Two years ago, Marmendu Tamang’s world changed in just a few minutes. On 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in over eight decades. The earthquake claimed the lives of her father and other family members but it also left her with an injury so severe that her leg had to be amputated. Today, she talks of this being end of life as she knew it but also as a new beginning for her.
Marmendu, 52, was at her parents’ house – close to her own residence in Samundrataar village of Nuwakot district – when the ground first shook 2 years ago. They were mourning a family death and offering food to relatives who were visiting to be part of the rituals. The quake impacted the house with such intensity that the roof collapsed and fell on Marmendu.
“I was in immense pain as one of the zinc sheets landed deep in my ankle joint, but I thought to myself that maybe this is just a dream,” she recollects the first few seconds of the tragedy. Being in a remote village, Marmendu was rescued two days after the earthquake by an Army helicopter and taken to the Army Hospital in Kathmandu. She regained consciousness only to find her leg amputated below the knee. The delay had caused immense damage and the doctors had to amputate to save her life. With this, excessive loss of blood left her family with little hope of seeing her alive, but she battled and survived.
Life at home presented new challenges for her as her only means of mobility was crawling, both inside and outside her house, even to do small chores and suffered injuries on her knees more often than not.
Visit to Yerahity Rehabilitation Center
In January 2017 – twenty months after losing her leg – Marmendu was taken to the Yerahity Rehabilitation Center, run by the Nepalese Army in Kathmandu. She spent four days at the center and learned to walk with the prosthetic leg. The Centre in Kathmandu and the Green Pasture Hospital in Pokhara are supported by the ICRC. “The two centers received a total of 60 earthquake-related cases for physical rehabilitation services,” says Jagadish Shrestha, head of the health department at the ICRC mission in Kathmandu.
“Before the earthquake, I made my living by farming in the fields. I can’t do that anymore but with the artificial limb I can now cook again and do other household chores while my husband goes out to work,” she says.
Her husband, Min Singh Tamang, 58, adds, “Though an artificial leg does not replace the human leg, this has brought us some respite. Now when I go to work or to run errands, I am not as worried for her. She can take care of herself which would not be the case had she been dependent on a walking-stick.”
Marmendu laments that sometimes she feels it would have been better if she perished in the quake but her thoughts quickly turn to her grandchildren and her face lights up again. She says, “With the new leg not only can I do the household chores, but I can be around my grandchildren to see them grow up. Most importantly, I can walk on my own.”
Marmendu needs more guidance on how best she can use her prosthesis. She plans to visit the Army Rehabilitation Center in May for more practice under the direct supervision of the technical staff. “This time I will stay longer so that I can return home more confident,” she says.