‘What difference can 'one day' make in the life of a person?’ is the question Ashok, our field co-ordinator in Nepal asked himself. It didn’t take him long to find an answer. While walking through HDRC’s corridors he witnessed how children with disabilities suddenly discovered hope – moments he’ll never forget.
Today it’s Ashok who shares with us how Kiwis make a difference. He is based in Nepal near Kathmandu at the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) - a cbm partner since 17 years.
How much difference can 'one day' make in the life of a person? The answer to this simple question was the guiding factor for my assignment, to do a comprehensive photo-story, titled "Every Day I witness cbm’s life-changing work". HRDC – a magnificent hospital near Kathmandu in Nepal, has a legacy of serving needy children with physical disabilities for over 28 years. Everyday, a team of 154 dedicated staff, working across nine departments in the hospital, comes together to make a difference in the life of hundreds of children with physical disabilities – some of them from the most remote corners of Nepal. While the idea of covering the working of such a big organization was thrilling, challenging and exhausting, all at the same time; it was certainly 'a golden opportunity' to know HRDC and the life-changing work it does on a daily basis, from a very close and personal point of view.
My task starts at 7 am, when a bunch of hospital staff arrives in a shuttle and disperses into their respective departments. It’s still very dark outside and a thick blanket of fog covers the small hill, atop which the HRDC is situated. Inside the hospital, while most of the departments are still in deep slumber, the in-patient ward – which houses around 72 children – is up, alive and kicking. While some children are still in bed, there are others walking around joyfully on their crutches to the dining hall, for their breakfast. Soon, a team of nurses led by senior nurse Laxmi Rai (51) walks in and attends to children who are under ‘post-operative care’. Laxmi, who is working with HRDC for over 15 years, says: “I quite like this situation every morning. It makes my work more meaningful and satisfying. There are children recovering and regaining strength after a surgery, and there’re those in adjacent beds waiting eagerly to be operated on… with hopes of bidding goodbye to disability soon.”
As the day progresses, it gets warmer and patients from all over Nepal arrive at the hospital. By 9 am, the waiting hall near the registration counter is packed with parents and their children. A glance through the crowd reveals the range of physical disabilities prevalent among growing children in Nepal – clubfoot and burn contracture being the most common conditions. It takes quite an effort for Training Instructor Prakash Yadav to settle down the crowd and make a quick presentation on HRDC and its services. Besides, Prakash also uses a set of pictures to share some positive stories of children whose lives were transformed by HRDC. “This is an important task, to instill hope and courage in the parents that their little ones are in safe hands, and are just a few steps from living a new life,” says Prakash, as he requests the crowd to wait for the Outpatient Clinic to open.
It’s 10 am, and the opening of the Outpatient Clinic marks the formal start of the day at the hospital. While the crowd gradually shifts to the outpatient ward, a team of orthopaedic doctors gets ready to examine a long list of both old new patients. The amount of work to be accomplished can be weighed from the pile of patient files, which only gets thicker, and there are more and more patients coming in. While all this happening at one section of the hospital, there is a team of medical professionals doing the morning rounds in the medical ward – to assess the progress of children who underwent surgery in the previous days, and make decisions related to their further intervention, observation or discharge. Some time later, a group of 13 children, who are scheduled for surgery this day, are seen smiling with a green scarf on their head and waiting outside the operation theatre.
An hour into the day, and one can make sense of the enormity of the project. There is a huge crowd waiting outside each of the major departments; be it the outpatient ward, the physiotherapy ward, the CBR counseling room, the orthopaedic workshop, the medical ward, or the X-ray ward. Then there are these five operation theatres running parallel, with a team of orthopaedic surgeons performing life-changing surgeries on 13 children, one after another.
My initial plan, to focus on select children and show how they benefit from the services at HRDC, went haywire. While I am inside the operation theatre to cover a client’s surgery (after changing into the theatre uniform), there is so much happening outside. After a while, I was running from one room to another and lost track of which client is in which department. It was then I realized what it takes for an organization like HRDC to see over 4,000 new patients every year (5,425 in 2012 and 4,665 in 2013); and perform over 1,000 corrective surgeries in a year (1,427 in 2012 and 1,378 in 2013).
But in the midst of this confusion, I found the answer to my question. There were so many children who were blessed with a new lease of life, every day. There were moments that defined what this really meant, both for the children and their parents. Nothing could beat the joy of seeing a twelve-year-old girl take the first steps in her life, with the help of crutches; a eight-year-old boy in bed with heavy external fixators attached to his leg, smiling to his mother’s jokes, despite so much pain and discomfort; young children with plastered legs giggling and playing on the swing or drawing bright colorful sketches; or a mother running to hug her son as he is rolled out of the operation theatre. These moments are golden, and will remain with me forever…
I would like to thank to all our donors for helping us support organisations like HRDC, where each day translates into a gift of a lifetime for thousands of children with physical disabilities. Every day is inspiring…
Warm regards from Kathmandu