The Oda Project

Essential healthcare and education - giving Nepali communities in extreme poverty a fighting chance

Living Above the Medical by Education Fellow, Lucy Martin-Patrick

Tonight, it is cold. Snow is already falling on the hills and making its way down to our small village. Icy droplets of rain are already starting to fall from the dark night-time sky. Inside the kitchen a warm fire is burning in the choola, above it a large pan of dal is keeping warm. The rice and vegetables are cooked and releasing an irresistible aroma of home cooked food, yet no one is eating.

Our medical staff have just heard a report of someone falling down the hill. Falling far. 200 meters. A result of drinking and walking, something just as dangerous in these hills as drinking and driving back home. The rest of the community is also fully aware, informed by the sound of beating drums echoing through the village. Everyone is heading to the narrow path where the incident occurred. I wait along with the rest of the staff drinking tea in the kitchen. All of a sudden, I begin to see a trail of light coming from around the ridge of the hill. We know that the path will split soon, if he’s died they will take the left path to the home of the man who has fallen and if he’s still alive they will take the right path to the medical.

A few minutes later our doctor enters through the gate of our medical, followed by the four men carrying the patient on a stretcher. We know he’s alive but we don’t know for how much longer. Behind the four men more people are coming. The trail of lights seems to fail to end as more and more people enter The Oda Foundation compound, eager to hear news of their family member. Our team work hard for many hours, stabilizing him before he was carried on the dangerous path through a rainy night to the road where he was taken to a hospital 7 hours away which could help him further. Thankfully, against all odds, he survives.

Apart from attending the staffs continued education meetings, so I can refresh my own biology knowledge, and sitting in the clinic with the doctor as he sees patients from time to time, I don’t have any involvement with the medical department, and yet living above the medical means I’m automatically immersed in the comings and goings of our patients and staff. Sometimes I feel like a fly on the wall. I’m in a unique position where without working in the medical I’m still usually aware of what’s going on, whether it’s hearing a woman as she gives birth to her first child in the morning, or walking past someone lay in the sun as they receive an IV in the middle of the day.

From mild to critical cases, from patients traveling on their own to having families of 50 coming, I hear as the walls of our medical hear more prayers than the walls of the village temple.