Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From leprosy asylum to medical profession


KATHMANDU, Jan 14: He was born in a community of leprosy patients living in an asylum provided by Dadeldhura´s Team Hospital. He spent his childhood forging lasting bonds with strangers who had been banished by family and society. Many of these people, whom he lovingly calls “uncle”, “aunt” and “grandmother”, have lost their nose, or ear, or arm to the ailment.

Now a medical doctor, Arun Budha, 29, has a clear life goal. 


Dr Budha wants to devote his entire life to providing medical services to people living in rural hinterlands. He has already spent three years at the Team Hospital, and another year at the Mission Hospital in Palpa, doing exactly that. But, as a longer-term goal, he wants to provide surgical services to patients in rural Nepal by becoming a general surgeon.

“Imagine! For seven hilly districts in the far-western region, the Team Hospital in Dadeldhura is the only medical institution that can provide surgeries like a caesarian,” said Dr Budha, an unassuming youth with a low, polite voice and clear priorities.

For a man who has made it through an epical journey that started from an asylum for leprosy patients, took him to Xian Jiaotong University in Shaanxi, China to study MBBS, and then took him back to Dadeldhura equipped with skills to treat people he loves, Dr Budha remains a strikingly grounded and modest youth from Dadeldhura.

“Looking back, I feel it has been a strange, yet interesting journey,” he said reflectively. “I was lucky that my different childhood gave me the opportunity to understand people who are in need of medical care,” he told on Wednesday.


Banished to Dadeldhura

Dr Budha´s father, Raghubir, who was born in Kalikot, contracted bacillus Mycobacterium leprae at the tender age of ten. Raghubir´s father tried faith-healers and other traditional healing methods to cure his eldest son, but to no avail. Eventually, the stigma associated with leprosy that is still considered in many rural villages as divine retribution for sins, proved too great a burden for the Budha´s family to live with.

“The situation back then was so bad that people who had contracted leprosy were segregated from the society and forced to live in caves. Many were eventually eaten up by wild animals,” Dr Budha said.

When Raghubir was 15 his father sent him to Dadeldhura so that he could lead some kind of ´normal´ life by receiving treatment at the Team Hospital and doing odd jobs for locals.

At the Team Hospital, Raghubir met Parbati, also a leprosy patient, who had arrived there from Bajhang with a similar story. They eventually got married. Parbati bore three children.

Two doctors from the family

“The three of us grew up in the community of around 60 families affected by leprosy,” said Dr Budha.

His father Raghubir initially did odd jobs. But being a senior member of the community (his registration number was three), Raghubir was eventually employed by the hospital for taking care of the garden, taking posts to and fro the district headquarters, and later as an interpreter, though his knowledge of the English language was limited.

Raghubir´s earning, supplemented by what Parbati made by taking care of paraplegic women, was enough to finance the studies of Arun, his younger brother, and a sister, all of whom studied at Ugratara School in Dadeldhura until SLC.

“Father was a sensible man. He taught us discipline,” said Dr Arun.

Raghubir, who was also a pastor at a local church in Dadeldhura, died of a heart attack in 1999.

Dr Arun did his ISc from Patan Multiple Campus, and was supported by the Team Hospital and friends for his M.B.B.S study in China, which he completed in 2005.

His younger brother, Kaleb Budha, was closely following his footsteps and eventually became a doctor himself after completing M.B.B.S on scholarship at Nepal Medical College. Dr Kaleb is currently posted at Chaurjahari Hospital in Rukum.

Service is supreme

Leprosy has been considerably contained in the country with many organizations working in that direction and the society growing more accommodative to those suffering from the disease. But the state of overall health service delivery in rural Nepal remains dismal.

Dr Budha has resolved to devote his life to strive to change this. If not in anyway else, he will try to do this by making his services available to people in remote districts. “Most of the country is rural. If the state intends to make health services reachable to the common man, it must expand health infrastructure in rural areas where people need the service most,” he said.

Dr Budha, who was part of a team of doctors that provided treatment in Rukum during a diarrhea and cholera epidemic last year, stresses that it is the state´s neglect to rural health that leads to such epidemics.

After another six months at Dadeldhura´s Team Hospital, Dr Budha hopes to study general surgery and then return to the needy people of rural Nepal for good.

“I have no interest in leaving the country,” he said, adding promptly, “I don´t mean to criticize others for leaving. It´s an individual´s choice.”

For a man who spent his childhood receiving love from people with medical needs, it isn´t hard to guess Dr Budha´s motivations.

“I can love patients unconditionally,” he said. “I can understand them.”

Dr Budha, who is a Christian, added, “The love God has showered on me is my driving force. I believe in love that doesn´t discriminate.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sita and other kids

This site has a small article with a picture of one of Anandaban’s patients and scholarship recipients, Sita. I’ve ridden on the bus with her in Nepal. J

The Leprosy Mission through Anandaban currently provides educational funds or scholarships to around 400 kids across Nepal affected by leprosy so that they can attend a school or receive vocational training. It makes a difference. As leprosy is linked with desperate poverty, it can change the outlook of life for generations that were otherwise desolate.

I love these verses (Isaiah 61:1-4):

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, THE DESOLATIONS OF MANY GENERATIONS…

It is God’s business to build up the desolate – the destroyed and destitute – that He be glorified. We are His Body. It is what we together do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ankit & Shakshyam on the road to Anandaban

These two compound staff kids are so used to travelling the road to Anandaban, they can fall asleep amidst the bumpy ride.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Protest a Day Keeps Progress Away in Nepal

Nepal celebrated New Year's Day with a nationwide banda, a forced closure of businesses and roads. That's no surprise: Every day there are bandas, transport strikes, labor actions and disruptive protests throughout the country. Nepalis are fed up with incompetent governance caused by political bickering and, despite a long tradition of patience and civility, are taking action into their own hands when they have a grievance.

The costs are high. Students suffer because schools find it impossible to operate for the legally required number of days in a year. Businesses suffer from reduced productive capacity and lower sales. Development work slows to a crawl with 100 or more days of forced inaction each year. And the poorest of the poor, those dependent on hourly wages or day-labor, suffer the most, sometimes to the point of going hungry when they can't work.

At least seven major protests disrupted Nepal on Monday, about par for the course recently.

Maoist cadres in Taplejung district continued a week-long forced closure of government offices over a demand that three of their activists killed in 2006 be declared official martyrs by the government. On Monday six protesters were hurt when police clashed with Maoists while trying to reopen the offices.

In Dhading district a student union affiliated with the ruling party enforced a district-wide banda after one of the student union members, 15-year-old Bir Bahadur Tamang, was hauled out of a school examination and attacked with knives and iron rods. Tamang's assailants, the UML student union says, were members of the Maoist YCL militia.

In Kailali district Maoists continued an indefinite transportation and business strike over police action to clear squatters from a community forest last month. Police allege that the squatters were motivated and transported to the forest by agitators bent on pulling down the government. The Maoists are protesting the "disproportionate violence" of the police move, which left several protesters dead and scores injured.

In Sano Thimi, outside the capital, students have locked administrators of the university there out of their offices for the last month, protesting plans to close the campus after enrollment slipped from 4,200 students to about 3,000. The university says that the school is not economically viable at that size: The students want the university to offer additional majors to increase enrollment.

And in Kathmandu, lawyers, teachers and doctors all protested on Monday, disrupting essential services and snarling traffic.

Several hundred lawyers staged a large sit-in on a major street in front of the Constituent Assembly building to protest delays in the constitution-writing process and what they call the failure of the government to enforce the rule of law in the country.

Tribhuvan University contract teachers - those without permanent appointment letters - demonstrated for a second day at the University over their demand for tenure status and what they say is a failure of the university to post job openings on a regular basis over a 12-year period. The teachers vowed more serious action if their demands were not met.

And a doctors' strike at government-run Bir Hospital entered its thirteenth day. The doctors want the government to implement an earlier agreement on pay and security at the hospital. The original strike by junior physicians has expanded since it began, and now all doctors, helpers and security guards have joined the protest. Bir hospital is the only low-cost medical facility in the capital and served approximately 12,000 poor and indigent patients daily before the strike.

Apart from the impact of the protests individually, the sheer number and frequency of them has severely disrupted the country and has led to growing public frustration and incivility here.

If Nepal could get back to only one protest a day everyone would be grateful.

By John Child in Kathmandu ( )