Hayley Norton - Medicine & Healthcare in Nepal
Warm Welcome from Nepal
During June 2012 I set off for my life changing experience to Nepal. I only went for two weeks but the amount I learnt was worth a lifetime.
As soon as I arrived the friendliness of the Nepali people overwhelmed me. I was greeted by the taxi driver who gave me a garland to welcome me. But what I can now say, is that I didn’t truly know the meaning of the word 'speechless' until I was taking the taxi ride from Kathmandu airport to Thamel. The difference between Nepal and my home country, England, is not comparable.
What sticks in my mind is the noise of horning cars, cows roaming the streets, the crowds of people everywhere and the foreign smells. Spending my first two nights in a hotel right in the centre of Kathmandu allowed me to visit the famous 'monkey temple' and explore the streets full of hand-crafted gifts. One thing I found hilarious was how people were fascinated by me, as I looked so different to everyone else there.
My host family
I then moved to Banepa where I stayed with the most caring host family. I really feel staying with a family is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture and I would recommend that to anyone. I could not speak more highly of the host father, Lok. He treated you as though you were his own child and although I was tired at the time, I sincerely miss our morning walks and yoga sessions at 5.30am. He made me feel at home at once and played a big part in the fact that I didn’t feel too homesick.
I was very fortunate to be staying in a house with many other volunteers from a variety of countries including Scotland, France, Canada and the USA. This allowed me to learn a lot about other people and their volunteer placements. I began to get used to having power cuts during dinner and us all sat there in the dark around the table. However, I think one of my funniest memories was when all of us were tucking into the dinner, and one of the other volunteers asked Lok what the dish we were eating was. His reply was “goats blood, very nice isn't it?” and seeing as I was mid-mouthful I couldn't help but laugh! This was one of many fond memories I had with the host family.
First day to work by a local bus
My first day travelling to work was an experience to say the least. It was the first time I had taken one of the local buses and ‘daunting’ was probably the best word to describe it! Everyone was sat on top of each other and the traffic was unlike anything I was used to.
My Medical placement - Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital
After a walk through Bhaktapur I finally arrived at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital to be greeted by all the wonderful staff and a few other volunteers working there. I was shocked to see two doctors and more than two consultations going on in one room! Not to mention the difference in hygiene regulations in a hospital compared to at home. I was beginning to realise how deprived Nepal was, and I knew I wanted to help these people. I am so thankful for my time at the cancer hospital and the opportunities they gave me.
I learnt about so many different medical conditions and the doctors took the time to explain everything to me in English so that I could maximise my learning. I also was given the opportunity to examine patients for breast cancer and other conditions such as fibroadenoma. However, there were a few moments which stuck with me the most. One was seeing a man with an open skin cancer wound on his chest, the next was a doctor buying me mo mo's (a typical Nepali dish) in the hospital canteen, seeing a patient pass away and finally watching some minor surgery where I had to get dressed up in scrubs.
Trips in my free time
It was so funny being sprayed by their enormous trunks and being thrown off into the cool lake – which felt amazing seeing as the weather was ridiculously hot!
I also visited many temples and squares during my time in Nepal and I was beginning to get used to haggling with the taxi drivers and have people ask me for my picture. The culture in Nepal was definitely something to admire and the hard physical work I could see going on around me allows me to appreciate the easy life I have.
I miss Nepal so much and it may sound a cliché to say but this experience truly has been life changing and I am desperate to return one day. In the future I would like to take part in many other projects and I think the next on my list would be somewhere such as Ghana!