediatrician wife, Dr Anjana, had led the mission to Nepal.

Dr Dhiren KothariDr Dhiren Kothari at the medical camp

Put up at the Armed Police Headquarters in Lamu Sanghu village, the team got to work immediately. On their day of arrival, Dr Ambarish Saraf, one of the orthopaedic surgeons, attended to two surgeries. Over a period of ten days, the camp attended to over 2,000 patients, including Nepali soldiers.

Doctors said most of the people were suffering from severe infections, respiratory issues, gastrological problems and trauma injuries. This also included over 30 surgeries for physical injuries. Most people had lacerations, fractures, sores, and infected wounds.

midday report

Beneath the wounds
However, it is the psychological trauma of the tragedy that is taking a toll on residents. Many of the people are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“A pregnant woman visited us on the very first day with false labour pains. When we checked her, we realised her condition was due to severe stress. We assured her we would be there for another fifteen days and she was immediately relieved,” said Dr Anjana.

She also recalled how a three-year-old toddler didn’t even flinch when they sutured his wounds. Another woman kept asking them to check her blood pressure and didn’t seem to have any specific complaints. It was only when doctors prodded deeper that their hearts sank — the woman had lost her young girl in the quake.

“Another 30-year-old man was brought in with a flail chest injury. He was in extreme pain. All we could do was to provide him relief and stabilise him, before shifting him to Kathmandu for further care,” recounted Dr Anjana, adding, “It was an experience beyond compare.”

The doctors also utilised the mobile vans to visit those who had lost their loved ones, to ensure the psychological trauma doesn’t prevent them from seeking help. One woman with extreme burn injuries was found alone in her home, and doctors managed to treat her when they visited her.

14 doctors have returned to the city in phases — one team came back on May 7 while another arrived on May 10. A team of six doctors joined the camp on May 8 and will carry on working till May 16.

After another earthquake of Richter scale 7.3 struck the mountain kingdom on Tuesday, two of the team’s local volunteers have been missing. The team is worried for their safety as well.

“Our team is continuing its work in Sindhupalchowk amidst continuous aftershocks. We were satisfied to reach out and help people at least in some small measure, in the face of this colossal tragedy,” said Dr Amit.

The team

>> General surgeons: Dr Amit Thadhani, Dr Sanjay Sonar
>> Orthopaedic surgeons: Dr Ambarish Saraf, Dr Deepak More
>> Physicians: Dr Dhiren Kothari, Dr Mahesh Mahajan, Dr Nimish Shukla, Dr Alpa Thakkar, Dr Rutvik Khakhar, Dr Gauri Balani (epidemiologist)
>> Paediatricians: Dr Anjana Thadhani, Dr Jayshri Narasimhan (homeopathic)
>> Psychiatrist: Dr Vishal Sawant
>> ENT Surgeon: Dr Rajesh Yadav
>> Gynaecologist: Dr Priyadarshini Joshi
>> Volunteer: Jayesh Makwana, Tasneem Shaikh

13 aftershocks in Nepal, 76 dead
The death toll from Tuesday’s 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Nepal has touched 76, and 13 aftershocks jolted the country yesterday. Most of the casualties of the fresh quake were from Dolakha district, and 1,987 were injured, said a Nepal Police spokesperson.

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