26 June - 2 July 2015 #764

Two months old

Babies born during the quake remind parents of the dreadful day, but also give them strength to face the future
Om Astha Rai

QUAKE FAMILY: Nabina Jamkattel (right) gave birth to her baby in the lawn of the maternity hospital. Her husband, Bhawanath (left, with daughter Namuna on his lap) carried her down from the delivery room when it started shaking.

It was just before noon that Saturday at the Paropakar Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu. Pregnant women were waiting to be admitted, their families were busy filling out forms, paying the cashier and buying necessary medicines.

Nabina Jamkattel, 25, had been admitted that morning and wheeled into the delivery room with labour pains. Just as the contractions started, the room began to shake violently. The wobbly bed was bouncing, the midwife ran for her life, and a nurse held on to Nabina’s bed.

As panic-stricken doctors, nurses and patients scrambled out of the hospital, Nabina’s husband Bhawanath ran in, staggering through the swaying corridors looking for his wife. He found her in the delivery room, swept her up in his arms, and tried to escape. But a part of the ceiling had fallen and the door was jammed. He knelt down, laying his wife on the floor and looked around for another exit. “Big cracks opened up in the walls, window panes shattered and there was broken glass everywhere. I thought we were all going to die,” Bhawanath recalls.

As the main shock subsided, a man kicked open the door from outside and Jamkattel carried his wife down the stairs to the safety of the lawn, which was already crowded with patients lying on the grass. The nurses brought a mattress and screened Nabina with bedsheets as her labour pains continued.

Bhawanath watched as the Nepal Rastra Bank building nearby crumbled, and he worried about his five-year-old daughter and mother in their rented room in Gongabu. He left his wife there and drove at breakneck speed to his flat.

When he reached home, Bhawanath was happy to find his daughter and mother alive. But seeing him alone, they started to weep thinking Nabina had been killed. By the time Bhawanath returned to the hospital in Thapathali, his wife had delivered a baby boy. Nabina recalls she was struggling to deliver even as aftershocks came one after another. “I felt one big jolt on my back from the ground below me, and I pushed the baby out,” she recalls.

The Jamkattel family’s house in Dhading was destroyed in the quake. Their rented room is intact, but they were too scared to stay inside. For the first two weeks, the family slept in Bhawanath's delivery van, then moved to a temporary shelter. They are now back in their rented room in Kathmandu.

Altogether 39 babies were born at Paropakar Maternity Hospital on the day of the earthquake. Two women had Caesareans, and doctors were stitching back the uterus of one of them after removing a dead baby when the quake struck.

The other was Sunita Sunuwar, 19, who had just been anesthesised when the operation theatre started shaking. Doctors and nurses ran outside leaving her alone, but they went back in immediately after the main shock and continued with the operation despite aftershocks. The baby was taken out at 12:21PM, 26 minutes after the main quake. When Sunita reached her village in Ramechhap district, she did not find her house. The earthquake had flattened it. She told Nepali Times on the phone from her village: “When I came out alive from the operation theatre, I felt like I had conquered death. I don’t think I will die now.”

After she gave birth in the hospital lawn, people told Nabina Jamkattel to name her baby ‘Bhukampa’ (Earthquake), but the parents have decided to call him 'Vision', for the hope of the future that he brought to their lives.

“We were expecting just one new life,” says Nabina, kissing her baby. “But I feel we were all reborn that day.”

Read also:

The baby who lived, Sahina Shrestha

Support 10,000 women in 15 days, Anjana Rajbhandary

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