They say that nurses are the heart of healthcare and if you have experienced the gentle touch and loving care of these wonderful beings then you’ll know that they are indeed the backbone of the health industry. Twenty one year old Pema Dolma who was born in Saldang, one of many isolated villages in Dolpa never imagined one day that she would also become a professional nurse.
Pema’s early years in Saldang was far from her current reality in Kathmandu. Moving to the capital city to continue her education from Class 5 at the Manju Ghoksha Academy in Kapan brought new challenges. Language and lifestyle. While she was getting used to understanding and speaking Nepali, English proved to be a whole new test. That was then.
After completing her schooling, Pema went on to study nursing at Stupa College where she successfully completed the study in 2013. Having experienced the hardship of living in the rural mountainside, Pema was desperate to take her newly acquired skills and knowledge back to Dolpa. In April 2014, Pema accompanied a group of American medics to Dolpa where she spent seven months at the Karang Health Post. The lonely health post is also one of the only centers of treatment for locals in the wider area. With medicine and equipment donated by Dolpa Tuklu Charitable Foundation, Pema spent her time treating villagers who came with a wide range of illnesses from joint pains, fever, gastritis and diarrhea. “When patients had a serious problem, it would be difficult to suggest further treatment options as some of them had already come from so far. It’s very less likely they would go to a bigger health-post or the nearby towns to seek treatment” says Pema, remembering the plight of the patients who she met during her time at the health post.
The more she talks about her experience in Dolpa, the more she reveals the hardship faced by millions of Nepalese living outside the urban core. The challenges range from accessibility, transportation of medicine, communication, storage facilities and for health professionals who are not local to the area, language and cultural difference. When asked about the government’s involvement in the area, Pema wears a tired look as she adds “You do not really see government presence there. You might see a community office but you won’t find a staff. I guess the staff have their set of problems. It could be down to payment issues, no one really knows”.
As we sit inside a bright quirky cafe looking towards the Boudhanth Stupa taking sips of our Lavazza latte; we are far away from the mountainside of Dolpa where many still go about their daily lives with various pains that their body has so become natural to. Pema looks at the view outside and the many tourists.
Just before we part, Pema enthusiastically tells me about the winter camp that she will be part of in Swyambhu from tomorrow. The winter camp which consists of a general check-up is organized by Dolpa Tuklu Charitable Foundation for residents of Dolpo who come down to Kathmandu during the winter months.