USC Medical Team Returns to Los Angeles After Week in Nepal

A team from USC's Keck School of Medicine has returned to Los Angeles from Nepal after a week of helping survivors from last month's devastating earthquake there.

After 40 hours of travel, they arrived Tuesday afternoon at LA County-USC Medical Center, having just missed Nepal's latest devastating earthquake. But they saw the aftermath of the last one, where they described a resilient people and their long road to recovery.

As soon as they arrived they saw scenes of destruction. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25 left thousands dead and many more injured and homeless, including the driver Dr. Edward Newton had befriended on his last trip to Nepal.

"He lived in a one room apartment with his wife and two kids and that apartment had been destroyed, so they had just been sleeping out in the open," said Newton, an emergency room physician.

It was the same story with so many families. The USC team worked side by side with Nepali doctors and nurses, treating brain injuries and broken bones.

The toughest part, they said, was seeing the many wounded children who had lost loved ones.

"They've lost siblings or parents in some cases. I think for me, that was probably the harshest thing to see," said Dr. Kenji Inaba, a trauma surgeon.

But they also described a Nepali people that were kind and welcoming, even though they had lost much. They jumped every time the ground beneath them began to shake.

"Just the grief, the panic, almost kind of the PTSD of the major earthquake," said anesthesiologist Dr. Shihab Sugeir. "Seeing that with people that we were becoming friends with its just hard, knowing we got out just before another serious earthquake."

The long term cost has yet to be measured. The loss of tourism and the impact on the economy.
The loss of so many historical monuments. Nepali men who work in construction have taken up jobs in neighboring countries, leaving behind their wives and children.

"My heart goes out to those many women and children in the villages that are left to fend for themselves, so I think it's really important that we keep that aid coming," said Karen Kim Embrey, a nurse.

The team said their experience was also a reminder that they, too, live in earthquake country.
Among the advice they want to give their fellow Southern Californians: include a water filtration system in your earthquake kit.

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