Rubina's story

 

The last time I saw Rubina, just a few days after the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April, she was in great pain. Both of her legs had been badly broken when she was trapped beneath falling rubble.

Almost exactly six months later, I'm back in Nepal and went to look for Rubina and her family, hoping that she had recovered.

In the days after the earthquake, I worked for a number of NGOs, including Global Giving, Charity: Water and Splash.

My brief was to document the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, helping those NGO teams to gain an accurate perception of the situation on the ground and to assist them as they communicated their immediate needs.

 
 

The scale of damage to areas such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bhaktapur was clear to see. Other areas remained relatively unscathed. Earthquake damage, as I learned, is wholly random and unpredictable.

Over 9,000 people lost their lives as a direct result of the earthquake and each story is heartbreaking. It's six months later and I am still hearing very personal stories of friends and relatives lost in cruelly random ways.

Countless thousands more were injured and I documented just one girl's story in an earlier blog entry.

 
 

Rubina, 7, sustained severe injuries to the lower part of her body during the earthquake. She was sheltering in a school classroom when I first saw her during an inspection of schools in Kathmandu. In great pain, she had received limited medical attention and had developed a life-threatening infection.

Rubina's one-hour journey to the Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital was clearly painful but we'd received expert advice from volunteer staff at the Mercy Malaysia Field Hospital so knew that Rubina needed immediate attention and moving her was the best approach.

The last photograph I took of Rubina shows her waving goodbye, sedated at the hospital, about to fall asleep and finally free of some of the pain.

Earlier today, I walked from central Kathmandu to the school where we first found Rubina (walking is almost a necessity in Kathmandu currently due to fuel shortages - but that's another story).

On reaching the school, one of Rubina's neighbours recognised me and called Rubina's father. He obviously recognised me too but ran off without speaking. Despite what you might think, I'm not used to seeing that reaction and wondered why he didn't even pause to say 'Hello'.

Two minutes later, the reason he'd run off became obvious. He couldn't wait to proudly share Rubina's impressive recovery and returned, beaming, holding Rubina's hand.

Seeing Rubina walk around the corner, dressed in a beautiful, pink festival dress and walking quite freely is a moment that I'll cherish for a long time.

 
 

We talked about Rubina's recovery, she showed me the tiny scars on her legs where the pins were inserted, we took a few photos for posterity and then Rubina showed me how fast she can run around the nearby temple.

 
 

Rubina's story is just one of many thousands. Not all have such a happy conclusion but without the dedicated work of the medical teams who devote themselves to treating those in need, even this story would not have a happy ending.

Six months ago I posted the following list of gratitude, which deserves repeating.

"Thank you to orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Shue, paediatric surgeon Dr. Lai and all their impressive colleagues at Mercy Malaysia, together with Medical Director Dr. Jaswan Shakya and his generous staff at the Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital including Dr. Laxman Rijal, the anaesthetist, ambulance driver, paramedic and all the people who collaborate to provide essential care to patients. Thanks also to Farah Ali who made an important connection after seeing an Instagram photo I posted earlier in the week. Thanks also to Ritesh, his friends and colleagues at Splash for their pro-active approach to helping Rubina in what might literally have been a life-saving mission."

Rubina and I are going for a run around the temple now.

:)