Dr. Kevin Geffe of Diamond State Surgical Associates in Middletown was one of the volunteers with the Wilmington-based Delaware Medical Relief Team.
The devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 decimated buildings, homes, temples, and left over 8,700 people dead. Medical teams from around the world mobilized to send doctors and nurses to tend to the 23,000 people who were injured.
Dr. Kevin Geffe of Diamond State Surgical Associates in Middletown was one of the volunteers sent to help by the Wilmington-based Delaware Medical Relief Team (DMRT).
Geffe, 37, a native of New Hampshire, is a general surgeon who felt the calling to help others after learning about the disaster in the Asian country.
“I believe where much is given; much is expected and I’ve been given a skill set that not a lot of people have and felt like that should be used for people who were in a natural disaster and needed help,” Geffe said. “I think there was also motivation to teach my children work is not always about work and getting money, but about making the world a better place and that being selfless is important in life.”
Some 100 medical volunteers from the DMRT were deployed for 10-day missions at different areas of Nepal nearly two weeks after the earthquake struck, including to the country’s capital, Kathmandu. Teams were also helicoptered in to remote areas of the Himalayas.
There are thousands of doctors and nurses who volunteer for humanitarian missions in areas affected by natural disasters, according to Médecins Sans Frontières or Doctors Without Borders. One of the organization’s biggest deployments was in January 2010 in Haiti where 350,000 patients were treated and 16,000 surgeries were performed.
The most common injuries after an earthquake hits are fractures/dislocations, wound infections, and head, face, and brain injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Amputations lead the statistics for the most common surgical procedures after such disasters.
“There were a lot of wounds that were infected that I needed to clean out dead tissue; broken bones that needed to be fixed; amputations that I did of arms and legs because of bad infections,” Geffe recalled.
But there were also other procedures that the doctor performed that weren’t necessarily earthquake-related. Millions of people in Nepal still lack access to adequate and comprehensive healthcare and Geffe did his part to pitch in with whatever he could do and knowledge he could pass on to those in medical need.
“I removed teeth and removed skin lesions from multiple people. I fixed two little children who were ‘tongue tied’ and detached the tips of their tongues from inside their mouth so they could eat and talk normally. I was able to do circumcision for a little boy who had chronic urinary infections his entire life because of complications at birth,” Geffe said. “I would say my entire team dealt with broad spectrum of medical problems most that were directed with medicines as well as surgical procedures. I went over as a doctor, not necessarily just as a surgeon. I was about to counsel people on how to take care of their partners in need, did teachings for women on how to care for babies, and counseled about dental hygiene.”
A father of two sons, Qwin, 10, and Carter, 7, Geffe said that seeing the need of underserved people in Nepal made him count his blessings.
“I befriended a gentleman close to my age, who had a small family just like myself, who literally lost everything. He was surviving with his family in a makeshift home. The walls were made of tin and scraps of wood and all they wanted to do was to feed us as a motion of gratitude,” he said. “His daughter fell asleep on my lap and it caused me to reflect upon the gift of my family as well as what a blessing it is to be born as an American and what natural freedoms and commodities we have that often I take for granted.”
Deanna Geiser works in the office at Diamond State Surgical Associates and said that she was nervous for Geffe when he announced that he was going to an earthquake-struck area, but that after seeing the photos of the work he was doing on the ground, she was relieved and inspired.
“Seeing the way he interacts with patients in the practice and getting to hear his stories from Nepal was full circle for me. He doesn't classify people into categories or status. He has a true diligence to help others in time of despair and trauma and does so every day of his life,” Geiser said.
Geffe said that he wants to go on another trip abroad in the future and plans to take his sons with him so that they can also experience the gift of being able to help those in need.