Mountain Heart Nepal

An indelible health camp in Himalaya – Joshua McCowen

This article was published on: 07/5/16 9:01 PM

An indelible health camp in Himalaya – Joshua McCowen

Ten people are sitting in a 4×4 enjoying the breathtaking scenery that has ever been seen. We are in Nepal, driving through the foothills of the Himalayas, passing traditional villages alongside the beautiful Sunkoshi River. However, this is not a private trip to the village as I’m with the doctors of Mountain Heart Nepal during a journey to the village of Purano Jhagajoli in the Sindhuli district to afford medical services to villagers in rural belt who are still suffering from a trauma of last year’s devastating earthquake.

I was accompanied by Aban Gautam, the leader and founder of Mountain Heart Nepal. He seemed to laugh with his fellow doctors and the atmosphere is incredibly thrilling. When I asked Aban what inspired him to start Mountain Heart Nepal, he says ‘… there are shortages of doctors in the aftermath of the earthquake, most of the NGO’s working here have medical clinics but are running sans medicines. Villagers would walk for hours to these clinics and complain about joint pain, gastroenteritis and conjunctivitis. Only to receive a simple multivitamin, as if that would fix all of their ailments.’

He further added, ‘what makes MHN unique is that not only do we bring our own doctors, but we also bring our own stockpiles of medicine, and have a referral system for our patients which enables us to treat our patients much more effectively.’

Shortly, we are greeted by local officials of the town. Aban is swept into a conversation with them. Other doctor named Angela tells me that the Village Development Council wants to set up the medical camp at a clinic we passed on the highway, which is just thirty-minute drive back the way we had come. I look back at Aban and the council members. The discussion is very heated. Aban is against erecting a medical camp at the highway. He announces that we are going to set up our medical camps inside a local school. ‘Setting up our medical camp on the highway would have been a bad move. We unstrap the boxes of medical supplies from the roof of the 4×4 and began erecting the medical camp inside the school. The doctors put on their masks, gloves and a banner is hung out before the camp to advertise MHN’s medical camp. Within a few minutes, a hoard of the patient rush to our camps. Many of whom are elderly women. After an hour there is a long queue near the camp, children are outside, looking with curiosity at the flurry of activity that is going on at their school. Enthusiastic villagers give their prescriptions to the two nurses who offer them medicine in return. Once villagers get their medicine, many begin the long walk to their homes while others started talking with their neighbours.

Behind the clinic, I saw a huge group comprising of men, women and children sitting in the shade and engaged in the discussion. It is obvious to see that MHN’s medical camps not only help prevent disease but also help bring the community together. It’s been three hours since we have arrived, and a Village Development Councilwoman announces that the medical camp is almost complete and that a public forum will be held in the classroom. I accompany the doctors and nurses inside and see that the room is already filled with people, those who cannot fit inside stand outside the door or a window and listen.

The Village Council Woman formally introduces the NHS staff with various local leaders to express their gratitude to MHN for setting up a medical camp for the day. The councilwoman then asks the villagers for feedback. On the occasion, a man tells villagers not to be shyed way while talking to a team of medico. He also requests MHN for a longer duration health camp, so that the doctors can build better relationships with patients. He opines that a three-day camp would give them enough time to make the journey to receive medical care. In the end, the audience stands up and applauds the doctors as the latter walk to load up the 4×4.In total, four doctors managed to treat two hundred and sixty-two people within three hours. That is what makes Mountain Heart Nepal special. Since its founding in June of 2015, MHN has treated over fifteen thousand patients and has held more than twenty medical camps.

Joshua McCowen is a student from the United States of America. He attends Mount St. Mary’s University and is an international studies and political science major.