Volunteer stories : Sophie K., Medicine in Nepal
Why I decided to volunteer in Nepal
I decided to volunteer in Nepal because I've always loved travelling and experiencing new cultures. I'd never been to Asia before and was excited to live in a place so different to England. It was incredibly difficult to choose which country to go to; I think I chose Nepal because it is a fascinating little country which I found many people surprisingly haven't heard of, despite Everest being there!
I had also heard stories of people interested in medicine going abroad to see how the healthcare system works in other countries, and knew I wanted to do that myself.
My first impressions of Nepal
When we arrived at Kathmandu airport the Projects Abroad minibus came and picked us up, and as we drove through the streets I was struck by all the sights and sounds of Nepal - it was completely different to anywhere I'd been before, and the atmosphere was amazing. We could even see monkeys running around! By the time we'd had dinner and it was time to sleep, I was overwhelmed by the change from what I was used to, and I could tell I was going to have some amazing experiences.
First Medical Placement
My first placement was in Chitwan Cancer Hospital for two days. On the first day, my friend and I spent our time in the ears, nose and throat outpatients section. The ENT doctors were very helpful, explaining to us exactly what they were doing and what surgery the people had had done. I was amazed by how cooperative the patients were and how informative the doctors were, always eager to give us information - this would never happen in England! We also got to see some endoscopies, which were fascinating, and again was something we wouldn't be able to see in England.
On the second day of our placement in the cancer hospital, my friend and I decided to spend our time in the outpatient department of neurology. The doctors in neurology were incredibly helpful, and explained what they were doing and what they were looking for when they saw patients.
The head of the neurology department said that we could watch him perform brain surgery the next day, so we watched him remove a tumour from someone's brain. This was an incredible thing to see, and again something we'd never have got the opportunity to see in England. During the operation the surgeons told us what they were doing and even let us look down the microscope as they were removing the tumour.
Weekend trip to Chitwan National Park!
On the Friday we were given an anatomy lecture at Chitwan Medical College, and we even got to see a dead body and organs in jars. After the lecture we travelled to Chitwan National Park to spend the weekend there.
We could see lots of other animals like monkeys running around in the trees. On the Sunday we went bird watching in the morning and then went back to our hotel to go to another placement on the Monday.
Our Second Week on the 2 Week Special project
My second placement was at Marie Stopes family planning clinic. A woman came in for an abortion which we were allowed to see - not the most pleasant experience but still very interesting. We also learnt a lot about women's health in Nepal.
For my third placement I went to the Chitwan Medical College for two days. On the first day we had a lecture on PAP smears and went to the paediatric ward. We saw the treatment of children from new-borns to around 6 years old. I was amazed at how quickly and confidently the nurses did their procedures – like quickly inserting a cannula into a tiny baby.
On my second day at the CMC I spent time on the maternity ward. While we were there a woman was in the very late stages of labour - unfortunately we didn't see her give birth! There was another woman in labour who was experiencing complications, and the doctors were very informative about her condition and answered all of our questions.
Later that day, we visited a primary school and spoke to the children (aged about 10) about dental hygiene. We demonstrated how to correctly brush your teeth, and gave them all toothbrushes. Afterwards we played games with them. They were all very welcoming and it was a very rewarding experience.
End of the Nepal Project
We travelled back to Kathmandu and stayed there for two days before going home. During this time we had henna designs done and visited two temples. There was also time for shopping! This gave us a chance to experience the more touristy aspect of Kathmandu, and buy presents for our friends and family back home. I was sad to leave Nepal, and definitely want to go back again!
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