In the hours following the second earthquake in Nepal, on May 12, there was much to do. It was obvious that the team from Massachusetts General Hospital had trained for just such a moment. The Project HOPE team included eight members of the Mass General Global Disaster Response team lead by Dr. Paul Beddinger.
The Mass General team was at the Monmohan Memorial Teaching Hospital as the quake struck. Their quick assessment of the situation allowed for a rapid evacuation of the patients into the open spaces surrounding the hospital. The calm efficient response by the Mass General team helped to reduce the fear and panic being felt by patients who were injured in the first quake. The team also anticipated an influx of new patients and created a triage system.
The patients arrived slowly at first. The streets were crowded with those fleeing the city. Ambulances and rescue teams found in hard to negotiate the traffic surge. Eventually patients found their way to the triage area in the hospital parking lot. Fortunately the numbers were not overwhelming. There were lots of cuts and bruises. The scene was surreal. Patients sitting on the curb were surrounded by a small flotilla of bedridden patients.
As evening drew close, the team established a camp on a small patch of weeds just outside of the emergency room. At least for this night they needed to be close. The patients were moved back into the hospital lobby and a semblance of order and calm returned.
The Project HOPE volunteers worked very closely with the hospital staff. The evening was long and, in spite of a major earthquake, there were patients who needed care. There were so many selfless acts of kindness it seems impossible to describe them all. Nurses sitting on the bed of a scared child, a counselor calmly talking to frightened elderly patients and so many more small gestures. These things could easily be overlooked but they meant so much. No one would have noticed if the team retired to their tents as the evening grew long. But the Project HOPE volunteers were still working at midnight.
Two members of the Mass General team noticed that an elderly gentleman’s wound needed a new dressing. They could have put it off. No one would have faulted them. They started work at 8 am that morning and had experienced one of the most severe earthquakes in recent memory. They worked non-stop for over 16 hours. They could have left the dressing change until morning. But they knew it needed to be done to help the wound heal. So, at midnight they assembled the supplies. They didn’t rush because it was late. They took their time so the patient felt less pain. They worked as a team. They finished just before 1 am and took the time to check all of the forty patients before they went to the team’s luxury accommodations in a field now crowded with makeshift shelters.
It is truly inspiring to work with a well-trained and dedicated team of professionals. The people of Nepal will remember the Project HOPE volunteers as high quality, caring people.
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