Himalayan Medical Foundation Newsletter 2014
I just returned from a hot and muggy Nepal where the monsoon rains are just starting. However it was a great trip being able to spend time with my HMF staff, discuss future projects and overall vision, as well as visit each clinic and help with the treatment and health management of the patients.
Life in Nepal is tenuous, since there is still no constitution, little infrastructure, massive corruption and unemployment. As a result Nepali men are leaving by the tens of thousands to take often very dangerous and abusive jobs in the Mid East, India and Malaysia. While sitting in the Kathmandu airport at 11:00 PM waiting for my return flight I was shocked to see hundreds of young Nepalis patiently waiting in line for flights to countries from which some may never return. Many rural villages are now devoid of young Nepali men and as a result women and children are suffering, because there are too few men to farm the land.
Another concern is that Nepal has become one of the major black market organ donor countries in the world. Large numbers of mainly Nepali men are donating one of their kidneys in exchange for what they perceive as a large sum of money. All of this reflects that Nepal is a country in deep economic trouble and its citizens are trying to deal with it in any way they can, even at the risk of death. The Kathmandu valley has experienced a 150% growth rate in the last 10 years with an inevitable rise in theft, robberies, and violence.
Still, in many ways life in Kathmandu goes on as it has for centuries. Nepalis are a gentle and very tolerate people who have a wonderful ability to persevere in difficult circumstances. I truly feel the work of the HMF not only helps relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of our patients but it also brings a small sense of stability and reliability to their otherwise very difficult lives.
Ka-Nying Monastery Clinic:
The Ka-Nying Clinic, our second busiest clinic is open three days per week, where a high percentage of our patients are young monklets.
Osel Ling Gompa Clinic:
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche built this beautiful Gompa on a hill high above the Syambunath Stupa for his sons Tsoknyi and Mingyur Rinpoche. It is a very special place out of the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and one of the few places in the valley where often a steady gentle breeze helps to clean the air around the gompa. The day I visited the Gompa Clinic one of the cooks
heard of my arrival and wanted to “make sure she was healthy”.
Lhundrup Choeling Gompa:
This is our newest clinic located at the foot of Shivapuri Mountain on the way up to Nagyi Gompa. It is a smaller monastery but well organized. The monks there are very disciplined and polite and have overall fewer medical problems than the monks at the larger and more crowded monasteries. Chhiring Lama is standing in the new clinic next to a nicely stocked medicine cabinet.
Our most remote clinic in the valley is at the Nunnery of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Approximately 180 nuns and a few monks reside at this nunnery and many of them are over 80 years old as the following photos will show. The good news is that the reincarnation of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, called Yangsi Tulku, now almost 14 years old, resides there and as a result a new influx of young nuns has begun.
Still…. taking care of an aging monastic population in a remote mountain nunnery is a real challenge. The elderly nuns are very reluctant to leave the Gompa to go down to Kathmandu for any needed medical work-ups. So we do the best we can for them and if it is their time to die they most definitely prefer to be at Nagyi. They are following the example of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who upon entering the last few months of his life insisted on spending his last days at Nagyi Gompa, where he spent 40 years of his life mainly in retreat.
When I first arrived there I was met by an elderly nun who suffers from Asthma and Emphysema and gets too short of breath to climb the steep hill up to the main Gompa compound and clinic. So I performed a “house call” examining her in front of her simple living quarters. She definitely has some diseased lungs but with medication provided by the HMF is doing reasonably well. Realistically, Oxygen is just not an option at Nagyi.
At the clinic I was greeted by a new staff member Ani Jangchuk Dolma who has become an integral part of the medical team. Suraj related that she just showed up one day offering to help and since she has become a “model of efficiency” keeping the clinic clean, the medicine cabinet organized and well stocked, and helping to keep the patients in line. In Nepal chaos is a normal part of life and for 8-9 patients to cram into one of our clinics all at the same time is not unusual.
The oldest resident at Nagyi Gompa is Ani Sonam Kunsang who lives at age 88 here with her sister Ani Sherab, age 83. They have both spent virtually their whole lives at Nagyi, residing there even before Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche made Nagyi his primary residence. Ani Sonam came in for a BP check.
This monastery, the seat of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, is one of the most beautiful and ideally located Gompas in the Kathmandu Valley. Walking around the grounds feels like being in a botanical garden.
Many young monks living at this gompa are orphans from the very poor Dolpo region of Nepal. It is amazing to see how they “flower and grow” with proper nutrition, hygiene and a positive environment. Suraj goes up weekly to take care of the monks and the lay staff members who work there. Several years ago, one of the monks named Lodro Rabsel began volunteering his time at the clinic assisting Suraj. Lodro is a very intelligent monk and is able to take care of simple uncomplicated medical problems that arise during the week when the clinic is not officially open.
Pharping Free Clinic:
Situated at the western edge of the Kathmandu valley where many Gompas and retreat centers have been built, the Pharping Clinic is open 3 days per week and sees mainly local villagers. The number of patients has grown tremendously over the past few years.
One large chart rack is filled with patient records and now several hundred more charts are in need of a “home”.
A very concerned mother carried her very ill daughter age 11 into the clinic, who had a high fever and severe right hip pain. She had not fallen or sustained any injury but had recently started to lose weight. Dr Chhiring and I both came to the same diagnosis almost instantly. Until proven otherwise, this young girl probably has a septic hip caused by Tuberculosis and we strongly urged the mother to take her to the nearest hospital. We are able to take care of over 95 % of the patients we see but we do have patients who literally need a hospital work-up and treatment that our clinics cannot provide.
This is the overview of the HMF’s clinics activities in Nepal for the year 2014. The HMF is a 501c 3 nonprofit organization and an NGO, registered with the Nepali government. Your kind support and donations have made our work possible for over 22 years. Without your generosity we would not be able to operate.
We gladly accept donations however small or large and it is you, a very loyal group of donors who have helped to keep our clinics open and functional all these years. We hope we have earned your trust and that your continued support will allow us to operate for another year.