NEPAL—On April 25, 2015, a violent 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, followed weeks later by a 7.3-magnitude aftershock, killing almost 9,000 people, injuring more than 22,000, and damaging or destroying nearly 800,000 homes. The earthquake and aftershocks left the Nepalese capital of Katmandu shattered but also stranded millions living in remote mountain locations outside the circle of international aid. NYC Medics pushed beyond those boundaries, and alongside local partners from Himalayan Healthcare, deployed deep into the mountains, far beyond the distances achieved by other aid organizations, focusing its unique model of care to reach those otherwise unserved.
NYC Medics shipped teams and supplies via helicopter to Jharlang and Riguan and trekked 36 miles up the sides of mountains—carrying cartons of supplies on their backs to several high-elevation villages, including Sungyang and Konglong of the Dhading District, to help more than 1,200 villagers injured by the disaster, stabilize the area, and give local residents time to regroup. NYC Medics teams worked all day and deep into the night for weeks, using headlamps to perform treatment and minor surgeries, and to refer hundreds more to urgent medical care via airlifts down the mountain. “We set up camp on the edges of mountains and trekked many hours over steep and treacherous terrain, but our mobile medical teams were perfectly poised for those conditions and sought out those in need who were unable to make their way to our clinic on their own,” recalls Executive Director Kathy Bequary.
One unforgettable patient, says Operations Director Phil Suarez, was a village elder, a woman known simply as “grandma.” Recalls Suarez: “After the earthquake, she had been trapped under the rubble of her home for six hours, until her sons were able to dig her out. Her feet were badly injured, requiring intensive care, but she refused medical evacuation. After days of trying to shoo us away, she finally accepted our treatment. Before we left, she said (through a translator) that she was adopting us as her grandchildren. We saved her life, and therein, her role as the beloved matriarch of that village. When disaster strikes, it costs lives and can ravage the emotional and political stability of entire regions.”