“We’re the group of doctors that stay and try to save lives:” Glendale natives help Nepal quake victims

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two brothers with Milwaukee ties are helping a specific group recovering from Nepal's devastating earthquake.

The Glendale natives say patients with spinal cord injuries are specifically vulnerable after disasters like this because many developing countries just are not prepared.

Dr. Andrew Haig and his brother, Tom Haig, say the challenges facing Nepal are reminiscent of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but the big difference is the mountains. That alone makes living with a spinal cord injury in Nepal extremely difficult and the brothers are trying to help.

Older brother Dr. Andrew Haig is the president of International Rehabilitation Forum, Inc.

"We started the field of disaster rehabilitation by finding the young doctors who were doing this in Pakistan and in China. We pulled them together at a meeting and said, how do we do this?" said Dr. Andrew Haig.

The nonprofit organization advises underdeveloped countries how to care for people with spinal cord injuries.

Tom Haig says the situation in many places is bleak.

"They do what is called 'warehousing the crips,' and that means they put somebody in a room and make sure they are fed and it's one of these situations where the blankets go over the knees and they are basically excluded from society," said Dr. Tom Haig.

Through their organization, the Haig brothers are supporting a doctor named Raju Dhakal, who they say is the only physician in Nepal specializing in rehabilitation medicine.

"Surgeons do great things but the long term management of people with management is physical medicine rehab doctors," said Dr. Andrew Haig.

Doctor Haig says there is of course an added challenge in Nepal for people living with spinal injuries because of the mountainous terrain.

"And if you have a spinal cord injury in Nepal, right now you think it's a death sentence like they used to think 50 years ago in the United States," said Dr. Andrew Haig.

And it's because of organizations like IRF that give communities the tools to make a change and think long-term.

The Haig's say, it's their network of doctors that stay in areas long after the initial trauma of a disaster is treated.

The Haig's say the doctors in Nepal have already treated 50 patients with spinal cord injuries and expect the number to double.

If you'd like to learn more about the International Rehabilitation Forum, CLICK HERE.