Bruce treats survivors of quakes

Bruce Fraser is pictured with baby Thomas, who he treated for a severe eye infection, and two members of Thomas' immediate family during the community nurse's trip to Nepal to help earthquake survivors.
Bruce Fraser is pictured with baby Thomas, who he treated for a severe eye infection, and two members of Thomas' immediate family during the community nurse's trip to Nepal to help earthquake survivors.

A community nurse from Northumberland has dedicated his summer holiday to helping survivors after two devastating earthquakes in Nepal.

Bruce Fraser – a Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust employee – travelled to the Himalayas region to provide medical care to villagers in Sindhupalchowk district.

It is estimated that more than 9,000 people died and hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless following the Gorkha earthquake in April and a second earthquake in Sindhupalchowk a few weeks later.

Mr Fraser travelled first to meet with the non-government organisation Childreach Nepal for a day of cultural awareness training and then went on to the Red Cross field hospital in Chautara.

At this facility, he met up with his interpreter and guide, 30-year-old Umesh, who took him to his home village of Panichaur, which is part of one of the worst affected areas.

Every day, they loaded up medical supplies and set off to trek on foot for two or three hours deep into the mountains to try and reach villages levelled by the earthquake.

He saw more than 150 people with a range of conditions, including open wounds, infections, suspected typhoid and dehydration.

Mr Fraser, who has 20 years of nursing experience, said: “We knew that every village in the area had been devastated and, to date, no medical assistance had been able to reach them.

“Families are living under tarpaulins or sheets of corrugated tin in insanitary conditions, with several generations and their livestock, crammed together under one makeshift roof.

“Most people had never seen a doctor or nurse in their lives, relying mostly on herbal medicines. They expected nothing, but they were so grateful that they had not been forgotten.

“On the first day, I saw a four-week-old baby boy with a severe eye infection. The child’s father was working away and had never met his child and baby and mother were living with one set of grandparents.

“The mother was trying to clean her son’s eyes with rags and was terrified he might go blind.

“After a week’s course of eye drops, I made a return visit and he had opened his eyes and they were clear of infection. In thanks, I was given the honour of naming him and chose the name Thomas.”

In steaming heat, which reached 35 degrees centigrade, he went wherever help was needed, treating those he could and directing those with more serious conditions to the Red Cross.

He added: “There was a never ending queue of people, but I saw nothing but smiles and no one ever complained of their misfortune. People were helping each other to survive.”

Mr Fraser covers the Blyth, Cramlington, Ashington and Morpeth areas for Northumbria Healthcare. The trust is recognised across the NHS for its work to develop international links and the efforts of its staff in the international volunteering field.