After Nepal quake interrupts dream vacation, local couple joins relief efforts

Dr. Ajai and Nancy Malhotra were on a dream vacation in Nepal when the first earthquake happened.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As relief efforts continue in Nepal in the wake of the second earthquake in three weeks, two local healthcare providers share their story about being part of the initial response.

Dr. Ajai and Nancy Malhotra were on their dream vacation, an Everest Base Camp trek. They were walking across a swinging bridge on their way back to the airport on April 25 when everything changed.

“It lasted about 40 seconds, maybe 30 to 40 seconds. It just felt longer,” remembers Nancy, the Director of Trauma Services at Chippenham Hospital. “I could have walked to the moon I was walking so fast trying to get out of there, so I think we had a lot of adrenaline going through us initially from the earthquake.”

That 7.8 magnitude quake killed more than 8,100 people, injured close to 18,000 and flattened villages. The Malhotras joined the response effort.

Nancy stayed at their airport, which had become a triage center. Ajai, a Trauma Surgeon at VCU Medical Center, went to a hospital.  He relied on a translator coordinating the effort and had to improvise along the way.

“We wanted sheets that we could tear as bandages. He would tell them and they would have the sheets there. We wanted splints, he told them what size bamboo might be the best and they chopped some bamboo down,” Ajai says.

Nancy remembers treating 71 patients in just four hours, losing a man with internal injuries. “We just didn’t have the supplies or blood supply to be able to help him.”

The Malhotras left the destruction but carry the memories of that time when they could help.

“I think in a way we are still processing it somewhere inside our minds and only later on we will know how it may have changed us,” Ajai says. “Of course you come back very thankful for what we have here.”

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