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Scripps Health Nurses Treat 240 Patients In Nepal

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Scripps Health nurses who flew from San Diego to Nepal to care for survivors of the devastating April 25 earthquake treated around 240 patients in the first few days, their employer reported Tuesday.

The five Scripps employees in Nepal paired up with a small group of physicians from Harvard to form two mobile medical teams that went to mountain villages outside the capital of Kathmandu.

According to Scripps Health, one of the teams treated 137 adults and children for fractures, chronic illnesses and gastritis.

After seeing patients, the team members were invited by villagers to take part in a service marking the birthday of Buddha, which is celebrated on May 4 in Nepal.

"We were invited to the temple to share in the celebration for a short time," said nurse Patty Skoglund. "It's an experience of a lifetime. We are tired, but so appreciative of the experience. And the people are wonderful."

The other team was flown by helicopter to a remote terraced mountain village along the quake fault line at about 8,000 feet in elevation, where they were scheduled to spend two days providing medical care and camping outside, according to Scripps.

Nurse Debra McQuillen said the team had already seen 102 patients with a range of medical issues, but only a few had injuries related to the earthquake. Destruction could be seen everywhere, with every building in the village suffering some type of structural damage, she said.

The Scripps Health contingent plans on remaining in Nepal for around three weeks.

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake killed nearly 7,400 people and injured another 14,500, according to the World Health Organization. Health authorities are now concerned with the longer-term impacts — a lack of shelter, contaminated water and poor sanitation possibly leading to cholera, dysentery and other water-borne diseases.

The BBC reported that around 4,000 aid workers are now in Nepal.

A North County woman who was in the Himalayan country when the earthquake struck told reporters today that the experience was "terrifying."

Not long after escaping from a building, an avalanche buried the village her group was visiting, Kathleen Heldman said.

"The whole time I thought I was being buried in snow, and this is where I die," said Heldman, who has since returned to San Diego County.

She and her companions were stranded for four days before catching a helicopter out of the village.