Nearly two weeks after five Scripps Health Medical Response Team members arrived in Nepal, they have begun their final missions before returning home to San Diego.
The four nurses and mission team leader continue to work in two separate groups that also include medical personnel from other health systems and organizations. So far, they have provided care to 1,305 patients.
The first group, which includes Tim Collins (corporate vice president, operations and research), Debra McQuillen, RN (assistant vice president, cardiovascular services) and Jan Zachry, RN (vice president and chief nursing executive), traveled to the village of Khorla, located at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.
This is the same team that was stuck earlier this week in another remote village after the helicopter scheduled to pick them up was damaged in Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake. After spending an extra night there, the group was picked up by a replacement helicopter. The trip out happened during a rain storm, but they had an excellent pilot who had flown rescue missions on Mount Everest after the original quake.
After arriving in Khorla today, the group treated 175 patients, including one man in his mid-50s who was septic and had to be evacuated by helicopter to the Ghorka District Hospital. Another patient had a fractured arm that he had set for himself after the initial earthquake. The team was able to re-set the arm properly and place it in a splint/cast.
The weather has been good in the region, with daytime highs in the mid-80s and night temperatures in the 70s.
The trip to Khorla by helicopter was the first leg of the team’s final four-day mission that will include stops in two other remote mountainous villages — Eklobate in the Sirdibas district and Richte in the Chumchet district at about 11,500 feet in elevation. Once the mission is completed, the team will return to Kathmandu, where they will debrief and prepare for the trip back home to San Diego.
Tim Collins said about the final mission, “We are looking forward to serving these areas, as they have not been served yet. It will be very rewarding to have an impact on those who need care.”
Jan Zachry said the local villagers continue to inspire her. “The Nepalese are amazing in their resilience and creativity," she said. "Each village does something special for us. Yesterday, as we awaited the helicopter, a village woman brought us boiled potatoes. They were so tasty. Just an example of their kindness and appreciation despite their own disaster.”
The second group, which includes Patty Skoglund, RN (senior director of disaster/emergency) and Steve Miller, RN (senior director, clinical services), traveled back to the remote village of Tipling where they re-opened their clinic and cared for 76 patients. They were expecting to see more than 100 more patients the following day as word spread among the surrounding villages that they have returned.
While the team members reported seeing few injuries related to the earthquakes, they said they’ve treated some patients sickened by a virus moving through the local population now and many people with chronic problems such as bronchitis, which is linked to the common practice of cooking indoor over open fires. They’ve also treated patients for worms and boils that needed to be drained.
Located about 8,000 feet high at the base of a 23,000-foot peak in the Ganesh mountain range, Tipling is a popular “trekkers” stop, and the locals are very welcoming to visitors. When the team arrived, a woman brought them fresh vegetables to use as a meal.
Though buildings in the region were badly damaged – Patty estimates 70 to 80 percent of the homes have suffered some type of damage – she said the villagers seem happier and more stable than those in any of the other areas they’ve visited.
The team will remain in Tipling one more day and then will travel by helicopter to another village in the area.