HEALTH CAMP - LAPRAK - 29/11/2014
Just back from our exploratory mission, we are happy to announce the success of our Medical Camp on last November 29. The long awaited results of this day have surpassed our expectations! We worked very hard for several months to prepare this trip : the initial goal was to explore the area with a view to purchasing a site on which to build our future dispensary.
I then realized that it would be a shame to pass through the area without doing anything, particularly as we were travelling with an experienced doctor. It was the perfect opportunity to intriduce Dr Hari Krishna Dhakal, a native son who has refused to follow the trend of so many Nepalese doctors trained abroad and who leave their remote Himalayan villages to get rich in the capital. Instead Hari wants to devote himself to the rural community of this remote village at 2200 meters! By mutual agreement and without hesitation, we decided to organize a Medical Camp for a day, November 29th 2014, to examine and treat thousands of villagers in the area.
We had to resolve numerous logistical challenges : the selection and reservation of transportation and accomodation, but above all developing ties with the people who are instrumental in the successful implementation of our project. The main priority was to raise awareness among the village officials from Laprak in order to involve them in our overall plan to buy a large plot for the construction of a clinic in the coming years, as well as securing their approval to our Medical Camp.
Thanks to Dr Dhakal's professional ties with hospitals in Kathmandu, we were able to recruit an excellent medical team, capable of patiently listening to hundreds of people during the very long day and willing to treat patients in a cold and foreign environment, after an exhausting and dangerous journey up to the village of Laprak. Eleven people were present : 3 doctors with Hari, a pediatrician and a gynecologist, 5 nurses, 1 pharmacist and his daughter (medical student), one caregiver. Quite obviously, we had a budget that took into consideration not only the staff wages but also theit transportation and accomodation.
As might be expected, the largest item in our budget was an impressive array of necessary medications, at a total of 1 300,00€.
Long before the expected date of our medical action on 29 November 2014, we launched an information campaign to reach the largest possible number of people : information posters displayed in all the surrounding villages, messages broadcast by the local FM radio stations, and a door-to-door campaign in the villages led by a group of friends.
Previously only accessible by a path, a new winding and dangerous road was recently carved into the side of the mountain and now connects with the village of Laprak. When we arrived on the evening of November 28, a huge crowd of people was awaiting us as we descended into the village and we were literally carried to the school by hundreds of "Namaste" (hello-welcome), flower necklaces, smiles, all accompanied by a strident fanfare. We were given front row seats in the main room where all the officials were present to welcome us. Each official was introduced, providing their titles or simply their names in Gurung, Nepali or English. Then we retired to spend a freezing cold night in our simple lodge, a log cabin with a corrugated iron roof.
The next morning, we firstwent to visit the tract of land which the villagers wanted to show us. We were pleasantly surprised by its beautiful location, its size, abundant sunlight, two springs which could irrigate the land, as well as a small plot of land which might serve as a heliport for emergencies.
After discussions with the officials regarding the paperwork required to purchase the land, we decided to allow ourselves one year (2015) to sort out some administrative issues (property titles) and finalize the acquisition project. The goal would be to finalize this project by the time Hari returns from completing his specialization studies in the Philippines.
Around 9 am, the Medical Camp was opened in the large schoolcourtyard: hundreds of Gurung (one of the many ethnic groups of Nepal), some who had left their villages early that morning, arrived after a walk lasting several hours. Ten volunteers from the village organized the growing crowd, handing out forms to each person and indicating the purpose of the medical visit. They then divided the crowd into three lines: women, mothers and their children, and men. The nurses then took over by checking the blood pressure of the patients. Everything went smoothly as the crowd remained calm and disciplined. Each patient had a form, a prescription of sorts, with the medical details filled in during the course of the consultation. The lines of patients were incredibly long! Benches and chairs were removed from the school for the elderly, who waited patiently as they had a lively discussion about such an uncommon event.
At the end of each line, the three main doctors were seated at tables withe the necessary equipment (stethoscope, etc...). At this point, the team of doctors finally allowed the patients to sit down as they asked them questions (with a smile), palpated limbs, performed examinations asked them to cough, etc.. The doctors then completed the prescription and, according to their diagnosis, sent them to the pharmacy or to the center for eyeglasses.
Nishan, a young pediatrician trained in China, was quickly engulfed amidst throngs of children and their mothers. The young doctor sat across from his young patients and worked very calmly in spite of the compact and noisy crowds.
Mani, the pharmacist organized hundreds of bottles and packages on long tables in a large room. Assisted by his daughter who is currently studying to be a pharmacist, he politely greeted the villagers who waitedtimidly at the door. He distributed the necessary medicines along with detailed explanations for taking them properly.
In the next room, our healthcare assistant managed the minor medical procedures on an as-needed basis as well asthe distribution of eyeglasses, which were brought from France by Dominique. Upon leaving the facility, the elderly gathered together to find that they were now able to read the newspaper.
Of course our own participation was more limited: we took turns passing out 400 tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes and pens.
The day was long - 14 hours! We counted 1004 patients! 396 women, 204 children under 14 years of age and 404 men.
Many others who arrived a bit late unfortunately had to turn around and go back home, without a medical exam.
This fact is the major conclusion of this day : there is a severe lack of medical infrastructure and therefore an urgent need for a local clinic! Indeed this is concrete proof of the legitimacy of our association's goal to build "a dispensary in his village".
All of the patients expressed their concern regarding the absence of a stable and sustainable medical center, near their village.
Hari provided us with a list of the most common medical conditions : gastroenteritis, ear infections, pneumonia, scabies, obstructive bronchopneumonia, reflux esophagitis, bacterial bone infections, gynecological prolapse, perineum disease and inflammation of the pelvis, hypertension, post traumatic neurological disorders, tuberculosis.
Similarly, he added that patients frequently expressed their relief at the mere fact that a doctor would listen to them, probe, examine, ask if raising the arm was painful, or simply take care of them. Hari underlined the psychological importance of medical assistance for these villagers, adding "the vast majority had never seen a doctor. The psychological care was crucial".
In addition to this text, the photos will complement everything i couldn't possibly express in words. I invite you to take a look at the collection of photos and videos done by Brigitte, who handles our site.
A big thank you and brotherly "Namaste" to our local friends who have so generously provided their support and affection during the months of preparation, evidence of a long friendship amounting to 22 years for some!
Dr Hari Krishna Dhakal, the most important of us all, without whom nothing would have been possible and who now will be the principal member of our action.
Ram Kumar Gurung, our oldest friend, contact and faithful representative of the Laprak village.
The entire medical team who managed not only to make themselves available (in spite of their obligations in the various hospitals in Kathmandu) but also to remain such dedicated, cheerful volunteers during a day with challenging conditions, transportation, accomodation, as well as an enormous workload.
Doctors : Radhika KUNWAR (gynecologist), Nishan NEPAL (pediatrician) and the coordinator of the whole group , Hari Krishna DHAKAL;
Nurses : Akanchya SHARMA, Jyoty BUDHA, Dawa SANGMU, Sapana GURUNG (daughter of Ram Kumar Gurung already cited), Ashmita GIRI.
The caregiver (minor medical procedures and eyeglasses), Madhu KUMAR.
Mani Raj SHRESHTA, pharmacist and his student daughter Manita SHRESHTA.
Our supporters in Kathmandu Ashok Dai and Sailendra.
Our comrades Gurung always available, Dhane and Suke Bahadur Gurung.