On the morning of October 8, 2005, an earthquake hit northern Pakistan measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale. It killed more than 75,000 people, and left millions homeless. On October 20, then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan begged the world for more help, saying, “…a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our efforts now, with reference to the thousand remote villages in which people are in need of medical attention, food, clean water and shelter and the 120,000 survivors that have not yet been reached.” Annan’s plea catalyzed NYC Medics’ team of founding members to organize its founding mission several days later. [See “Our Founding Story” 60 Minutes video on this site].
A US Navy helicopter dropped an NYC Medics team of 13 medics in the village of Seyan – in the Jhelum Valley – the first western team in that area. All roads to the NYC Medics basecamp had been blocked, buried under landslides, and injured survivors were carried in by family members, on homemade litters, miles over mountains. NYC Medics teams operated under a tarp, next to the rubbled clinic, and on the first day, treated more than 400 injured with fractures of every sort, infected wounds, various diseases and dehydration.
The next day, a mobile medical unit traveled upriver, their backpacks stuffed with medical supplies, and set up a satellite clinic, caring for more than 200 people a day, on the damaged remains of an artillery base near the border with India. When the road to Seyan opened, NYC Medics transferred operations to Doctors Without Borders, and NYC Medics’ innovative mobile medical unit hiked even further north. In the little village of Nord Dijhia, residents claimed NYC Medics were the first westerners they’d seen. Working in the most difficult conditions, often with inadequate equipment, NYC Medics helped thousands of victims, many who would have perished.
NYC Medics returned to Pakistan in February of ’06, this time dispatched to the other side of the earthquake, focusing on primary care at a small clinic in the Northwest Frontier Province by the border of Afghanistan. Instead of backpacks, the teams filled jingle trucks with equipment, and two teams of physicians, medics, and nurses treated scores of patients each day. The operation established a thriving care facility providing care to more than 10,000 patients. NYC Medics teams performed a wide variety of healthcare, including resuscitating patients in cardiac arrest and delivering up to a dozen babies during the mission.