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Vivien Ngo - Medicine in Nepal

Toothbrushing class

I did the High School Special medical volunteering project in Nepal and it was a great experience and opportunity to not only meet and work with new people but to experience life in another community and culture. Upon arrival volunteers were given time to bond and get to know each other and to adjust to the environmental change.

From the very start it was a complete adrenalin rush as volunteering and observing procedures in the hospital was eye opening and informative. It was helpful as I got to gain exposure to procedures that I would have not been able to see back in the UK and the doctors explained in detail diagnosis and treatment plans. As a hopeful medic being able to observe neurosurgery was one of the highlights of the trip, and something I can never forget.

Planning and Arrival

Medicine project

I planned this trip with my friend, to experience another perspective of medicine. Being a UK resident I am very fortunate to have the luxury of seeking medical attention when I need it without the expenses. In Nepal however, I immediately noticed the difference – on one occasion I witnessed a husband having to buy pain relief for the doctors to administer to his wife. Everything was eye opening, and definitely made me appreciate the small things I have in my life which I previously took for granted.

Our accommodation in Nepal was very good. As we were only going for 2 weeks and there were in fact many of us, we stayed in a local hotel. This gave me the chance to get to know and talk to other volunteers easily, and evenings were spent together playing card games and going over what we had observed in our placements. Most nights we were shocked by what we had heard and seen because everything was so different. Although you may think medicine must surely be the same everywhere, the process and how doctors tackle situations in Nepal is very different.

My Medical Placement

Nepali temples

Once we had all arrived in the Chitwan region of Nepal we were given time to relax and to meet the other volunteers and then we explored the hospital and had our induction on the second day. On day three we got straight to work and I was assigned to the Bharatpur Cancer Hospital, where I was shown endoscopies, and was also given the chance to sit in the appointments at the Out Patients Department - ENT clinic. It was extremely different to the procedures I have seen back home, and the differences were instantly noticeable.

I then spent a further two days at the Cancer hospital so I was able to fully experience life in a hospital in Nepal. I became particularly interested in the neurological OPD of which I was able to have the wonderful and unique experience of observing neurosurgery. One of the doctors was going to remove a large brain tumor from a patient where the operation took 5-6 hours! This definitely gave me the true and real insight I needed for a career in medicine.

After a small break at the National Park at the weekend, we returned for our final placements. My last placements were at Marie Stopes which was a family planning center, where I was able to observe procedures such as abortions. Also at the Chitwan Medical Center I was able to interact and play with the children on the pediatric ward and listen in during the ward rounds.

Weekend trips

Chitwan national park

When the next weekend came, our group traveled to Chitwan National park, where we went on small walks into the forest and watched the scenic sun go down. In the evening we were to watch traditional Nepalese dancing and we were given the chance to join in ourselves. It was a great way to get a feel for the culture.

Before saying our good byes to Nepal, we visited temples together to get one last feel of this amazing country.

Final Thoughts

The Nepalese were all very friendly people and there was support from the Projects Abroad team 24 hours of the day which was reassuring when starting out in a country and around people you do not know.

Both my medical coordinators were so friendly and helpful, and they were enjoying the experience as much as everyone else. It was a great confidence to have their expertise when living in a culturally different country.

Over the weeks making new friends with other volunteers was easy as we spent the evenings and weekends doing activities together. Even now, a few months after volunteering I still speak to the other volunteers. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences I have ever had, and being able to gain independence and confidence in myself is just one of the many things I have taken from my time in Nepal.

Vivien Ngo

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