Our founder, Phil Borges, along with two Volunteer Production Assistants, Rachel Gray and Catherine Cussaguet, are currently in Nepal working with Resurge International. The organization does incredible work to provide free reconstructive surgeries for the poor and builds year-round medical access in underserved areas. We will post their stories throughout the coming week.
Story by Rachel Gray
Patients from rural villages in Nepal often travel long distances (sometimes several days) to reach the nearest hospital. You can only imagine how many injuries go untreated. In fact, Dr. Shankar said that average time a burn victim waits to be treated is 10 years. When a burn victim is not treated right away, the severity of the issue expands.
Kalus and his mother walked into the doctor’s office this past week at the Chitwan hospital. Kalus is an eight-year-old boy who suffered a burn injury when he was an infant. His hand caught fire on the cook stove, debilitating three of the fingers on his left hand. His fingers contracted and stuck together in a bent position. Kalus’ mother heard that surgery is not good for children (myth!), which is why they waited for over five years to see a doctor.
Kalus came back to the hospital the following day for the operation. I found him waiting outside of the doctor’s office that morning. Peering into the room his face was calm and inquisitive. He didn’t seem at all nervous for his pending surgery.
We suited up and followed Kalus into the Operating Room. While he was lying on the hospital bed, nurses were preparing the anesthesia. With all of the movement, lights and unfamiliarity, Kalus remained totally stoic. He didn’t so much as make an uncomfortable face. I had never seen anything like it.
The surgery was successful, and Dr. Shankar was able to straighten out Kalus’ fingers. Several days later we decided to visit Kalus at his village home (I’m now starting to understand the long distances people travel just in order to be seen by a doctor). Kalus, his mother and sister anticipated our arrival with big smiles. We met them where the highway meets the dirt road that would lead to their village. The family jumped in the van and off we traveled down the bumpy (understatement) dirt road. We casually picked up Kalus’ grandparents on, and Phil hopped on the back of a villager’s motorcycle to shoot some footage.
Rice fields, banana trees, and kids playing soccer lead us to Kalus’ home. His family gathered outside, as Dr. Shankar checked on Kalus’ wound. We conducted a short interview, and Kalus showed us how well he can write English. His family pays a monthly tuition for Kalus to attend a private school. The girls attend a government school, where the quality of education is less adequate. When asked about the chores that Kalus does around the house, the response was ‘none’. It’s still very traditional here, Dr. Shankar explained. The boys study and the girls do all the chores. Families invest more resources in their sons. This is because when women are of marrying age, the bride’s family has to pay a dowry (which is expensive and often a burden). The bride will then leave home and move in with her husband’s family. The sons on the other hand remain at home and will inherit the property.
After the interview, Kalus’ mom brought out hard boiled eggs and black tea for us to snack on. Fresh sugar cane had just been cut and a few of us were munching on it.
We all agreed afterwards that we wished we could have stayed at Kalus’ village for days. The family was so kind and the village was peaceful, unlike the roads we were about to approach to drive back in the city. There’s a real simplicity in village life. Driving back, a man was pulling his water buffalo to churn the soil in preparation for the next seed cycle. What a great journey!