April 30, 2015 at 10:14 am

This Nepal doc didn’t leave patient on operation table after earthquake

Doctor Ram Prasad Sapkota outside Prasuti Griha hospital in Kathmandu. (HT Photo)

Few would have heard of Ram Prasad Sapkota outside Prasuti Griha hospital in Kathmandu, but the 33-year-old doctor has become a poster boy of the government-run institute in the Nepalese capital’s heaving Thapathali neighbourhood after Saturday’s devastating earthquake.

When the earthquake struck, he and his nursing assistant refused to abandon a pregnant woman who had already lost her unborn child. Had the five-kilogram stillborn baby not been delivered, the mother faced certain death.

“I was stitching up her uterus when the tremors came. I had to keep it (uterus) closed to stop severe bleeding. There was no question of evacuating the building as she would have died within minutes,” Sapkota told HT, as rickety ambulances rushed in with sirens blaring.

Seemingly brought to life by the tremors, the cautery machine- used to stop heavy bleeding- darted towards the gynaecologist and struck him, the table fan toppled and surgical instruments flew off the table as Sapkota held on to his patient.

“I was petrified as I had read somewhere that if a quake were to hit Nepal, Prasuti Griha and Bir government hospital would be the first buildings to be flattened,” said Sapkota.

The surgery was successful; the woman saved.

Six hours after the quake, he found himself working at the same operating table, performing a caesarean section on a woman whose baby was in transverse lie- medical jargon for a baby lying sideways.

“She delivered a healthy baby. And there I was holding new life, with death all around,” he smiled. “Nature’s ways are inscrutable.”

Records show 185 births have taken place in Nepal’s biggest and busiest 415-bed maternity hospital between April 25 and April 29.

Hospital director Dr Jageshwor Gautam said Sapkota had set an example for others with his unflinching effort, courage and commitment. “What courageous stuff, what a doctor he is! Everyone here is talking about him,” said Gautam, 52.

But the conditions in the hospital are horrifying. There are disturbing scenes of pregnant women lying on the floors, groaning and writhing in pain, expectant fathers helplessly looking on and doctors whizzing past to attend critical cases.

“It’s like a war zone. It breaks my heart,” said Dr Rajanee Jha, 35.

At the end of the corridor near the emergency care, Budha Ratna Maharjan, a pathology lab worker, holds his daughter — born a day after the quake — in tight embrace. “Isn’t she the lucky one, bringing new hopes in the darkest of times,” he asked.

The hospital plans to track down babies born on April 25 and name one of its 12 wards after the “earthquake’s child”, said Gautam.