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Local doctor with Nepalese roots plans to head home to help

Written by Eric Blum, The Evening Sun | May 4, 2015 11:30 AM
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'I feel a little guilty living here in comfort while my family is having such a tough time'

When Sonam Ruit moved from Nepal to the United States toward the end of 1995, he had a dream of becoming a doctor.

Almost 20 years later, most York-area residents who know him, call him Doctor Ruit, a managing partner at Martin Foot and Ankle in Springettsbury Township.

"I came here primarily for education," Ruit said. "I consider myself so blessed with what I've done and what I have over here."

On April 25, that success took a backseat while his mind was on something halfway around the world. 

Around 6 a.m. local time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck central Nepal - with an epicenter almost 50 miles away from the capital of Kathmandu - has killed more than 6,000 people and injured more than 14,000, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

The epicenter also lies around 20 miles from where Ruit's parents, two sisters and their families live. 

"I was in complete shock when I heard about it," Ruit said. "I tried to get in contact with my family back home, but nothing was working. Their phone lines were down, so it was just a total blackout."

For more than three hours, Ruit tried calling, texting and any other method he could think of to try to reach his family halfway around the world.

"I didn't know what to think and I didn't want to think about what could be," Ruit said. "I saw the ruins on television and I hoped for the best. I just wanted to talk to them."

After what Ruit said seemed much more like an eternity, he connected to his sister's mobile phone with a friend's help. 

"It was a limited connection, but I got to hear and find out that everyone was safe," Ruit said. "I didn't speak to my parents until a day or two after that."

Since the original catastrophe, more than 100 aftershocks have occurred, with one as recently as 5 a.m. in Nepal on Saturday, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"They're all living together now in a town named Hile," Ruit said. "They're actually taking a little bit of chance by living there, due to it having a lot of mountains, but they want to return to normalcy as much as possible."

Once Ruit knew his family was safe, he knew he had to help in any way he could. 

"I feel a little guilty living here in comfort while my family is having such a tough time," Ruit said. "There's a shortage of housing and drinking water, a concern of a lingering effect for years and the smell of dead bodies starting to kick in."

When Ruit finally talked to his parents, he asked them what he could do to help. They responded by saying that anything he could do would be greatly appreciated. That's when Ruit decided to start gathering medical supplies and raise any money he could for the cause, starting with $1,500 out of his own pocket.

"There's been a good response thus far after reaching out to as many people as I could," Ruit said. "I don't have all of the supplies they need, but I'm doing as much as I can."

Ruit plans to go to Nepal to help in about four to six weeks once he makes sure all of his American patients are taken care of.

"There aren't enough medical professionals and people to take care of others right now," Ruit said. "I spoke to my partners at work and they're on board with it."

Ruit says his two decades of experience is going to be more useful than ever now that he gets to take it back to where he was born. Ruit attended college, graduate school and had his residency at three different schools in Pennsylvania.

"I spoke a little English when moving here, but besides that I really got to where I am with hard work," Ruit said. "That's what I'm going to need to do for Nepal, work hard to give them back what they had before the earthquake. They don't have enough resources, but hopefully I can give them enough to make a difference."

Ruit wants to share his message of raising awareness for Nepal to the same extent that the recent Baltimore riots have shed light on Charm City. There are other news events that could take time and attention away from Nepal. 

"Nepal is majestic in terms of landscape, but it's one of the poorest countries in the world," Ruit said. "When a disaster like this hits, a country that is already limited as is, takes an even bigger hit. Everything is at a standstill." 

To donate

Sonam Ruit is asking anyone who wishes to donate to earthquake relief to do so at the fund www.gofundme.com/martinfootandankle. Donations will be delivered to the local authorities and hospitals in desperate need.


This article comes to us through a partnership between The Evening Sun and WITF. 

Published in News, York

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