Mother walks half a day to rescue her from among the dead
Banyatar, Nepal — It was a smile worth millions. After 15 minutes of cajoling and prodding, the bruised angelic face of four-year-old Sujina lit up, bringing cheers to half a dozen people in the room.
Soon the radiance spread like contagion to the pensive face of Chaju Ghale, Sujina’s mother, as she sat on the edge of the bed holding the hand of a girl who cheated death by a hair.
That radiant smile stood in stark contrast to the all pervasive gloom and despair sweeping Nepal in the aftermath of the devastating April 25 earthquake, where the death toll has exceeded 7,000.
Sujina was presumed dead and was kept among the bodies for cremation for hours after she was pulled out of the debris of her house in Tipling village, about 100 miles west of Kathmandu. Her family attend St. Ignatius Church, a 400-member parish that is part of the very small Catholic presence in this largely Buddhist country.
Chaju had gone to graze the cattle early in the morning on April 25 and had to walk four hours after she felt the strong quake at noon. Her arrival just before the cremation in the evening spared the life of the girl.
“When I reached the place, they were getting ready to take her for cremation (along with six other dead bodies). I pleaded with Phullu Tamang (the village health worker) to check on my daughter, and they found her body was warm,” recounted Chaju, sitting on the bed inside of a small house that withstood the killer quake, at Banyatar, perched on a hilltop overlooking Kathmandu.
Immediately, shocked villagers rushed the bruised girl to the village health center and alerted Dharing district officials with a satellite phone—the village’s only link with the world. Early on Sunday morning, Sujina was airlifted by helicopter along with the mother to the Neuro hospital in Kathmandu.
As the hospital was teeming with seriously injured people and Sujina’s condition was declared safe, doctors asked the mother to suggest a nearby place to move the girl. Chaju mentioned her aunt’s house at Banyatar, 200 meters from St. Ignatius.
“We were brought here by helicopter Tuesday evening,” the mother told Bishop Paul Simick of Nepal, whom this correspondent accompanied to meet the miracle girl.
Chaju has two older children in the village. Her husband works in Dubai.
Sujina’s condition took time to improve.
“The child has fever and cannot sit up,” the mother added as we prepared to leave.
“This girl should not be at home. She should be in a hospital. But we do not have any hospital,” sighed the bishop, who heads the minuscule Catholic church in Nepal, numbering less than 10,000 in a nation of over 28 million people. The Catholic vicariate of Nepal has only health centers and three dozen educational institutions in the Himalayan nation.
Father Samuel Simick, the Jesuit parish priest of Tipling and younger brother of Bishop Simick, told Aleteia on May 3 that he was "thrilled" to hear the "miraculous survival" of the four-year old girl from his parish.
The priest was at Okhaldunga, eight hours away from Kathmandu, attending the ordination of a Jesuit at the time of the quake.
“I am now struggling to get a helicopter to take relief material to the people in Tipling. We cannot walk for three days with the relief material,” said the priest.
Deacon Lalit Tudu of the Assumption Church in Lalitpur, who led a parish team on May 3 to visit the infant girl and distribute relief material in the remote parish on hill top told this correspondent that Sujina with head injuries is "doing fine."