Emma’s Medical Elective – A Long and Bumpy Road to Terai

On Thursday morning we set off on the bus at 6am for the Satellite Clinic in the Terai region of Nepal. There were 15 of us in total including doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, research and laboratory assistants, prosthetics, pharmacists, medical records and our driver. It took us 13 hours in total to reach Butwal (point B on the map) from Anandaban with a few ‘pit stops’ (literally) and food breaks along the way. We journeyed across a very bumpy and dusty road – not a journey for anyone that gets travel sick, even I felt queasy at several points! We eventually arrived at our hotel in time for a much needed shower and some Daal Bhat for dinner.

The following day started with Daal Bhat for the staff and omelette and toast for myself and another international student working in Anandaban (personally I was very grateful for not having to eat curry at 9am). We then set up clinic in the local hospital. Everyone shared one room, with each department arranged in an almost circle formation with patients walking around the room. I spent the day shadowing one of the dermatologists, Dr Suwash, learning about the different presentations and effects of leprosy including different skin lesions, reactions and nerve involvement. It was a very busy day and really hot compared to the weather at Anandaban, thankfully we had air conditioning back at the hotel! For dinner I enjoyed my first ever MoMo – something I think I will be having a lot more before I leave Nepal!!

The following day we spent another seven hours on the bus to Chandranigahapur (point C on the map). We stayed in another hotel here with a very good Chow Mein and thankfully more air conditioning! The next clinic was set up on Sunday in the local hospital again. It was a very busy day with 70+ patients attending. I shadowed Dr Suwash again for the day, and saw one lady who was thought to have leprosy but instead turned out to have Neurofibromatosis, a benign tumour of the peripheral nerves. We also saw a lot of scabies!

The following day we spent a further 12 hours on the bus back to Anandaban, stopping for some more Daal Bhat and veg shopping on the way (some of the biggest parsnips I’ve ever seen!) It was a very windy road back, travelling above 3000ft with a lot of hair pin bends, but some stunning scenery over Nepal’s countryside and impressive hillsides. It was a great few days away with lots of learning and it was a privilege to witness what an amazing job the staff at Anandaban do, spending 30+ hours on a bus (apparently ours was a good journey and you could be stuck on the road for days) to visit remote communities unable to reach specialist services themselves. If I was here for another month though, I think I would seriously consider flying!

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25th Jul 2017

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Opinions are the authors own and not necessarily those of The Leprosy Mission Scotland.