How one American doctor is helping Nepal’s earthquake victims

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Everyone in Nepal remembers where they were when the earthquake hit last Saturday, like this American doctor in Kathmandu.


Andrew Trotter: So, I was actually at home doing laundry, actually.


Werman: We'll hear more from him in just a moment. Also today on The World we'll hear about a living Nepali goddess, who was at a temple praying when the ground started shaking. Now, 4 days later, aid is finally flowing into Nepal from all around the globe. But the needs of survivors are so great that a lot more help is needed, especially tents, food, and water, and medical supplies. Saturday's quake killed more than 5,000 people, double that for the number of injured. So we start our coverage today with that American doctor who's been treating the injured. Andrew Trotter fell in love with Nepal and moved there two years ago. He was working on a program in Kathmandu to counter diseases like TB and HIV. Then the earthquake struck.


Trotter: You know, when you come to Nepal it's been known that this might happen. So I was prepared. But you”˜re still not sure exactly that it’s happening in the beginning, and then I realized what was happening, got underneath a table and just kind of held on. I never have felt anything like that.


Werman: After you got out from under the table, what happened next? Did you go straight to the hospital to see what was going on there?


Trotter: Well there's an open area not so far from where I live. I actually live in a old part of the city and there's really no foreigners there. There was an open area where people play basketball and things like that, so everybody kind of gathered there and we were talking and consoling each other. At that time, there were aftershocks and people were sitting on the ground because they didn't know what else to do, trying not to worry that things would fall on them. But it was open enough that people felt safer there than in the crowded little alleyways in the neighbourhood.


Werman: Right. When did you realize that as a doctor your skills would be desperately needed?


Trotter: Well initially it was interesting because the area that I was living wasn't that damaged. There was some structural damage but none of the houses completely collapsed. I wasn't quite sure what the damage was until I got to the hospital and I saw was what coming.


Werman: What did eventually arrive at the hospital? Was it just one patient after another?


Trotter: Well initially it was a flood of patients. Most of what we were seeing in the first day to two days was traumatic injuries. People that were struck by objects. People that were buried in houses that collapsed. People that were buried underneath bricks. So people had fractures of their skull, people had broken arms, broken legs, trauma to their chests, things like that. I'd never been in this situation but I felt it was kind of like a war. Like what it would feel like being in a war, because there was a lot of traumatic injury. Then over the next few days we continued to see some people from Kathmandu but then slowly people from the surrounding areas of the Kathmandu Valley and then outside of those areas were starting to come.


Werman: As a doctor, of course you have to keep your emotions in check. But have there been any instances in the past couple of days where it was just too hard to do that?


Trotter: Well I think that when you go through your training you learn to just do your job, and you get into a mode sometimes where you’re just doing what you know you have to do. Those first patients that I saw initially, it was overwhelming. But you realize that you, and I was there sometimes with a medical student or nurses, you had to do something right away. But I think when you have downtime, when you have a time to take a deep breath, it’s really difficult. It’s very difficult to see children and elderly with such severe injuries. We do our best but there have been a lot of patients that have come since this occurred on Saturday.


Werman: You're in Nepal because you love the country, you love the people. What have you noticed amongst the people and how they're coping?


Trotter: Well I think it's very difficult. I think Nepali's knew that this was a possibility but when the reality happens, I think no one can be completely prepared. I think in the beginning there was a lot of shock and it was very emotionally difficult. Recently, I think in the last day or two, I've seen more of the emotional and psychological effects of an event like this, whereas in the beginning it was more of the medical side of things. Nepali's are very social and community oriented people also. I have seen people really come together and being in Nepal for a while and feeling like I have a Nepali family also, it's really helped support me also because they've reached out to me and shown signs of solidarity just like they do with their own friends and family.


Werman: Andrew Trotter, an American doctor who lives in Kathmandu. Andrew, you've been a busy man. Thank you very much for your time.


Trotter: Sure. Thank you.