Assisting Patients to Return Home
“I don’t know how I would have managed to return home without IOM since there is no public transportation stopping near my village and I cannot walk,” said Mani Rai, a 65-year-old Nepalese man who just came back to his home in Melamchi Village Development Committee (VDC) in Sindhupalchowk district through IOM’s Assisted Discharge and Referral Service.
“The only option would have been my family carrying me all the way from downtown to home with a stretcher, which would have taken hours,” he continued.
Mani was at a church on 25 April when the first earthquake happened. The building collapsed and Mani was hit by a falling wall, causing a pelvic fracture. “That day, 25 out of 64 people in the church were seriously injured and one girl died,” he recalled. “She was only 16 years old.”
The next day, Mani was airlifted by the Nepalese Army and taken to the Kathmandu Army Hospital for treatment. He stayed there for 11 days, eventually moving out as there were not enough beds to accommodate the influx of patients requiring assistance. Mani ended up in a private hospital in Kathmandu but moved out the next day because he couldn’t afford the hospital fee.
“So we had to find another place for him urgently,” said Kumar Rai, his 26-year-old son, the only child of Mani and his wife, Pabitra. Luckily, Anadaban Hospital, which turned to a stepdown facility to accommodate patients injured by the earthquakes, offered Mani a place to stay. He stayed there for 6 weeks, while his family remained at his town in Melamchi VDC.
“At some point, however, I started missing home. Even though I didn’t have any plans, I wanted to go back to be with my family,” Mani said, looking at his 2-year-old grandson. “But I didn’t know how. There was no public transportation to take me home.”
Then something Mani called “a miracle” happened. A doctor at Anadaban Hospital who learned about Mani’s situation introduced him to IOM’s medical team for the earthquake response, which has been offering the Assisted Discharge and Referral Service to patients ready for discharge from hospital in need of assistance to return home, to a temporary shelter or another facility.
“A couple of days later, IOM staff came to visit me to see if I am fit for traveling.” Having been cleared by his doctor, Mani was in an ambulance heading home the next day. Pabitra and Kumar heard about the news and traveled to Kathmandu by local bus to accompany him during the journey.
“We are thrilled to have him back, even though we know things are not over. We will have to come back to Kathmandu for a follow-up next month,” Kumar said, looking at IOM staff in the front seat. Before leaving the hospital, the family had a discussion about the follow-up plans with IOM staff who provided them with information on available facilities and medical services free of charge.
“It was very nice to have guidance on the follow-up services. IOM staff said they will provide transportation when the follow-up reservation time comes,” Kumar said, looking relieved.
The 3-hour journey from Kathmandu to Sindhupalchowk was not easy. The road was bumpy and muddy and people cried out whenever the ambulance bounced against the road. Their faces, however, were full of joy because they were going home together.
“My dad used to build houses, the ones with stones and mud,” Kumar said when asked what Mani used to do for a living. “Two years ago, he quit the job and opened a small shop right next to our house.” The shop was completely destroyed when the first earthquake happened.
“We don’t know what to do but for now built a temporary shop next to the destroyed one. It also has a room for our family to stay,” Kumar said excitedly. “I hope my dad will like it.”
When the ambulance stopped at Mani’s house, delighted family members and neighbors gathered to welcome Mani’s return. Two small tables in front of Mani’s temporary shop were surrounded by people who were happy to see Mani looking much better than the time he left for Kathmandu and wanted to catch up about what happened during his long absence.
“We moved to here 11 years ago,” Mani said when asked how long the family have been living in the town. They used to live in Dolakha until Mani got a job in Sindhupalchowk, as a house builder. Later, Kumar left home, leaving his 25-year-old wife and two children with his parents.
“Our family has been separated for some time because of my job,” said Kumar, who used to work in Rasuwa district as an electrician. “We had no choice because we needed money.” Kumar lost his job on the day the earthquake happened.
“I hope to stay here until my dad gets well completely but I might need to leave soon for a job,” Kumar said. “I don’t know where yet but it might be overseas,” he continued.
“When I return, I will build a house in the eastern part of Nepal where our family can all live together. I will also be able to make enough money to give a good education to my children so that they can have professions that can help people, especially those who are sick.”
IOM’s Assisted Discharge and Referrals Service
Since 10 May 2015, IOM has been working to strengthen assisted discharge and referral systems in order to decongest hospitals, assist step-down care facilities and provide healthy return options for injured and vulnerable patients. To date, three medical teams have assisted over 560 patients discharged from hospitals and are attending to their follow-up care. IOM remains committed to supporting patients who were displaced after the earthquake to seek appropriate care and return home where possible. For more information, please visit http://nepal.iom.int/jupgrade/index.php/en/earthquake-response/17-main/149-health