We would reach Chitwan on the evening of the first day of our trip. We had a meeting with Professor Harish Chandra Neupane, Chairman and Managing Director of Chitwan Medical College Teaching Hospital. His staff helped us create a logo and the hospital donated medication to a value of approximately 10.000 NPR for our project.
At AHCN we wish to thank Sunil Baniya and the Baniya family in Bharatpur for welcoming us so wamly in their home and accommodating us. We are ever so thankful for Mama Baniyas great cooking skills.
Ever since the first time I was in Nepal, I’ve been yearning to go back and really do something for the people I met there. It might have been the parents who lived too far away to bring their sick children to a hospital before it was too late, or maybe the mothers who are in constant fear that they will become pregnant, a condition that should be joyous, but instead is all too often lift-threatening in Nepal. Then there were the others, those who were left without treatment, sometimes to die, simply because the hospital was too busy on that day — or because the family couldn’t afford the necessary treatment. They died due to lack of medication, lack of equipment and lack of funds. It all comes down to a lack of access to healthcare.
With the small and newly founded association Acces Health Care Nepal (AHCR), we have arranged our first project starting on sunday, the 26th of november 2014. Our team consists of Dr. Justin Jung Malla, Dr. Saujan Shreshta, photographer and MBA Finance Mr. Rajkumal Siwal, nurse Ms. Ashmita Malla, and myself (B.Sc Biomedical Engineering). Together we have created AHCR. Our first mission a health camp in Rukum District. Rukum was one of the sites of Maoist insurgency in Nepal and is today one of the poorest and most neglected areas in the country, where access to health care is either scarce or completely non-existant.
You can help us with a donation of your choice at http://gofundme.com/g1mdns. Your help will be greatly appreciated by the people in need of health services in Rukum.
With us we bring medication and basic means of treatment. Our doctors will to treat the patients we meet. Equally importantly, we will document the health care situation in Rukum in articles, that will be shared on this blog as a launching point to reach as far as we possible. As biomedical engineer, I will write a technical report about the health care situation in Rukum with suggestions to projects, that may benefit the health care sitution in the area.
Below are some pictures from previous health camps I have attended in Nepal.
Around the world LEGO Company is famous for inspiring creativity through play. Nowadays LEGO is also being used widely for educational purposes. In Tanzania, I found a new use of LEGO that I would have never imagined possible.
This summer I was one of six students from EWH DTU participating in the annual Engineering World Health Summer Institute in Tanzania. We brought 27 kgs of LEGO bricks from LEGO Charity with us. During our stay, we found schools and orphanages to which we could donate the LEGO bricks.
In one case, however, the LEGO bricks could be used for purpose more serious than pure entertainment. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Marieke Dekker, currently the only paediatric neurologist in all of Tanzania – a country with a population of almost 50.000.000.
Dr. Marieke Dekker works with hundreds of children with serious neurological disorders in her work. As a neurologist she uses the LEGO bricks to test fine motor skills and cognition of the children. She is able to asses their development and at the same time give them a once in a lifetime gift that brings great joy. Many Tanzanian children have never seen, let alone owned, toys before:
According to Dr. Marieke Dekker, “LEGO bricks are a great success, especially here, dealing with children suffering from neurological disease. Neurological conditions are often well visible and they are known to cause stigmatisation in African society – it is a huge social problem.”
The stigmatisation of these conditions, even by family members, complicates many children’s access to care. As Dr. Marieke Dekker points out, cerebral palsy is the most common paediatric neurological disorder in Africa. The disease is primarily caused by poor perinatal circumstances and healthcare. The severeness of cerebral palsy is varying results in cognitive, behavioural and learning disabilities. Children with less severe cerebral palsy have proved to be a very successful target group for LEGO bricks.
The LEGO bricks allow doctors like Marieke to assess motor skills, as it “‘breaks the ice’ in the patient-therapist relation and the ultimate joy is to be given the toy upon going home.” says Marieke.
In many cases, the cerebral palsy can be devastating, rendering a child dependent on care around the clock. This group is unfortunately also very common in Africa, mostly concerning school-age children with spinal cord problems. Due to dangerous traffic, falling from trees (harvesting fruits, a major part of African diet), tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, a disproportionate number of children are paraplegic and wheelchair-bound for life.
“Since there is no rehabilitation medicine in Tanzania, they remain in-patients until the family cannot pay the hospital bill anymore, or until they die from pneumonia or infected pressure sores. Many of these children were given LEGO bricks. They built, rebuilt, remodelled and rearranged… it gave them and their caretakers a spark of joy in a circumstance of misery.” says Marieke Dekker.
Marieke’s patients truly benefit from using the LEGO bricks in the clinic professionally as well as psychologically. It means infinitely much to children to whom such toys would never be affordable, let alone available.
Marieke, the EWH DTU chapter, and I wish to continue this collaboration by bringing LEGO bricks with us to the Summer Institute in Tanzania in years to come!
All photos were taken and published in this article with consent from patients and parents.