A FLIGHT attendant has described how she used basic medical training to decide which injured earthquake victims in a remote Nepalese village needed to be airlifted to hospital.
Lana O’Flaherty, 25, made the life-or-death decisions after she and a small team of volunteers found a group of survivors in Melamchi, a remote village north of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
“I did first-aid training as part of my [air stewardess] course, so I was pushed into having to take charge because nobody else had any medical knowledge at all,” said O’Flaherty, who works for Etihad Airways but has spent the past six months with a Buddhist charity in Nepal.
Recalling how she prioritized the needs of 20 critically ill patients, she said: “There were people with broken limbs, spinal injuries and wounds bigger than my hand. They had no medical supplies and were lying on the ground in the open air.
“The villagers had been treating them with herbal medicine. The wounds were badly infected, so I had to scrape away the herbs and leaves. I was scraping the skulls of children without any anesthetic.”
O’Flaherty, who was born in the UK but grew up in Germany, instructed Nepalese soldiers last Sunday on whom to evacuate first.
“I established a chain of command with the soldiers and told them which patients needed to be moved, which ones could be sat up in the helicopter and which ones were too ill and had to remain lying down,” said O’Flaherty, who is working with the charity Chokgyur Lingpa Foundation.
“One very old man with a badly broken ankle walked for six hours with his 14-year-old granddaughter on his back to get to us.
“The girl was very ill and we flew her out almost immediately. Despite the pain he must have been in, this man just sat there quietly smiling at us, and covering up his feet, which had swollen up like elephants’ legs.”