Like every student of my age, I wanted to take my time off after completing undergrad. For an ordinary student, the normal routine would be to study hard for GMAT. Not for me, I spent almost two months high up in the Himalayas, volunteering for a special project run by a small yet unique non-profit organization in my country Nepal, called Himalayan Health Care.
Karishma Chand Thakur
It was a bit daunting at first, because it was high up almost 15,000 feet or more, in the most rural regions of Nepal. Our team comprised of 15 aspiring medical students, nurses and enthusiastic volunteers (like me!). It was a 10-hour drive to our first Camp where on the way, we were hit by a big hail storm and a snow blizzard, but our team leader Mr. Anil Parajuli kept trying to cheer us up, keeping our spirits high. So it wasn’t that bad, besides camping in beautiful forests was an out-of-the-world experience!
Days of camp: From 6 am we had people of all ages sitting in queues, waiting for the health camp to start! The first day of camp was so busy; we had up to 50 patients per doctor. A triage had been set up where the very friendly nurses from Boston and New York would take their vitals and send them over to the physicians. I was assigned to a physician from Houston; where I spent the next 5 days, talking to people, trying to know their ailments, and a lot more of family issues. Some were shy, some were scared, and most did not understand the purpose of our visit. The first thing everyone would ask for were ‘Vitamin pills’ because they thought it was a special medicine which healed everything, this touched my heart.
Among all the patients we checked, there were a few cases, which were quite unforgettable and touched my heart deeply. An 83-year old man who climbed 7 hours up the mountain to come to our camp, with a huge swollen left leg. It had been infected for years but this never stopped him from digging acres of land with his bare hands. The doctor and I tried to drain the fluid out but he was in a lot of pain. We decided to give him steroid shots to temporarily ease the pain. Then he was helped by the local volunteers and taken below to the city for surgery. The other case was of a very sweet lady, she was a mother of 12!! But this was explainable because high up in the mountains where there is no access to proper medical treatment and no clue about family planning, she couldn’t have done much. She was suffering from a prolapsed uterus for years, her entire uterus, had been exposed out of her body, it looked like a giant tumor. She too was immediately transported to a bigger city hospital where she underwent a successful surgery.
The final day of camp, there I stood among all the doctors and nurses, really exhausted but proud of ourselves. We were given a very honorable farewell. And as they applauded I guess we all stood there with a sense of content, humble, but with a feeling of a great achievement, our perspectives on life changed!
Karishma is a graduate assistant in the International Studies program office. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Information Systems.