Today was an interesting day… My day started off by getting up at 7:00am, ate some breakfast that consisted to the equivalent of raman noodles back home, and took some video and photo’s of some of the renovations that are taken place here at Kopila Valley Home( www.blinknow.org ). Today’s renovation was digging a 45ft. well by hand, pick and shovel straight down into the ground right next to the building where 40 children and myself sleep every night.
The bell rings and the children line out side the home’s gate to start their 5 minute walk to school. I stay behind to gather my camera equipment because today I’m heading to the Surkhet Hospital to photograph an idea I have had in my head for a while now. I want to document the patients of a rural hospital in a developing country. So I figure today was as good as any other day to try and bring this idea to my lens.
Now before I start to share words and photo’s about the Surkeht hospital, I want to clarify a few things. First I AM NOT here to scrutinize, hinder, falsify, and/or leave you with a misinterpreted message of this amazing place. This facility is the ONLY ONE of it’s kind in this part of the country and most provinces/districts in Nepal do not even have a hospital let alone a doctor with in a 3-5 days walk. What I am showing you is place where the Nepali people are very proud of, and who come to seek help and treatment both near and far. The last thing I want is to portray a place that is further from the truth and disrespect both the patients and staff. This is a developing country and situations arise where people have NO CHOICE but to adapt, to survive just like anyone would, and to find help wherever it is possible, because…….. we call that life.
It is 10:00am on a typical pre-monsoon 33-degree day and my heart starts to beat steadily as I walk up to the hospital and to my surprise I find a small crowd gathered outside the hospital walls. I walk by them trying to understand why these people are not actually in the hospital and just sitting beyond the entrance gate. I walk through the gate and it’s a little confusing because to my right there are patients lying in hospital beds that are situated under a couple tin roofs and trees, and immediately in front of me there are large groups of people congregating on the ground, and also all around me there are more people who are lining up in front of blue concrete booths that are covered in Nepali writing and numbers. I assume these concrete booths are where patients sign in. Maybe the people outside are waiting till the lines calm down before they are allowed to enter the hospitals property.
I make my towards the concrete booths and make eye contact with a man that is dressed quite well for an average Nepali man and I ask him if he works here. Turns out he does and he runs the physiotherapy unit here at the hospital. After a few brief greetings and stoked to hear that my mom is a physio, I specifically tell him why I am here. Without hesitation he takes me to the big boss (Dr. Bhola Ram Shrestka) of the hospital. As we enter the actual hospital there are more people waiting in rows in the center of the hospitals bottom floor. We head up a set of stairs and I am led into a room with a simple desk, a couple couches and two fridges. I am told that Dr. Bhola Ram Shrestka will be with me with me shortly. 45 minutes later Dr. Bhola Ram Shrestka enters and smiles while clasping his hands together saying “Namaste”. I return the greeting. I explain to him my intentions along with my ideas to capture the hospital as a place where lives are saved without hindering the hospitals reputation in anyway, also to hopefully inspire, possibly encourage others to volunteer in developing countries with hospitals, charities, NGO’s, etc. He doesn’t seem to have any issues but he asks again and again specifically not to portray his hospital as a place that ignores and gives up on the well being of it’s patients. I guess some photographer came in there a couple years ago and completely abused the access he was given to the hospital and used his photographs in a negative way to create some sort of story/view that was completely un-true.
I am then given an escort for the grand tour of the facility to visit each ward. We started in the general admittance area where the room spanned 30 ft. by 15ft. with 12 beds. The condition of this room would have been a complete shock to anyone from a western culture however it’s just the way things are here and who am I to say who or how they should run their hospital. After walking around the room for a few minutes I came across three patients who were seem to all have similar symptoms of chest problems and difficulty breathing. After speaking with the nurses and the patient’s relatives they allowed me to photograph each of them.
The next area of the hospital I visited was the maternity ward where each room was roughly 12ft. by 8ft and had 3 beds per room. There were a couple new births from a few days past but the one in particular was of an albino Nepali baby that was still in the hospital with its mother. Once I saw this child I and immediately thought a Norwegian had come to Surkhet and gave birth to this child and handed it over to some random Nepali woman. I have NEVER in my life seen a baby so fair. After photographing the child and mother along with the exchange of a few laughs, I proceeded down the hall and into another room occupied by a two older men. I did not know what was specifically wrong with either of them men, however the man that was asleep was severely deteriorated and could have been from several reasons, malnourishment, TB, Dehydration, anything. Again I asked if I could photograph him. The person he was with was more than happy to allow this. I felt very sorry for the man due to his condition but he was sleeping soundly like a child who had just finished a full day of tobogganing. The man crouching on the bed just wanted his photograph taken and loved seeing his image afterwards. We preceded down the hall onto the next few rooms. Here I was greeted by two boys who had been in an accident involving some kind of object that had cut and broken part of their limbs. The father was also in the room and was quite excited to see his two boys photographed. It was nice to photograph the two boys especially after seeing the two older men from the previous room. From there, my tour consisted of the burn ward with no patients and finally the OR (Operating Room). The room itself was not very big, with literally no equipment compared to what you see in a well-developed country, or if you haven’t seen an OR then we will use Grey’s Anatomy as our reference. If you REALLY want to know what the conditions were in this hospital then e-mail me, but I’m not going to write something just in case someone decides to misinterpret my words about the Surkhet Hospital. The operating room was being used when I arrived and just being curious, I asked if I could watch the surgery in progress. The OR staff seeing no issue and without hesitation, opened the door as if it was the fridge in a kitchen and there I was, witnessing a man 10 feet away having his appendix removed. Unfortunately I was not allowed to be standing front row next to the surgeon.
I hope you have enjoyed this entry and stay tuned for more images coming soon!!
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Above: Dipa Bohara
Above: Juna Rokaya