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Response to April 25, 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

Medical Relief Mission team from Toledo, Ohio to Bahunepati, Sindhupalchowk, Nepal. In response to the April 25, 2015 Earthquake in Nepal.

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Team members and Nepalese volunteers with some of the packed bags

The Toledo group left Detroit, Michigan for Kathmandu on Tuesday morning, May 5th on Qatar Airlines. The exact location of where the team was going had not been determined yet. Arriving in Kathmandu, we had discussions with representatives of various organizations to determine where we would best be of service.   We met with Niranjan’s uncle, the director of Helping Hands Community Hospital in Kathmandu that has performed numerous outreach missions in Nepal for many years, and with representatives from Kathmandu University. There were teams already in place in Kathmandu and we were looking for a remote village that had not received assistance yet for a site to set up our base camp. Several locations were suggested during the meeting at Kathmandu University, and a small village about two hours away was decided on.

Combined Medical Relief Mission Team from the US and Nepal at Base Camp
Combined Medical Relief Mission Team from the US and Nepal at Base Camp

On Thursday, May 7th, the team arrived at a site destroyed by the earthquake, a school complex in Bahunepati on the Indrawati River, northeast of Kathmandu. Next to a large still-standing concrete school building, we set up our tents and a large tarp for an area to receive the incoming people, cleared the entryway to the school, set up a clinic in several rooms inside it and on the walkway between rooms, and began to see patients.

Triage was conducted under the tarp canopy that strung from the three-story school building, which had major cracks, but appeared to be structurally sound. School rooms were opened up and one was turned into the orthopedic and surgical ward, one into the clinic supply area, and one into our private exam room. Pharmacy was located in the stairwell in the center of the building. The clinics were held on the outdoor walkway between the rooms.

Our tents with the school converted to the clinic in the background
Our tents with the school converted to the clinic in the background

The school complex was being taken care of by Gita Sanjel who lived in a small, thin, plywood shelter with her husband Shyam, the school’s principal, and their two sons. Our arrival came as a complete surprise to her but she handled it amazingly. She provided us with three very good daily meals and would supply us with any food or beverage request we may have of her.

The Sanjel family home
The Sanjel family home

The earthquake caused massive damage to the school building that the family lived in on the top of the adjacent hill. It hung over the precipice of an earthquake-caused landslide and was no longer habitable or even safe to enter. The large three-story concrete school building had numerous major cracks in the walls and was damaged enough from the earthquake that the family could not occupy it.

School buildings on the adjacent hill
School buildings on the adjacent hill

Each day, while most of the team remained at the site to provide service to those able to make the journey to us, traveling teams would venture out to the various surrounding communities to assist those unable to trek to our place. Different locations were chosen for the venturing teams each day and the teams would rotate so that everyone had the opportunity to attend to those in the even more remote areas. The teams consisted of approximately five to seven people who took with them about fifty pounds (23 kg) of medicines and supplies to be able to handle most problems they would come across. The teams would leave early in the morning and return in the evening

Base Camp from the school buildings on the precipice of the landslide
Base Camp from the school buildings on the precipice of the landslide
On our trek into the surrounding area on May 10th, Dr. Rich Paat and Jessica Kayastha care for some of the people who were unable to visit our base facilities
On our trek into the surrounding area on May 10th, Dr. Rich Paat and Jessica Kayastha care for some of the people who were unable to visit our base facilities
Drs. Mike Hoeflinger and Jnm Stha on another journey out from base camp.
Drs. Mike Hoeflinger and Janam Shrestha on another journey out from base camp.

Approximately 1,500 people were treated at the base camp that was set up, and we saw about 500 more on the daily trips taken by teams traveling into the mountains to look for isolated people in remote areas who could not make it to our site.

We saw a variety of different cases at the base clinic as well as on the forays into the mountains. A brief comment by Dr. Paat was: “There were many cases of upper respiratory infections and diarrheal disease because of the poor water supply and we were still treating more remnants of the earthquake.” One of the more serious cases was a 13-year-old with typhoid fever. “He had a fever for 8 days. His father carried him down the mountain for an hour and a half. We gave him IV, antibiotics, and fluids, and treated him.” He and his father stayed with us until the boy was able to return home. He stayed under the tarp because his father felt that the school building was unsafe and did not want him inside of it.

After the mission and on our way out of the mountains, we stopped at The University of Kathmandu to give a briefing of the operation to university officials in one of the conference rooms there. As we were completing our discussion with them, another earthquake, registering a magnitude of 7.3, occurred. Everything started shaking. Everyone from our building and three other buildings that surrounded a courtyard fled to that open area. It was an unexpected ending to the mission and one that left us shaken, literally.

The team wanted to assist the family that so graciously took us in and kept us well fed. We took up a collection, supplemented by SCORE, and worked with Kathmandu University to provide a more substantial temporary house for them. The Mechanical Engineering Department of the university was constructing temporary houses for numerous families whose dwellings were destroyed by the earthquake. Their house was constructed after we left but completed before the monsoon rains came, giving the Sanjel family a more secure home for the immediate future.

The new temporary house for the Sanjel family constructed by the mechanical engineering department from Kathmandu University
The new temporary house for the Sanjel family constructed by the mechanical engineering department from Kathmandu University

 

Medical Relief Mission Team from US:

Richard Paat, MD – Internal Medicine
Niranjan Shrestha, MD – Family Medicine
Mike Hoeflinger, MD – Orthopedic Medicine
Tom Andreshak, MD – Ortho
Rey Sarmiento, MD – Surgery
Manuel Pecana, MD – Anesthesia
Andy Torres, MD – Emergency Medicine
Kris Brickman, MD – Emergency Medicine
Brandon Stransky, MD – Emergency Medicine
Scott Hackman.MD – Emergency Medicine
Linda McCall – Pharmacist
Sarah Liegl – Physician’s Assistant
Diane Wollam – Registered Nurse
Myra Paat – Registered Nurse
Dennis Bensch – Civil Engineer
Jim Blue – NBC Toledo 24news Correspondent

 

Some of the Nepalese people who provided invaluable assistance to us and their fellow’s countrymen at the relief site are listed below. I’m sure that I’m missing some who were there and I apologize for that, but I’ve tried to include everyone I could think of. They include doctors, medical students, mechanical engineering faculty, and mechanical engineering students from Kathmandu University, and some from the surrounding local communities:

 

Jessica KayasthaSandip Shakya
Sona DuwalKapil Pandey
Suman Dhun ShresthaJanam Shrestha
Bim ShresthsaShraddha Bajracharya
Kailash ThapaSaurab Bajracharya
Arjun ThapaLaxman Bhatta
Prabin ShresthaArjun Thapa
Bijendra ShresthaShrestha Kishan
Prakash GiriNir Ajan

 

 

 

Er. Dennis Bensch

Er. Dennis Bensch
Sr. Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor
Dennis is a Professional Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor for a large consulting firm in Toledo, Ohio, USA. He has been an active team member on over 40 humanitarian medical missions throughout the world. These include four disaster relief medical missions following major natural catastrophic events, the latest of which was the earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

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