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Dr. C: My friend is missing, and I have to go to Nepal

06/01/2015 04:59 EDT | Updated 05/31/2016 05:59 EDT
He's missing.

I haven't heard from my friend Nabeen.

I've heard from all my other friends in Kathmandu, but Nabeen's cellphone is out of order, he's not replying to my Facebook posts and messages, and I don't have his email address.

All I can think about is the very real possibility that he and his young family are trapped beneath their home, which was dilapidated at the best of times.

I snap out of it. I'm in a meeting with two doctors —  Andrew Furey and Jeremy Pridham of Team Broken Earth.

"Nick, are you sure you want to go?" Dr. Furey asks me.

"Absolutely."

I reply with confidence. But my gut oscillates between confidence and fear. What if I go there and I fail? What if the problems there are too big, and I accomplish nothing?

I breathe and remind myself that my job is simple.

A research mission

I'm going to Nepal to find out what the situation is. I'm trying to see who needs help, who is providing help and whether or not there is a long-term role or project in the country for Team Broken Earth.

That's the group of Canadian health-care workers who went to Haiti after the earthquake there five years ago. They still help there, and around the world.

The devastation from the Nepal earthquakes has been massive. The country will be healing for years. I feel like I do when a patient is sick. Sometimes you want to rush in and do something, but the best thing you can often do is just take a quiet moment and think.

Why do I even care about what's going on in Nepal? I've been through so much already. I finished chemo a little over a year ago. Why fling myself into a potentially dangerous situation?

Truth is, that's the reason I'm going. I feel like I've got this new lease on life and I need to spend it trying to help people. Or else I suffered it all for nothing.

I know when you hear about Nepal you think of a poor, chaotic nation. Maybe you've seen video of children underneath rubble, or photos of random body parts laid out on the side of a road.

To me, that's "horror porn" and unfortunately that's a part of our media landscape.

Why I love Nepal

But I have a special bond with Nepal. I've gone there every year for the past eight years, missing only once due to chemotherapy.

I don't go to Nepal yearly because it is poor and impoverished. I go because the people are lovely, the food is fantastic, and the place itself is electric. It is a place in the world where the ancient connects with the modern. In Nepal, I have felt connected to living and life because the country itself feels grounded in real things.

In a way, Nepal for me was like chemo; it smacks you in the face and makes you consider what's really important. That's why I've kept going there — to remind myself of the things I value. Family, food, music and kindness. 

I want to make a meaningful difference in a place which has made a meaningful difference in my life. I want other people to be able to visit Nepal and have their own magical experiences. I know that sounds corny, but I really do think that makes the world a better place.

And I'm genuinely worried one of my friends is dead. Buried in a mound full of rubble with his family.  

I park the car in my driveway and I take the keys out of the ignition. I sit back as everything goes quiet. I hear Dr. Furey's question echo in my head "Are you sure you want to go?"

No, I'm not sure.

But I'm absolutely certain I have to.

Dr. Nikhil Joshi's diary on his journey to Nepal will continue next Monday

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