In addition to claiming over 8,000 lives, the earthquake injured an estimated 16,000 people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are being treated for fractures.
With few resources, unable to return alone to remote villages and in need of additional care, many remain sleeping in wards, corridors and hospital parking lots, according to IOM health programme manager Dr. Patrick Duigan.
“You can’t just kick these poor people out on the street,” he said. “Many patients need rehabilitation and follow up. In many cases they’ve literally nowhere to go, so we’re asking our donors for help to fill that critical gap.”
In a three-day period from May 7 over 440 patients with severe orthopedic injuries were treated in Kathmandu, and many still require wound care, follow-up visits and extensive rehabilitation.
Lok Bahadur Tamang, 23, is being assisted after medical treatment has been administered to his injured leg. © IOM 2015
The most vulnerable of the survivors are disabled people, women, children and the elderly.
There are around 30 known cases of head trauma of varying seriousness and at least 175 patients with spinal injuries who will require intensive rehabilitation with specialized care and community follow up. Fifty of these patients have already been referred to the national Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre, where the 20-bed capacity is being expanded with donor support.
Thuli Maya Lama survived the earthquake that leveled her remote Nepalese village, but her long journey home has only just begun.
Like thousands of injured survivors of the April 25 earthquake she has now received medical attention and, if proper funding can be found, will return home to begin rebuilding her shattered life with IOM’s assistance.
“I have nowhere to stay and no way to get home,” she says. “How will I get back to my village if someone doesn’t help me?”
“There’s an urgent need to get people like Thuli who are ready to be discharged out of the hospital wards, corridors and parking lots,” says Dr. Duigan.
“Getting Thuli and so many others back home is going to require a lot of creative thinking. In some cases it looks like we’ll be using porters and donkeys to climb into the back country.”
Further complicating matters, injured survivors, particularly those delivered by helicopter arrived with little or no identification and, in the case of many children, without an accompanying adult.
Thuli was visiting relatives in Majuwea, a village framed by the 7,000-metre peaks in the Ganesh Mountains, when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck, collapsing the roof of their home. She lay pinned for hours in the rubble beside the bodies of her mother and aunt. She was the only one to survive, her left kneecap crushed.
Days passed and no help arrived. Her husband and neighbors were convinced hospitals hours away in the capitol would be overloaded and urged her not to leave.
“People in my village were saying I should not go to the hospital, because it would be too busy,” said the 50-year-old mother of two.
Still untreated and in excruciating pain for five days, she was carried to the nearest road by her son and daughter – a two hour hike at the best of times – and brought by bus to Patam Hospital in Kathmandu.
Once treated, her leg heavily plastered, she found herself in the same situation as so many others; unable to leave. IOM connected with the Nepal Youth Foundation who have offered to provide space to patients like Thuli, who require follow-up assessments. She is the first of many who will need similar services.
“She was really worried that if she found a way back to her village there was no way she’d be able to make it back for follow-up treatment,” Dr. Duigan said. “Fortunately the NYF offered to help as a transit centre and we will be looking to expand that relationship, as there will be hundreds requiring follow-up care after their release.”