Kristian Tomson - Medicine & Healthcare in Nepal
In summer of 2012 I undertook an eye opening journey halfway across the world, to the breath-taking country of Nepal. There is a vast difference between the rainy UK and the stifling heat of an abnormally hot Nepali summer. This difference was amplified by my lack of travel experience - I have rarely left the UK at all, so I felt this once in a life time chance could not be missed.
First Impressions of Nepal
After hours of flight, eventually a slight buzz filled the plane and we all knew we had arrived over Nepal at last. I looked up from my inflight movie to look out the window and see the stunning scenery below – it was breath-taking. With hills, paddy fields and huts everywhere, it was nothing like I expected. The approach into Kathmandu was just stunning and surreal.
Landing amongst the surrounding hills, was an out of this world experience, one which was very welcome after the long flight. The weather was abnormally hot that year, and after stepping off the plane, the heat hit me. The surroundings were very different and the grass was definitely greener, a lovely rich fertile green.
Leaving the airport I was greeted by sensory overload, a crowd full of people charging to carry your bags, the hustling and bustling of people and honking of horns which appear to be a very good method of inter-vehicle communication for the Nepali people. The drive from the airport to the Hotel Excelsior was quite short but very eye opening.
On this 2 Week Special project we were very lucky to have three fabulous hotels to stay in during the whole adventure, but I also had 22 great people in my group, which became like a family. Amongst us we had a wealth of different personalities but all being kind and empathetic - well we were medical volunteers after all! It was our 2 Week Special family which truly made the time in Nepal magical.
For the main bulk of the two weeks we stayed at the Hotel Global in Bharatpur, in the Chitwan region. This hotel is one of the best ones out there, the rooms were comfortable and the pool was brilliant, a wonderful way to cool off after the long days on placement. The food was excellent in most cases except when we received western style food which was on occasion a bit odd tasting.
The Medical Placements
There is a reason behind most things and my time in Nepal was no exception, I had the chance to gain work experience, which will help in my application for medicine at university. There was a range of medical placements that everybody took part in. These included the Chitwan Medical College teaching hospital (CMC), the cancer hospital, the eye hospital and the family planning clinic.
The CMC was split into two days with the first being radiology for me. This was where I was allowed to watch a CT scan and an x-ray as well as watching the team behind the scenes developing the x-rays, which was fascinating. The staff were very friendly and welcoming too. After lunch I was offered the opportunity to visit the A&E department which I couldn’t turn down since I have a great interest in this field of medicine. The Nepali A&E is very different to an English one, with the Nepali A&E being less busy and very open plan but still full of hard working professionals, who were happy to help teach me and my team mates.
Our second day at the CMC was only a half day and we were in surgery which was very interesting and such a privilege to be allowed to observe the surgeons doing their magic. Unfortunately my team of three missed out on a C-section by about five minutes which was disappointing but we were able to watch a laparoscopic procedure which was gripping and very exciting.
The cancer hospital offered a huge learning experience in which my group observed radiotherapy, and the preparation of chemotherapy drugs, as well as being lucky enough to see the paediatric ward there which definitely pulled on the heart strings, yet the children showed true resilience. I can say for me it was a truly life changing day.
We weren’t at the eye hospital for very long, only observing for half a day, however it was thoroughly enjoyable and allowed me to meet new interns or those who had just graduated as doctors who were learning from senior doctors. Everyone there was very friendly and happy to teach me about ophthalmics.
It wasn’t all work and no play. In the two weeks we had a very special weekend trip indeed in which we visited the jungle village of Sauraha. It was a magical little village, and our hotel there was awesome. My room was probably the best with a massive en-suite bathroom and a balcony overlooking a rice field.
The weekend itinerary included a hike to watch the sunset over the mountains, an elephant safari through the jungle and a river canoe boat journey. This was followed by a jungle hike to a view tower in the heart of the jungle and a visit to the elephant orphanage and nursery. We were also fortunate enough to see a traditional dance show of the region.
On our last full day after travelling back to Kathmandu we had a culture rich day of travelling around temples. We visited two temples, the monkey temple, which was by far my favourite as I was eager to see some monkeys up close. Although, it was at the Hindu cremation temple where I got a bit too close to a monkey for my liking! After seeing the temples the rest of the day was for shopping and ended with a wonderful traditional Nepali meal.
I was looking forward to going home by the end of the two weeks. However, I had caught the travelling bug and wished to stay for more adventure throughout the wonder which is Nepal. There was so much to see and do yet we had so little time to do it. When arriving home I was glad to see my family and friends but I miss the sight of mountains in the background which Nepal had blessed me with everywhere we went.
I miss Nepal and won’t miss an opportunity to return. Adventure calls and I will answer and I highly recommend you do too. There is a whole different world out there, experience it, love it, live it. That’s what I plan to do anyway.