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HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
Posted By: Ted Wendel on May 19, 2015
Ted Wendell, a volunteer photojournalist for Project HOPE was in Nepal on May 12th when a 7.3 aftershock shook Kathmandu, just two weeks after a major earthquake.
Mere minutes after submitting a blog post on the “excitement” of attending meetings to plan for earthquake response, I was shaken by the reality of my situation.
The first few seconds of and earthquake are confusing. The first thoughts of a passing truck are soon replaced by the expectation of a short aftershock. Within a few seconds I was very aware that what it was wasn’t that important….it was BIG. It was sound. It was violent movement. I had previously thought about how I would respond if another earthquake hit while I was volunteering in Nepal, and I immediately headed for the near-by door frame. Door frames may be over rated as a protected site during earthquakes, but for me, it was a place to hold on.
My next feeling was helplessness. Once I found the door frame, I was along for the ride. I didn’t know what to expect…how big…how long…what would stand…..what would fall. All I could do was ride along as the building moved. The movement was both back and forth, as well as up and down. This was very different from what I had experienced in California. There was a lot more disorienting movement and it seem to grow for a very long time. I recall thinking, “How much more violent can this thing get?”
The sounds I heard were screams of panic. People responding to the fear. The sound of the quake was not as loud as I expected. I was more aware of the sounds of the people around me and the crashing of things outside the nearby window. It turned out the crashing sounds came from a brick wall around the home next door collapsing down.
Frankly, the end of an earthquake isn’t exactly clear. Thirty seconds of violent shaking seemed to go on forever. I waited for a short period before I began to move, wondering if the quiet was some cruel intermission before some dramatic finish. I didn’t wait long. Being outside seemed far safer than being inside. My mind quickly flashed to all the collapsed buildings that the first quake took down just a few days before. Probably just as importantly, I needed to be with others.
The scene outside was strangely calm. People gathered in small crowds trying to evaluate the situation. Dust hung in the air. A few members of the Project HOPE team who weren’t working at the hospital immediately began to plan a response. A quick head count confirmed everyone was safe. It was clear to us that our safety was dependent on getting to an open space not surrounded by buildings or power lines. To get to a safe space, we very quickly moved down the canyon-like alley that leads to the main street in the Thamel section of Kathmandu.
The scene on the street was far different. We found thousands of people crowded into the middle of the street. For many minutes, the normal flow of scooters, taxis, buses and cars were blocked. Some people milled in small groups, but most were heading out away from the maze of alleys and buildings that make up that section of the city. Soon the flow of scooters mixed with the crowds as almost everyone began to leave.
As I fled from my room, I grabbed a camera. I don’t remember doing it but I was proud that the reflex was instinctual. On the street I began to capture images. The dust had mostly cleared. I focused on the crowds. People fleeing. I wanted to go into small streets just beyond, but it was far too dangerous. The Project HOPE team began to search for injured. There was an instant of panic as a flock of birds departed from a rooftop. Most of the crowd felt that signaled a coming aftershock. Fortunately, it didn’t.
After about thirty minutes on the streets, our thoughts turned to the members of our team at the hospital. A brief text message confirmed their safety and their plan to help evacuate patients at the facility.
The following hours were filled with hectic activity. Getting word to families and friends was a priority. Gathering supplies and putting together a plan for the Project HOPE’s team safety and getting ready to help the second wave of those injured in the second major earthquake in two weeks.
Posted By: Jon Brack on May 18, 2015
In addition to providing volunteer medical teams to support the people of Nepal in response to their multiple destructive earthquakes, Project HOPE has also organized the donation of medical supplies and medications to aid in their healing process.
To say that it's challenging to orchestrate shipping these donations to the middle of a disaster zone would be an understatement. Nepal has only one airport with only one runway to support large aircraft, creating a supply bottleneck to all arriving emergency supplies. Because of damage to that single runway in Kathmandu, heavy cargo planes have been banned from landing and most cargo is now limited to commercial aircraft.
Project HOPE's donations from the United States made it quickly to Doha, Qatar, before getting delayed in a long queue of other cargo.Through assistance from Nepal's Ministry of Health, HOPE's logistics team was able to bump our pallets up in priority because the supplies were in such dire need.After they were finally on the ground here in Kathmandu, the customs process started, an arduous series of paperwork and signatures that again was thankfully expedited by the Ministry.Seeing all 64 boxes of supplies in the Ministry's warehouse felt like a huge victory after the weeks of effort put in by Scott Crawford, Vladko Uzevski, Dalibor Tasevski and the entire HOPE Gifts in Kind team to get them there.
In total, $4.7 million of donated Project HOPE materials are now in the hands of the Department of Health Services at Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population. Those medical supplies will begin their distribution to hospitals in all 14 districts of Nepal effected by the earthquakes within the next few days. The entire shipment weighted 4,487 lbs. (2035 kilos) arriving on 8 pallets.
But this is just the beginning. Tomorrow another $1.7 million of donations will arrive at the airport in 32 more boxes to be processed for pickup the next day. More donations are in the pipeline and will be arriving within the next few weeks. Despite the unavoidable holdups and bottlenecks, Project HOPE's medical supplies and medications are reaching the people of Nepal at a time when they are most in need.
An Eyewitness Account of the May 12 Earthquake
Posted By Andrea Dunne-Sosa, Director of Project HOPE's Volunteer Programs on May 14, 2015
Twenty seconds. So much can happen in just 20 seconds. I was in the administrative office at Manmohan Memorial Teaching Hospital (MMTH) on May 12, meeting with Dr. Paul Ballinger, Dr. Allen Webb, and Dr. Ram Shrestha, the Director of the MMTH. In an eerie silence, suddenly the building began swaying gently from side to side, then began shaking violently. Dr. Webb laid down on the floor and positioned himself underneath the coffee table as best he could, and the others took cover or braced in the doorway as I did until the shaking stopped after about 20 seconds. Once we were stable, I ran toward the surgical ward where most of the patients were located and where the stairway exit leads down to the first floor. Most of the staff and volunteers had gone to lunch during the noon hour, so in the surgical ward were injured patients who were screaming, crying, or looking bewildered and unable to run out of the building as most of the ambulatory patients had done. I can’t imagine the emotional trauma of those recently severely injured patients having to experience this again.
The dedicated, exhausted and already overwhelmed staff nurses had begun moving patients out of the building. An elderly man, his left arm the size of an elephant’s leg from massive bandages wrapped around it, stood in the entryway near me, shaking uncontrollably and with a wide-eyed look of shock and terror on his worn face. I put my arm around his back to help support him and walked with him, talking gently, until two staff nurses came and took him from my arms to move him outside to safety. A young girl sat on the edge of her mom’s bed, holding her hand and looking around fearfully, tears streaming down her face. I touched her shoulder gently and whispered that it was going to be alright, encouraging her to stand so we could evacuate, as two more nurses came to help move the patients out at that moment. All of this transpired in a span of less than one minute.
Outside we established a meeting place for the Project HOPE volunteer team who were at the hospital, and contacted our group members who had gone out to lunch. Upon learning that everyone was ok, we decided to regroup at the emergency room. The volunteer team assembled quickly and assigned tasks to receive new incoming patients via the ER, to treat wounds and set casts, or to care for patients requiring ICU support. The volunteer team established an intake area, and “green,” “yellow” and “red” zones for patients depending on their triage status.
Within moments of the quake, injured patients began arriving at the hospital on foot, on the backs of motorcycles, in ambulances, vans and cars. There was not an overwhelming number of people, but they came in steadily individually or in small groups over the next several hours.
One young man came in with a deep laceration on his forehead and blood across his left temple. A staff nurse grabbed a suture kit while HOPE’s volunteer nurse Sama prepared and cleansed the area. Sama watched carefully and said she was studying their preferred suture technique so that she could do it the same way for other patients.
Two patients were from the inpatient floor who had fallen from their beds during the violent shaking of the quake. Many of the inpatients already had metal rods in their legs and arms from injuries sustained during the first quake, and had become re-injured during this second quake. I saw another HOPE nurse Ann treating, comforting and reassuring patients as she triaged them and cared for their wounds.
An elderly man who was an inpatient with a heart condition was moved to the ICU area, and a coordinated team of HOPE volunteers including Monica and Nick and MMTH staff surrounded his bed to provide care, working to maintain his oxygen levels.
There was a need for viable oxygen tanks for use in the ICU. The tanks stand more than 4 feet tall each with large round bases, and they had all crashed to the floor during the quake. After searching several wards for tanks with the pressure gauge and valve in-tact, it was found that most had either no valve or the oxygen was whistling out of the tanks through a damaged valve.
A beautiful baby was seen for severe burns when a cup of hot tea had spilled during the quake. I witnessed HOPE volunteer Monica stroking the baby’s hair and talking gently as the wounds were being treated.
Before dusk approached, our team divided into two groups, one to stay at the hospital treating patients, while other non-medical staff and volunteers returned to the hotel to grab gear from the hotel rooms of volunteers. In order to stay the night and support treatment, we needed to get the tents, tarps, sleeping bags, supplies of water, flashlights, head lamps, additional satellite phones and other equipment needed on site.
When the gear was loaded into the van a few minutes later, volunteers met up with GIK to secure the list of supplies that would be needed to support the influx of patients and to support care of the anticipated second wave of injuries. Personal Protective Equipment for volunteers were included (masks, gloves, etc) along with bandages, plaster for casting, gauze and other wound care materials.
We returned to the hospital location and began setting up the camp with tents, tarps, water, food, granola bars, flashlights etc. for the 8 volunteers. As darkness began setting in, we held a final safety briefing with the team, and returned to the hotel.
Along the way we saw new buildings that had collapsed, and the streets were crowded with people afraid to go back inside the buildings. More tents, which had begun decreasing in recent days, were seen all over the city.
Back at the hotel we held another briefing with the team on site, and turned in for the night. At approximately 2am there was a very strong but brief aftershock, lasting only a second or two, but strong enough to be felt in the hotel and in the field by the hospital. We checked in with each other and everyone is ok following the aftershock.
The dogs and birds are barking and cawing loudly all over the city as I write, as unsettled as we are following the aftershocks. Again, hoping that’s the end of it for tonight.
Posted By: Ted Wendel on May 13, 2015
On May 12, a warm quiet afternoon in Kathmandu made a dramatic turn as a 7.3 magnitude aftershock struck the city. Buildings rocked for several seconds. The large aftershock caused panic as everyone rushed to the streets. The Project HOPE team was working at Manmohan Teaching Hospital when the quake stuck, the team helped move patients to safe areas and comforted those who have been subjected to a second large earthquake in less than three weeks.
First reports from the team at the hospital described patients being rocked from their beds. One cardiac patient experienced a major incident during the quake and the team is working hard to insure his survival. Ambulances began quickly arriving, bringing newly injured to the already crowded facility.
HOPE's Kenly Flanigan and myself were in the city of Kathmandu when the quake stuck. We rushed to provide help. The streets were packed but there was not much new damage. There were no sirens and most people seemed uninjured but nerves were frayed. The power is out in most of the city.
Posted By: Kenly Flanigan on May 12, 2015
Around 12:35pm Nepal time, today, a second earthquake, registering a 7.4 magnitude, hit Nepal with the epicenter about 52 miles away from Kathmandu. The earthquake lasted around 20-30 seconds. Project HOPE medical volunteers were working at the Manmohan Memorial Teaching Hospital when the earthquake hit. As panic came through the hospital, patients were running outside as fast as they could. Our volunteers were jumping underneath tables and helping those patients who fell out of beds and were unable to get up. As they moved all of the patients outside, the medical team set up a triage center near the ER. Patients started flooding in with wounds from bricks falling on them. Mostly gashes and open wounds were the majority of the patients. There are a few patients in critical condition but they seem to be stable. The biggest concern now is lack of supplies and heavy rainstorms. Another huge concern is multiple oxygen tanks were damaged and the need the oxygen is growing even greater.
The volunteers are all safe and assessing the situation to provide the best possible care. Our medical supply donation team is working hard to find them more materials to work with. This medical team has extensive experience in disaster response and triage management.