Tim Visits Anandaban Hospital in Nepal

My last two days in Nepal have been spent in the outskirts of Kathmandu at The Leprosy Mission Nepal’s Anandaban Hospital. There have been other visitors still in town following the TLM Nepal Annual Country Learning, and I discovered that Colin and Sally Martin from Australia were also staying overnight in the hospital’s training centre. This provided me with stimulating company over meals and Colin jumped into action to give me a guided tour of each department.

Colin and Sally have been coming to Anandaban for 10 years, helping out in all sorts of ways, so they know the place pretty well. Having said that, Colin noticed significant changes since his last visit. As a consequence of the 2015 earthquake, Anandaban Hospital is going through a transformation as new buildings are built to replace others that are too badly damaged to stay in use. The changes will take many more years to complete but the signs of change are everywhere. Some new buildings are in service, while others are still under construction, or even just at the planning stage. In addition to new buildings there is an ongoing program to improve access. Anandaban is built on a very steep hill, so there are steps and ramps everywhere. It was good to see that new ramps and access points are making the facilities more accessible.

A more impressive side of Anandaban is the dedication of the staff. They not only treat leprosy patients, but they also offer general medical services and perform a wide range of surgery. While I was there, among other patients, I saw a man with a broken ankle, having fallen from a roof. This is common in Nepal where flat roof terraces can have unprotected drops. Another man had a dislocated hip that he had suffered for two month before coming for treatment. The closed hip reduction took a lot of effort and the staff were rightly pleased with their efforts. There was also a lady with a broken leg and smashed shoulder who had come from Everest base camp! All in a days work!

The surgeons do an amazing job, and deserve even more credit when you see that since the original theatre was earthquake damaged, they now perform operations in a converted hallway. The new theatre is just one of the buildings in the pipeline.

In the afternoon I visited the leprosy wards again and was introduced to a 16 year old boy called Ram Kumar Shah. His story of disability and rejection is one I will never forget. It was heart-breaking to see a boy of similar age to one of my sons, who had suffered so much and has such a difficult road ahead of him.  In spite of his difficulties it was great to enjoy a laugh with him, he had a great smile!

Day 2 at Anandaban would be brief because I have a flight to Bangladesh in the late afternoon. More of that in my next blogs.

The morning was centred around a fun run with the staff. I am training to run the Stirling Marathon in May 2017 and I am looking for sponsorship, with funds for The Leprosy Mission. It seemed a good idea to run while in Nepal and Ramesh at Anandaban persuaded about 14 staff to run a 6km route with me. The temperature was as hot as it has been all week, and with 6000ft of altitude, the run turned out to be quite challenging, especially the final 500m that included 75m of ascent. That’s a 15% gradient that the cars need to do in 1st gear!! Nobody could run this last hill and a few were picked up in a busy support vehicle. All part of the fun!! Many thanks to all the staff who stepped up and ran with me.

After the run it was a quick shower, lunch and a drive through the chaotic Kathmandu traffic to head for the airport. My week in Nepal has flown by, and I have many good memories to carry with me, but most of all I will remember the patients struggling with leprosy at the Patan Clinic, and 16 year old Ram Kumar.

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18th Mar 2017

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