In a recent post, I alluded to the concept of multidimensional poverty when I shared the story of a grieving father, perceiving himself utterly disempowered to help his daughter get well. Perhaps you, like me, heard this man’s heart-cry and longed to solve it. However, in my previous post I did not jump there immediately, because merely throwing money at a complex and nuanced problem like systemic poverty doesn’t actually fix the deeper problem; worse, it can even create new ones.
That said, there is a very important role for partnering with organizations like Tansen Hospital, which depend to a large extent on donation funds in order to provide the services it does. (You may have noted that I avoid using this blog forum as a platform to reach out for donations on behalf of partner organizations; this post will be a rare exception.)
Unlike the majority of hospitals across Nepal, patients are never turned away from Tansen Hospital for inability to pay. Thus, a significant portion of Tansen’s care is provided at greatly reduced costs, or even entirely free, because of a reserve called the Medical Assistance Fund (MAF). In 2015 alone, the amount of free care at Tansen Hospital paid for by the MAF totaled $157,065 (USD), a sum that represents hundreds of patient stories.
One such story is that of Miya. Miya Sambu* was a young girl brought in by her family for treatment at Tansen Hospital one afternoon last September. She had previously been a happy, healthy nine-year old who attended the local village school with her three sisters, and lived with extended family in a remote village of Palpa — the same district in which Tansen is located.
On the morning of her hospitalization — a morning that would forever change the direction of her life — she and several friends were playing in a manual cement mixer they found near their home. (It may strike you as odd to think of small children using a piece of construction equipment as a jungle-gym; in Nepal that’s far from unusual.) Miya noticed the large cavernous structure in the back – the part that mixes clay, sand and gravel around to form cement – and thought it looked too tempting to pass up. She crawled inside, and her friends began to turn the handle, spinning the mixer with Miya inside. Suddenly, with a loud cry she was flung out. A group of village adults hurried over to find out what had happened, where they discovered her laying on the ground, unnaturally limp and hysterical with pain and fear. From there Miya endured a bumpy overland journey of several hours in a bus, eventually carried into our emergency room in her father’s arms, accompanied by a panicked group of family members.
On arrival at Tansen Hospital, Miya was found to have sustained facial lacerations, dental fractures, and a hyperextension fracture-dislocation of C3-4 with near-total quadraplegia. In
layman’s terms, her neck had been broken, leaving her paralyzed. Miya was admitted to the children’s orthopedic ward for further evaluation and management by our orthopedic and therapy teams, where she stayed for just over two months. She required a temporary feeding tube to help with nutrition during the first few weeks, while she worked intensively with our speech therapist, Sarah, re-learning how to swallow. Her hospital course was complicated by pneumonia, a consequence of weakened breathing & swallowing muscles and long weeks in a hospital bed, her head held rigidly immobile by a thick plastic neck-brace.
The journey that would ultimately link Miya’s story to Tansen Hospital actually began fifteen years earlier, when her family moved to Palpa from Jhapa in search of work. Jhapa is a district located along the Indian border of Nepal’s southeastern-most corner. They’d come in search of work for her father, who was eventually able to find a job in carpentry. However, the family has struggled for years to make ends meet on his irregular, weekly salary of 500 rupees (approximately $5). Her mother tends the home, occasionally taking on day labor jobs. Even so, virtually all of their income goes to rent and food for the family. They live in a simple mud home that they rent at a fee of 1000 rupees (about $10) per month. From records the family later provided, it was clear that school fees for all four girls were waived due to their extreme poverty. In addition to this, the family struggles under the weight of a debt of 150,000 rupees (about $1,500.00) incurred years earlier at another hospital, when Miya’s oldest sister was treated for severe meningitis.
The pastoral care team at Tansen Hospital does a tireless job working with patients in crisis, meeting each day with hundreds of patients who share stories like Miya’s. They see firsthand the multidimensional nature of poverty’s suffering – the lack of material goods and regular income; the poor standard of living that leads to disease; the social isolation that comes when you can’t afford to host your neighbors or reciprocate with house-gifts for friends who host you; the disempowerment, fear, hopelessness and despair that gradually creeps in over time, permeating deep within one’s being and sense of self. Such poverty is not fixed by money alone.
Our pastoral team met daily with Miya and her family during her hospitalization, spending hours at her bedside to provide prayer, encouragement, and presence. Over time, the team of doctors, nurses and staff got to know her and her family well. After reviewing their situation, a significant amount of charity care was allotted for Miya and her family to cover food and hospital costs during their stay. In this way, through spiritual support wedded to practical love, the Tansen team was able to share God’s love and healing in the midst of deep tragedy. After working with our therapy team for two months, she improved her swallowing function, regained some general movement on her left side, and was finally deemed ready for discharge back home to her village.
The road ahead of Miya is an arduous one, filled with dark days and a great deal of pain. Yet she left Tansen Hospital with the dignity-affirming care of a team of people present to her suffering. She left with the knowledge that her life and future are in the hands of a God who sees her and loves her. In the face of inexplicable tragedy, and in the midst of grief for which words fall woefully short, Tansen Hospital seeks to share this loving presence of Jesus by faithfully coming alongside those who suffer.
*Name changed for patient privacy
If you are interested in participating with the work being done at Tansen Hospital to bring healing and dignity to some of Nepal’s poorest members, prayerfully consider one of the routes below in order to donate to the Medical Assistance Fund:
FROM THE USA:
You can also give through the United Methodist Church. The full sum of money donated goes directly to Tansen, where it is then channeled into either MAF or capital items, if any are needed. Donations are tax deductible if given through this route.