Ramba is 23 years old. She comes from a poor family in a place called Dang in the south-west Terai region (which borders India). She was married at the age of 13 and the following year, aged 14, whilst cleaning her parents-in-law’s house, she fell from the second floor and fractured her spine. She was taken to the local hospital but due to inadequate Government resourcing and funding, treatment was simply not possible. She was transferred to a larger center and operated on and then sent back to her village. Tragically, she became bed-ridden. Her husband started neglecting her and after a year he left her and told her to go back to her parents, which she did.
Ramba remained completely bed ridden for three years. Finally her brother and sister decided they would motivate her to walk again.
Seven months later she was able to take a few steps but life is not kind to many people in Nepal – when she turned 19, her mother died, and her father married another woman. Her step-mother was cruel to Ramba and started to beat her, so she and her younger sister left and moved into a rented room. Eventually she was able to find a job as a guest worker in India working for a textiles factory. Her job was to encourage people in Nepal to work for the same factory, and she was paid a commission for every employee she brought to them. It would take her four days to make the round-trip, but she only needed to find two people a month to earn NPR 10,000 (approximately $110) It was enough money to pay her and her younger sister’s rent, living expenses and their education.
Ramba worked really hard to make a success of her life and two years ago, at the age of 21, she graduated from high school with not just her School Leaving Certificate (the equivalent of our Year 10) but her + 2 (our equivalent of Year 12).
A few months ago, Ramba began to experience increasing weakness in her legs and started worrying about her future. She managed to find help from a friend who also had a spinal injury and advised her to go to an organisation called the National Disabled Fund (NDF) in Kathmandu. It took two months for supportive friends and family to find the financial resources to make this happen, and eventually she and her sister were able to make the 14-hour bus journey to Kathmandu armed with NPR 25,000 (approximately AU$ 305). They knew no one, had never been to Kathmandu and had never even heard of physiotherapy. They managed to rent a room in a hotel for NPR 7,000 (AU$80) a month. They then went to NDF where the physiotherapist advised Ramba that she could help her walk properly again, but she would have to continue physiotherapy for 3 – 4 months at NPR 50/day (AU$0.60) Their funds only lasted a month and although Ramba searched high and low for a job, no one was willing to employ someone with a disability. In desperation, Ramba took the advice of someone she met in Kathmandu who told her about a thermal therapy that he said would fix her. Unfortunately, it was a scam, and not only did she spend precious rupees on the treatment, she acquired a large burn in her pelvic area and had no money left to pay for treatment for her newly acquired wounds.
A fellow patient, who attends NDF for physiotherapy told Ramba about NHEDF and asked her to call them. After hearing her story NHEDF admitted her to the Shelter where she is receiving daily dressings to her burn and regular physiotherapy. NHEDF’s goal is to help her walk again, so she can live with her disability, earn a living and survive.
Thank you NHEDF!
Bharat is a 29 year-old man from Rolpa in the far west of Nepal. He is married with a 2 year-old daughter and used to work for a government school as a part time teacher. A year ago, he decided to leave his job and go and work as a laborer in Dubai. After twelve months he returned to Nepal to see his family, but was injured in an accident and sustained facial fractures and a badly broken leg. He was taken to a hospital which was a 3 hour walk away from his village, but they were unable to treat him. He was told to go to Chitwan eight hours away. He was operated on there to fix a fractured facial bone and had an external fixator applied to his badly broken leg. He was in hospital for two months before being discharged home, but he still required daily dressings which is a disaster for people who live in remote regions with no access to health care. Dressing products were costing him about $2 a day.
Many people find it hard to believe that medical costs in a third world country can be so crippling. Bharat’s initial hospital stay cost about NPR 5 Lakh which is about AU$7,050. He was able to fund a fifth of this medical bill with his savings from his time in Dubai and he took a loan for the remainder from friends and family as is common in Nepal. After 5 months he was required to go to Chitwan for a follow up and the doctors found his wounds were infected and he required further surgery. He was hospitalized for another month. His medical bill for this stay was approximately $4,230. His community chipped in NRP 50,000 – approximately $600 (this kind of support is common in close knit communities in rural Nepal) and in order to pay the remainder, he borrowed more money from relatives. Two months later the hospital said they had to operate again to do a bone graft which cost a further NPR 2 lakh or $2,820. The wounds still did not heal, and the hospital asked for a further NPR60,000 or $ 720 so they could do a skin graft. He had no more money and had exhausted all his borrowing options.
Luckily, Bharat had a chance meeting with Karna, an ex-patient of NHEDF’s who was injured in the earthquake and spent two years there. He contacted them and referred Bharat. Without NHEDF this man would have died. His wounds are too graphic to show.
We hope you get better soon Bharat!