The Nepal Reconstructive program originally commenced in 1994 surgically treating cleft lip and palate conditions, however ceased in 2004 due to political unrest.
In 2006, a revised program commenced focusing on burn scar contractures. This is a significant problem in Nepal due to the widespread use of naked flame for cooking purposes.
For several months local staff spends time finding and screening patients, looking for those who could potentially regain functionality (as opposed to cosmetic purposes) from surgery, but are too poor to be treated without the help of the team. Details of the patients including photos were emailed to Australia for review by the surgical team.
The team bases itself at the Sheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa, 26km east of Kathmandu. Sheer Memorial Hospital is a small mission hospital. It is basic and in reasonable condition, and there is some reasonable sophisticated equipment that has been donated over the years by various visiting teams.
The surgical team includes a local surgeon, Dr Basant Mathema, who has been a part of the team for several years. This is an important element of the program as it allows the team team to share their knowledge and skills and educate the local Nepali staff. The dedicated surgical team operate for approximately 8 hours each day in concurrent operating theatres. While the surgery is taking place, nursing staff work around the clock in three shifts in post-operative care of the patients.
Educational lectures also took place, covering wound care, emergency care, neonatal care and anaesthetics, with some drawing an audience of 70 nurses and doctors. There is also the opportunity for informal sharing of ideas and practical demonstrations and assistance on the wards.
In 2010 an exciting addition to the program commenced. Uterine Prolapse is the falling or sliding of the uterus from its normal position in the pelvic cavity. This is a major gynaecological health issue in Nepal due to many factors including prolonged labour, improper delivery techniques, or pregnancy at a young age.
It is estimated that 600,000 Nepalese women are suffering from this condition, one-third who are suffering the most severe form where the uterus has fallen completely out of the body. These women will typically suffer from incontinence, regular infections, rejection, social exclusion and even abuse. Two gynaecological surgeons will become part of the team to respond to this significant Nepalese health need.
The team was expanded in response to this issue and we now have a third operating theatre running during our stay focused on uterine prolapse.
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When Agani Kathariya was 8, he was badly burnt when a lamp fell on his bed whilst he was sleeping. For treatment he was taken on a 2.5 hour journey by bus to India where he was hospitalised for 6 months. After returning to Nepal, the burn began to slowly contract leaving horrible disfigurement. He could not see or close his left eye. Agani did not return to school so he received no further education, and faced social exclusion due to his appearance. Agani, now 22, had life changing surgery that took over 5 hours to complete. He regained his chin, his ear had sprang back into place, and he even regained sight in his left eye.
Why are you involved with HealthCare Outreach?
These people have no other opportunity for surgery and as a team we are able to provide a second chance of life and an improvement in their quality of life. I feel I leave a little bit of my heart in each country. It is such a pleasure to be able to work alongside many selfless and wonderful health professional volunteers and to experience the camaraderie of a team who have not usually all met each other until they arrive at their destination.
What is the best part about a HealthCare Outreach trip?
Working with the local health professionals and observing over time how their skills and knowledge have improved, along with the hospital standards where we visit.
March 2011: Reconstructive Surgery - 42 burns scar contracture surgeries, & 42 women's health (uterine prolapse) surgeries performed
March 2010: Reconstructive Surgery - 41 burns scar contracture surgeries, & 25 women's health (uterine prolapse) surgeries performed
April 2009: Reconstructive Surgery - 32 burns scar contracture surgeries performed
March 2008: Reconstructive Surgery - 45 burns scar contracture surgeries performed