No matter how many times you come to Nepal, you will never quite be ready for the sensory overload that is Kathmandu.
The noise of the traffic (cars honking randomly), the uneven walking/driving surfaces, the random animals (goats, chickens, buffalos, dogs, cows, monkeys) meandering around, the real fear of crossing the streets since there are no real traffic rules, the pollution from additives put into vehicles to make the petrol last just a little bit longer tend to make the first week quite the adventure.
We arrived just before Dashain and started setting up our apartment for our stay (buying drinking water, utensils, groceries). I made a quick trip on Friday to Kirtipur Hospital to see where I will be teaching/working. It is a beautiful hospital and quite possibly the cleanest hospital I have ever seen in Nepal.
Medical care and surgeries/treatments are provided at no cost to patients who need help. Dr Shankar Rai and his team are not only great doctors but true humanitarians with amazing humility. Dr Rai has completed over 12,000 free surgeries. His skill is beyond that of just a reconstructive surgeon; he is a true artist. In a culture where birth defects such as a cleft lip is seen as a curse on the individual as well as the family, the free surgeries provided by Dr Rai is beyong life changing.
Their physical therapy department is small but about to expand. It will be quite the experience for me as I will be working without many of my usual “toys”. I will be making a list of all the items they will benefit from and will also figure out the logistics on how to get it here. I am sure I will learn a lot more from the team at Nepal Cleft Lip & Burn Center than they will learn from me.
One of the conversations we had on Friday was about human touch vs. technology and the education of patients. In Nepal, physical labour is viewed as only work for the poor and uneducated. Any technology is considered advanced. So a physical therapy department that has technology is seen as “the best”; the patients don’t really care what sort of technology they have access to (TENS units, ultrasound therapy, etc.), or if the technology is right for them, they just view access to technology as superior quality of care.
Physical therapy is one of those tricky spaces.
We know human touch is so important in patient care and technology supplements this care, but the patient needs to be educated to understand that the touch/observation skill of the practitioner is just as important, if not more important, than just anyone sticking a piece of machinery onto the patient.
I think this will be quite the learning experience for all.