Looking out of the airplane window, a few feet high, you can only see a strip of land, which is sometimes interrupted by some white shapes apparently raised almost at ground level. Once nearer, you realize that the shapes are the roofs of the only available shelters.
Below there’s only cracks, corpses buried in the ruins of formers homes, earth rattles that have made lives tremble. Nepal is no longer a city; it’s a spasm.
He had somehow imagined the scenery by listening to the news, but Reidel Ortelio Hernández González really knew about it last May 12th, when he landed on that Asian territory, only accompanied by his bag, a 30 years nursing experience —most of them in the anesthesia practice—, and a lot of fears.
He had never seen such a catastrophe. He made the confession to Escambray via e-mails, and described Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, as a desolate camp.
“Upon arrival we saw a city moving towards normalization after the earthquake and the coming and going of people and members of various international groups that provide their collaboration to recover the country”, he says.
The Cuban Medical Brigade has camped at the very epicenter of pain. The tents have been displayed in the backyard of an abandoned facility that now serves as medical center on the outskirts of Kathmandu. It’s right there where Reidel —the only health cooperator from Sancti Spiritus in Nepal— barely snoozes, with the rest of the Cubans. Further, in Bhaktapur, other tents also improvise a hospital.
But neither the events that took place the first day after his arrival, nor the ones which followed, impacted on him as much as the smiles that began to emerge in the people’s faces. “The first patients received —he wrote— expressed their gratefulness and appreciation for the work of the brigade”.
It was quite an ordeal for many of tem to reach us. Despite the busy days, Reidel managed to find the time to keep us updated.
“We have mostly treated traumatisms, bone fractures, psychological disorders due to earthquake damage and the loss of family, home and other properties; people with chronic diseases and as well as others suffering from curable disorders who had received no medical care because of the low access of poor people to health services”.
But the miracle is made day after day: over 5 000 patients treated, and over 60 surgical operations reported.
“It’s been difficult because we lack the ideal conditions, but we do our best and offer our services with quality and love”.
In Nepal the days seem to last more than 24 hours. For Reidel, the day begins at 6:00 in the morning, but his working hours are uncertain, they are often extended as long as there are patients.
“Who hasn’t been afraid when faced with something which, except for some exceptions, Cubans have never experienced? —he says—. For our own protection, we leave the facilities whenever there’s a tremor, and we don’t come back until we’re allowed to. For the same reason, we also sleep in the tents”.
In the face of such tragedy, how do you feel about the fact of being saving lives?
“I’m very proud and satisfied to take our solidarity and health services to the people of Nepal, who are in great need of them right now”.