U.S. Sends Unit to Remote Quake Survivors in Pakistan
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Concern is growing over the fate of the hundreds of thousands who survived the earthquake in South Asia. The death toll from that earthquake on October 8th is estimated now at close to 80,000, but there are fears that the number of deaths could go much higher if aid fails to reach the survivors before winter sets in. The US Army has sent its only remaining MASH unit to the mountains of northern Pakistan to assist in the rescue effort. Colonel Angel Lugo heads the unit, and he joins me.
Colonel ANGEL LUGO (US Army): Hello, Ma'am.
MONTAGNE: Exactly what is your mission?
Col. LUGO: Our mission is to provide fast-forward hospitalization and resuscitative care. Our MASH--the people of MASH is actually a surgically intensive care unit capable organization of working in austere environments.
MONTAGNE: And in this particular case, where have you gone and how did you get there and what services do you have to provide?
Col. LUGO: Well, we've come a long ways from Miesau, Germany, near Landstuhl, Germany, all the way up to Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, and we're near the legislative area. We have established our field hospital here.
MONTAGNE: That field hospital, I gather, was pretty difficult to put together because it was just plain hard to get there.
Col. LUGO: You know, we are at the foothills of the Himalayas so this is a long way, but we're designed to travel and establish in austere environments. So we've overcome some of the challenges. We have our hospital here. We have our initial operating capability expanding every day.
MONTAGNE: And are you able to do surgery? We hear people are now coming in with need of amputations and even some worse injuries than even at the beginning.
Col. LUGO: We have a full field hospital initial operating capability and that means emergency medical treatment, operating rooms, surgeries, pharmacy lab, X-ray, intensive care unit, and that is truly a hospital-level intensive care unit capability here. We have already done several orthopedic surgeries, and we have seen many, many patients in our emergency room.
MONTAGNE: Could you tell us an example of one patient who came to you?
Col. LUGO: Well, actually our first patient was an orthopedic case, a patient who had already been seen earlier by some other hospital out here who needed the casting and the treatment re-cleaned, redressed and that had to be done in an operating room. We've also done one amputation out here in order to save the rest of that individual's leg.
MONTAGNE: What was the hardest thing that you all encountered in just plain trying to get up there to this city?
Col. LUGO: The winding roads, the large equipment and trucks with trailers, and you know, absolutely we want to conduct safe convoy operations and that's of utmost importance to us. We want to make sure we get here safely so we can do our mission, and we have done that, and we continue to improve our site. So really our focus now is on providing the best care possible here.
MONTAGNE: And you're trying to help how many people, do you estimate?
Col. LUGO: We see several patients a day. The numbers vary but really it's the type of patients that we get and the ability for us to do resuscitative care and be able to take them into the operating room and do surgery and really take good care of the people here.
MONTAGNE: Colonel Lugo, thank you very much for joining us.
Col. LUGO: Yes, Ma'am. Bye-bye.
MONTAGNE: Colonel Angel Lugo commands the US Army's MASH unit that's been sent to help survivors of the earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan earlier this month.
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.