Dr. Saju Pradhan was cooking lunch at home in Kathmandu on April 25 when the earth began to move.
“The house shook violently. I thought it was a plane passing by, but then it never stopped and I realized it was a big quake,” said Pradhan, the medical director of Nepal Orthopaedic Hospital.
“I went outside and saw neighbors pouring out. The earth beneath me was moving in waves like a snake,” he said.
Fellow orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bhaskar Raj Pant was in an operating room at Grande International Hospital in another part of Kathmandu.
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Workers got patients out of the large hospital and set up tents outside.
Pradhan’s hospital did the same.
For weeks, the two physicians and their colleagues treated thousands of people badly injured in the massive quake.
In all, more than 9,000 people died and more than 20,000 were hurt.
Many had broken bones, and Pradhan and Pant used techniques and supplies provided by SIGN Fracture Care International, a Richland-based nonprofit with a mission to “bring healing to the victims of orthopaedic injuries throughout the developing world.”
The group designs, manufactures and provides orthopaedic implants that can be used in hospitals without modern technology, and offers training and support to physicians.
Pradhan and Pant were in the Tri-Cities this week for a SIGN conference that runs through today.
Other surgeons from Africa, Asia and South America also made the trip to participate.
“Broken bones are devastating for millions around the world,” said Jeanne Dillner, SIGN CEO, in a statement.
“A major component of our mission is to provide the skills and tools surgeons in developing countries need to treat the injured in their countries,” Dillner said. “These skills and implants allow them to reach similar results as those achieved in United States.”
Dr. Lewis Zirkle, SIGN founder and president, added that 90 percent of severe fractures occur in developing countries.
“Surgeons from those countries must be very innovative to compensate for the lack of equipment considered essential to do trauma surgery in North America,” Zirkle said in the statement.
“During the conference, we will explore the unique challenges they face, teach treatment methods and practice techniques they can use to enhance trauma care in their home countries.”
Pradhan and Pant praised SIGN for the work it does and help it provides, including after the quake. The organization sent more supplies, and Zirkle and Dillner visited to check in and help.
Pradhan and Pant spoke to the Herald during a break in the conference, telling about the earthquake’s devastation and of the terror that followed.
Even though both hospital buildings came through the earthquake OK, patients feared being inside so tents were set up outside for weeks.
In the aftermath, “we worked day and night,” Pant said.
While patients’ bodies are healing, the country still has a long way to go to reach full recovery, the physicians said.
People are still living in temporary houses and there’s still significant damage, Pant said.
And there are psychological wounds that remain even after bones are mended and houses rebuilt.
But people from all walks of life pulled together. Rich and poor were treated side-by-side in medical tents, and worked alongside each other to help.
“It shook everybody, literally, and brought everybody to the ground, to the same level,” Pant said. “And now everybody is rising from there.”