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 Children  Nepal Project #17477

Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal

by American Himalayan Foundation
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal
Surgery for Children with Disabilities in Nepal

We first met Suraj in April when he was hobbling down a ramp at HRDC with help from a bamboo walker and his grandmother, Maya. He was struggling but looked fiercely determined. Maya told us this was the first time her nine-year-old grandson had ever walked.

Suraj was born with painfully twisted club feet, and as he grew, he could not walk or even stand. His mother left the family when he was two and his father abandoned him shortly after, leaving him in the care of his grandmother.

“I had to carry Suraj everywhere,” Maya said. “Even though he wanted to go to school, it was too difficult for me to take him. So he mostly sat at home.” For all of Suraj’s childhood, no one understood his disability. And, even if they did, his grandmother couldn’t have afforded the treatment for it. She works as a farmhand for just four dollars a day.

Then his life changed. Two years ago, a medical camp visited their village, saw Suraj, and referred him to HRDC. There, a series of operations on both of his feet finally made it possible for the young boy to walk. But he still had to learn how.

So, Suraj has spent the last few months at the hospital in intensive physical therapy; he had special shoes fabricated for him, then grabbed hold of the walker and just went for it. “He is tireless,” said Ganga, the head of PT. “Using the walker, or on the parallel bars, he doesn’t want to stop trying to walk. He gets this look on his face, purses his lips, and off he goes.”

“I love HRDC,” Suraj said. “The doctors and nurses care a lot about me, and I’ve made friends with a lot of other patients. I even started to go to school in the classroom here. When I go back to my village, I will be able to go to school for the first time. I really want to study, and I now hope to be a doctor when I grow up, like the doctors I meet here.”

With your help, Suraj’s dream came true and his grandmother’s prayers were answered. HRDC transformed Suraj’s life, and he is not alone. Dr. Banskota and his team find children whose bodies are broken, ease their pain, fix their bones, and give them a new life. 90,000 children healed and counting. And it can happen because of you.

Suraj learning to walk!
Suraj learning to walk!

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Kapila is all smiles.
Kapila is all smiles.

The doctor’s diagnosis was grim for six-year-old Kapila: her mother, Shanta, was told that she suffered from a hereditary condition and would probably not live past age 20. Broken-hearted, her family stopped seeking further diagnosis for Kapila, and the young girl stopped going to school. By age 12, she had lost the ability to walk entirely, leaving her to use her hands to slide on the floor to get around. However, Kapila was not the only one with a physical disability in her village. A glimmer of hope arrived when a woman whose child was treated by HRDC for clubfoot told Shanta about the hospital. Soon Shanta and Kapila were on a two-day journey to Banepa, just on the outskirts of Kathmandu, where HRDC is located.

“The original diagnosis was that she probably had muscular dystrophy, but I doubted that,” her doctor explained. “MD is unusual in girls, only about one in 50 million, and there were no symptoms in her upper body. Her mother told us she was sick with fever before the onset of her muscle problems, so we are thinking they were caused by polio.”

In the four months she has been at HRDC, Kapila has undergone two major operations to release the contractures in her hamstrings, then spent two months in skeletal traction before being treated with a month-long series of casts to stretch out her knees. After that, they can start work on her feet. Based on similar cases at HRDC, her doctor expects her to be able to walk with some support in about three more months, once her treatment is completed.

Despite a very difficult life, Kapila is always in high spirits. “She is always smiling and talks to everyone here,” the mother of another patient in a nearby bed said. “Everyone is her friend!”

“The doctors and nurses here are very loving,” Kapila says. “I have made so many new friends here too!”

It is thanks to your support and commitment that Kapila can receive treatment from HRDC, the premier pediatric orthopedic hospital in Nepal. Led by Dr. Ashok Banskota and his son, Dr. Bibek Banskota, they have given more than 80,000 children futures full of hope and possibility. Thank you for making this happen.

The skeletal traction that realigned her legs.
The skeletal traction that realigned her legs.
One of the casts she was in for a month.
One of the casts she was in for a month.

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Being fitted for the braces that changed her life.
Being fitted for the braces that changed her life.

No matter where they live in the world, a child with a physical disability experiences struggles that many of us will never have to face. In Nepal, these difficulties are compounded by the country’s challenging terrain, scarcity of health clinics, and deep poverty. As a hospital dedicated to caring for children with disabilities, The Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children's (HRDC) medical team is committed to meeting each child’s unique needs to heal both body and mind. And this is exactly what happened for Shanta and her daughter Saraswati.

Just a year ago, it seemed Saraswati was destined for a life of hardship. Shanta’s husband passed away years ago, leaving her with five children to raise alone. As a widow without a permanent source of income, she struggles to find daily work and take care of her family’s needs. Saraswati’s disability was first noticed when she was a baby and had difficulty crawling. Later on, at school and in her village, children mocked her inability to walk normally. She felt anxious and ashamed. But her family’s poverty made treatment impossible.

When a local health worker learned of Saraswati’s situation, he referred her to HRDC. Hopeful, Shanta and Saraswati traveled to the main HRDC campus near Kathmandu. Saraswati was diagnosed with two conditions: the rare Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which causes multiple joint contractures affecting two or more areas of the body prior to birth, and bilateral clubfoot. She was admitted immediately, undergoing a successful surgical intervention and receiving corrective braces for both her feet. While at the hospital, Saraswati was able to continue her studies on site at the HRDC School.

Back in school, the now sixth grader walks and participates in ways she had only dreamed of. Motivated by her experience, she wants to become a social worker. “What has happened to me is nothing short of a miracle,” she says. “Everything is possible at HRDC,” she added, beaming with joy, a new-found confidence, and gratitude.

Thank you for helping HRDC transform the lives of more than 80,000 children so far. We are deeply grateful.

Saraswati in front of HRDC
Saraswati in front of HRDC's main hospital.

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All prosthetics are made in house at HRDC
All prosthetics are made in house at HRDC

Sakhina’s parents were worried about her. She was born with a malformed left foot and her left leg was much shorter than her right. She struggled to walk, but her father was a laborer, her family was very poor, and there wasn’t access to, or awareness of, treatment in their rural community. Villagers would gossip that her condition was punishment for a past-life sin, which hurt the family deeply.

Her family had little hope for change until she turned seven and a community health worker visiting their village noticed Sakhina and told them about an upcoming Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) mobile camp in the area. After an initial assessment at the camp, she was referred to HRDC’s main hospital in Kathmandu. Due to the severity of her condition it was eventually determined that amputation and a prosthetic leg would be the best option.

After some counselling, her parents agreed and brought her back to HRDC for the operation. Sakhina’s left leg was amputated below the knee, and she stayed at the hospital for three months while she recovered. With tender care from the nursing team, regular physical therapy, and a nutritious diet, she soon healed. She was then fitted with a new prosthetic leg and given gait training.

Back at home, Sakhina can now walk to school on her own and play with her siblings and classmates without pain. Her parents are so grateful to HRDC. Her father stressed that, “It would have been impossible for Sakhina to go to school if we had not met the HRDC worker,” and their community is overjoyed to see the positive change in her life.

Disability and poverty fuel each other in a brutal cycle which can be difficult to escape. In a society where being a girl is already seen as a burden, being a girl with a disability makes life even harder. This is why stories like Sakhina’s are so important, and why HRDC continues to seek out the poorest and most in-need children in Nepal. Their work transforms the bodies, minds, and futures of their young patients – while also reducing stigma and changing communities’ views on disability.

HRDC has mended more than 80,000 children so far, and with your help, they aren’t stopping anytime soon.

Sakhina before treatment
Sakhina before treatment
Now Sakhina (bottom left) can walk to school!
Now Sakhina (bottom left) can walk to school!

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Keman at the HRDC hospital post surgery!
Keman at the HRDC hospital post surgery!

Keman is from a remote village in the eastern part of Nepal. In most rural areas like his, specialized healthcare just isn’t available. To reach these geographically isolated regions, the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) has started mobile camps, bringing the hospital to them. These camps help HRDC find new patients in need of treatment and continue rehabilitation for children who have already received transformative surgery. Keman’s story is an excellent example of why these mobile camps are so important.

As a child, Keman developed an abnormal hunch in his shoulder that gradually increased in size as he got older. His parents were very worried, but they had no resources and no idea how to get him treatment. It wasn’t until he was 14 years old that his mother, Debika, happened to hear a radio jingle about HRDC’s upcoming mobile camp at the Kiktel District Hospital. She eagerly brought him to the camp, where he was diagnosed with left-sided kyphoscoliosis (a musculoskeletal disorder that causes abnormal curvature of the spine).

The camp team encouraged Keman’s mother to bring him to the HRDC main hospital in Kathmandu for further evaluation. Keman’s parents were overjoyed, and four months later he had a successful surgery to correct his condition. Only 27 days after surgery, he was able to walk without complication! He was given a special brace to speed up recovery and his parents were taught all of the exercises he would need to continue at home.

When Keman and his family went back for a follow up two months later, his parents expressed their deep gratitude to HRDC for how profoundly they had changed his life. Before surgery, they felt that life would have been impossible in their village, due to stigma surrounding disability and bullying he had faced. But his treatment changed the perception of villagers and schoolmates, allowing Keman to be easily accepted in their community for the first time.

These mobile camps are a growing and vital aspect of HRDC’s healthcare outreach. This past year (2017) HRDC’s mobile camps reached 38 districts across Nepal and over 5,000 children. These teams of doctors and health workers have helped bridge the distance between rural communities and modern healthcare, and are changing the lives and futures of many Nepali children and their families. 

Keman wearing his corrective brace.
Keman wearing his corrective brace.
Keman at the HRDC hospital post surgery!
Keman at the HRDC hospital post surgery!

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Organization Information

American Himalayan Foundation

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Sarah Bakker
San Francisco, CA United States

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