Before April 25, Margo Scott’s trip to Nepal was about heart health.
She planned to travel there from her home in Clayton to help set up a cardiac-surgery program through the volunteer group CardioStart International.
But a week before her trip, on April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal toppled buildings and caused landslides, killing and injuring thousands of people.
Watching the wreckage from home, Scott knew the focus of her trip would change.
“It would not be a cardiac mission but a humanitarian mission and about education,” she said.
Some of her team pulled out, but she decided to stay the course. Their contacts in Nepal still wanted them to come, she said. They needed the help.
Scott’s CardioStart team had already sent medical supplies overseas in preparation for the trip. But after the quake, the people of Nepal needed additional emergency supplies, water-filtration systems and camping gear.
Scott told members of her Clayton Rotary Club about the severe needs during a conference a day after the April 25 quake. They could tell she was upset.
Club president John Long sought help from fellow members and Rotary District 7710 in Raleigh. Four days later, the district office gave Scott $2,000 to buy what she needed. On April 30, the members of the Clayton Rotary Club donated cash and emergency supplies for the trip.
Ian Rumbles, a member of the Clayton Rotary Club, said members donated everything from duct tape to sleeping bags and tents. He said District 7710 Gov. Matthew Kane contacted the district governor in Nepal to make him aware Scott was coming.
“The whole thing, amazingly enough, took place in less than four days,” Rumbles said.
Scott flew to Nepal on May 1. Her team was staying in Dhulikhel, about 45 minutes southeast of Katmandu.
The team was based at the local hospital, where Scott quickly realized the staff was burnt out. Some had been helping patients for 10 straight days, many treating traumatic wounds and amputations while also dealing with losses at home.
“They were exhausted; they were sad,” Scott said. “Some of the doctors had lost their homes.”
Scheduled to stay for two weeks, Scott spent much of the first helping out where needed.
A registered nurse and diagnostic cardiac stenographer, she cared directly for some of the injured and sick, many of whom camped under tarps while they waited for a doctor.
She took vital signs and treated minor wounds. She stitched up one young girl who was injured while helping her father clean up rubble.
Other tasks included simply cleaning up and helping sort things out around the hospital. Part of it was about reassuring people they’d be OK, Scott said, and trying to provide normalcy.
“You just have to improvise,” she said.
The hospital started offering free services after the earthquake. Doctors asked those who didn’t need emergency care to hold off on seeking treatment so that people with wounds and fractures could get care.
Dr. Rajendra Koju of the Dhulikhel Hospital said the hospital treated more than 1,600 patients and performed 2,800 surgeries.
“These two weeks have been some of the most challenging as well as the most rewarding,” Koju said in a statement on the hospital’s website. “The earthquake that created such devastation brought out the best in us.”
Going into the second week, Scott’s team learned of a rural village of about 300 people who were short on food and in need of medical attention.
She accompanied a group to the village, Khukhraechour, where they set up a clinic and temporary school.
However, after seeing only the second patient at the clinic on May 12, a large aftershock jarred the village. The doctor screamed for everyone to evacuate, Scott said. One woman grabbed her arm and cried.
“We were finally at a point where we could start again, but it was ruined,” Scott said.
It was unclear, initially, how she and the others would get back to Dhulikhel. The drivers who took them to the village feared the aftershock would cause landslides.
Scott said the group found a WiFi connection and communicated outside the village. They negotiated with another driver to take them back to town.
Scott used $500 of the Rotary money to buy food for the small village. She also donated camping gear, water filters and clothing to locals.
Before catching a plane back to the United States on May 15, she left medical supplies at the Dhulikhel hospital.
In November, CardioStart will go back to Nepal and carry out the heart-health mission it originally planned. The group treats people with heart conditions and trains local medical providers who continue the care long-term.
Scott won’t be going back in the fall, but she’ll be available to the local providers who have questions.
She said she’s grateful she had an opportunity to help. She said it was amazing to see how many volunteers came from other countries, and she thanked her fellow Rotarians.
Scott hopes aid for the country will continue after the destruction is no longer in the news.
“This little country that is beautiful thrives on tourism; the loss will continue,” Scott said. “It will take years for these places to rebuild.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104