Kathmandu to Salyantar
In the morning I took a run in the alleyways, already crowded with vendors selling fruits, vegetable, and stores selling all sorts of sundry things, daily needs and tourists’ souvenirs. Kathmandu is dusty and throngs of inhabitants wearing the ubiquitous masks. I ran short distances from Ropka Hotel fearing of getting hopelessly lost. Above the buildings I saw a pair of eyes looking from the top of the Boudha Stupa at me. So eventually I ran to the Boudha Stupa and spun the prayer wheel. Outside the Stupa was a gigantic tent where people were sleeping.
We had to get supplies of food and water for the team already up in the mountain and ourselves. The driver drove around getting bread, water, and fruits. Tents were set up in a field in Kathmandu for those people who lost their homes. We headed to the Mahindra Highway which is an east-west highway connecting Nepal to India, a winding tarmac road up and down the mountains, terraced farming carved into the slopes growing corn and rice. Farms were scattered far from one another and here and there were damaged homes, some half standing, many reduced to rubble. Makeshift tents were rigged up next to the homes. We went for about 4 hours over many mountains, narrowly missing oncoming traffic multiple times because of the width of the road. At Dhading Besi we turned off the main road and began a three-hour bouncy bumpy painfully slow climb over several mountains. Our vehicle was packed with six passengers jostling against one another. This turned out to be the most challenging road trip of all the road trips I had taken during all my missions.
We reached the Salyantar Primary Care Center close to six o’clock. A collapsed building sat in front of the health center. Inside were two to three 5 to 6 bed wards, two of them were almost filled.
Rain clouds gathered and soon after we set our remaining tent, the rain came with gusting winds. The other five tents were all set up next to a cracked 2-story building, not a very safe place to be. The team with our team leader, a doctor, nurse and a communication person arrived with their interpreter, bringing a 16-year-old boy whom they picked up on their way here. A medical officer and I did an assessment of this boy complaining of a severe headache not resolved with paracetamol. It was said that he did not ever had a fever. With our exam we decided that he was dehydrated and began IV hydration. Since being through the Ebola unit, the inattention to aseptic technique here made me pause.
I shared a MRE meal with a nurse but did not eat too much of it, washed and retired. There were six tents and twelve of us, so we had to share tents. Three of the interpreters slept indoors. Through the night there were three aftershocks and none of which I felt; at 11 pm, 1 am and 4 am. The one at 4 was when I heard the dogs barking all at once. I got up at 2 am to look at the almost full moon and sat quietly looking at the serene shadows and light created by the cool moonlight.
The team trekked for 7 hours both ways to a remote village on the advice of the local health officer only to find that most of the severely injured persons had been evacuated to Kathmandu and they ended up seeing only 12 patients.