Tuesday, May 5: ReSurge Nurse: Quake Victims Endure Heartbreaking Tales of Loss
When volunteer nurse Elise Reay-Ellers flew from Seattle to Kathmandu this month as part of an earthquake-relief effort, she prepared herself mentally to help victims who were burned, wounded or suffered broken bones. But the toughest part of the job ended up having nothing to do with the medical workload.
"The biggest challenge today is the same as everyday: seeing and talking to all the patients and families at the hospital and hearing their stories of loss," Reay-Ellers said. "Loss of homes, of lives and loved ones, income, food, animals, all belongings. Most are so poor that they will have to work very hard to survive."
Reay-Ellers, 48, is spending 10 days in Nepal. She is assisting local surgeons and providing relief to staffers who have been working around the clock since the injured began arriving after the April 25 earthquake that left at least 7,300 dead.
One of her patients was Sarkini Gole. The 13-year-old girl suffered a leg injury when her house in Sindhupalchowk, about 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Kathmandu, collapsed in the quake. The injury affected a growth plate in her leg that, if left untreated, would have prevented the leg from growing to maturity.
Reay-Ellers is a medical volunteer with ReSurge International, a nonprofit that has built surgical capacity and provided reconstructive surgical care for patients in developing countries since 1969. ReSurge has worked in Nepal since the 1980s and, in partnership with PHECT-Nepal, maintains a 50-person Nepalese team year-round.
Reay-Ellers' specific job involves managing the recovery room where patients are taken after surgery. Her team receives about 10 patients per day, which is "pretty busy" considering the modest level of resources, she says. The most common surgeries are to set broken bones and perform skin grafts on people whose skin has been burned or wounded.
Reay-Ellers has been joined this week by fellow ReSurge volunteers Brad Schauer, an operating room nurse from Portland, Ore.; and Drs. Rowan Hardy and Joe Silsby, both anesthesiologists from London. Other volunteers include two orthopedic surgeons from South Africa-based "Gift of the Givers Foundation" and three doctors from "AmeriCares India". They are working alongside the ReSurge/PHECT-Nepal reconstructive plastic surgeons and their medical team.
Reay-Ellers, who has an 11-year-old daughter, is scheduled to return to Seattle on Mother's Day (May 10).
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