‘Utter chaos’

Local EMT shares her up-close view of Nepal devastation

Katherine Furland, 19, of Essex Junction traveled to Nepal to help with medical relief after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on April 25.  She is an EMT and is volunteering in the Kathmandu Orthopedic Hospital — changing bandages and splinting broken bones alongside American relief doctors and Nepali nurses.  The hospital has many tents set up, including an emergency room tent. She was working in the hospital when the 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on May 12. 

Furland will be a junior at Clarkson University in the fall. After graduation, she plans to school to become a physician’s assistant. When she is home, she serves on Essex Rescue and as a ski patroller at Smuggler’s Notch.  


Essex Junction resident and EMT Katherine Furland is volunteering to aid earthquake victims in Nepal. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Essex Junction resident and EMT Katherine Furland is volunteering to aid earthquake victims in Nepal.

Here is a recent dispatch that Furland sent home to Vermont:

“I was outside in a tent at the time… I was about to plaster someone’s leg and all of a sudden people were screaming and running. Wasn’t sure what happened, because commotion like that could have just been an injury coming in. I felt the earth move, and realized there was an aftershock happening.  I stepped outside the tent and heard all the birds start screeching and they all flew off at once. People were freaking out.  I had never been in an earthquake before…. The trees were swaying pretty hard and the entire front of the hospital was swaying. That was actually pretty scary. The worst part was the screams of the people who don’t flinch at physical pain, but they are so affected and terrified at the possibility of a second earthquake.

In the moments after it happened, everyone was on their phones and everything was utter chaos. It really makes me appreciate the incident command system and all the things that are set up in the U.S. for when things like this happen. All of a sudden, people were running out of the hospital and family members were dragging their patients out in the gurneys. Some people were carrying patients in all sorts of ways. The director came out and was yelling at everybody to go into a nearby field. We all just ran around helping wherever we could, but there was no organization or real direction. Tents somehow got set up and people just somehow made it work, shuttling gurneys back and forth to get people out.  I helped transport people out of the hospital down this bumpy gravel and broken concrete road (all these people with major broken bones).

Very soon after the evacuation, new injuries began coming in. Many broken extremities, so we just plastered them and moved on. There were so many. A monk came in with a broken femur (incredibly painful). A woman came in with a shoulder dislocation. None of the surgeons could reduce it, so finally the American team just hung her arm off the gurney with a weight and eventually the muscles stopped spasming and it popped back in. She got x-rayed and released a few hours later. It was awesome to see that happen.

It’s crazy how many new patients there are. The hospital was down to nearly15 patients who still needed surgery from the first quake, and now there are hundreds.

Another thing that struck me was the sense of community, both within the Nepali people and within the aid workers. The people are just trying to support each other. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of something so genuine.”

— Katherine Furland