Sunday, 15 May 2016

Making Magic at Sonrisa Orphanage

Today an amazing thing happened.  Myself and six UBC medical students*  (called Health Trek Nepal [HTN 2016]) joined three Patan Academy of Health Science* (PAHS)  medical students, Bishnu Rai (the Director of the Orphanage), Dr. Rolina Dhital a Kathmandu University Medical Student graduate and Dr. Amar Saha a dentist.  Together we successfully mounted a Health Screen at Sonrisa Orphanage.   This required incredible team work, non-stop language translation,  technical ingenuity (thank you Jingfei !), patience and a good sense of humour.

This stemmed from an observation I made four years ago, that the children at Sonrisa Oprphanage had no permanent medical or dental record that could be referred to when they had to go for treatment at the hospital outpatient ward or to the dentist.  As a result a previous Health Trek Nepal team, set up the first Health Screen at Sonrisa in 2012.  They set up four “stations”  in various rooms around the orphanage to collect health and dental data.  The result was a permanent "Health Record Card" on file at the orphanage for each child.

Health Record Card

For the next three years conducting the Health Screen became a regular role for each Health Trek team.  Last year the April earthquake prevented the HTN 2015 team from coming to Nepal, and so the task this year was for HTN 2016 team to update the Health Record Cards for the past two years. 

In order to do that we occupied four rooms at the Orphanage; one was for taking an  updated history,  one was for the physical exam (e.g. heart and respiratory rate,  heart and chest sounds, height,  weight, skin pallor, jaundice, abdominal exam), one was for oral health assessment, and finally one room  was just for girls to discuss female anatomy and physiology pertaining to pubertal changes.   Each team of medical students included at least one HTN student and one PAHS student.  As a team they navigated the English-Nepali language divide.  While most of the older children speak English, however,  the little ones would have had a hard time understanding our questions and so the PAHS students rephrased in Nepali. 

Dr. Rolina Dhital conducted the initial physical exams on the children role modeling proper physical exam technique.  Dr. Saha did basic dental checks on all the children with a medical student taking careful notes on his findings and his recommendations for follow up.

On the whole, given the earthquake aftermath and a protracted fuel and food embargo over the last year, the Sonrisa children held up quite well.  This is a tribute to the hard work of Bishnu Rai and his amazing staff of Aunties and Tutors at Sonrisa.    Any observed health/nutrition issues found during Health Screen were noted and recommendations were made to Bishnu for follow up.  HTN students will now update all the Health Record Cards and leave hard and electronic copies for Bishnu to keep at the Orphanage.

Once all the physical exams were completed, and while our close friend Bill Kumar Lama (a local Nepali chef) was creating culinary magic in the orphanage kitchen,  the Sonrisa children created their own magic by playing local Nepali folk songs using violins, drums,  and flutes.  As one part of their education all Sonrisa children are provided with music lessons.  It's paid off, they are very accomplished musicians now.

After that, the feasting began!    Bill made a fantastic meal of Dhal Bhatt and chicken curry.  Bishnu topped it off by bringing along an amazing chocolate cake dessert. 

Tired but immensely satisfied our inter-professional, multicultural team of volunteers called it a day.

Bill Kumar Lama preparing the curried chicken!

·      HTN 2016 UBC Medical Student Team: Cara McCulloch, Hamish Bodnar,  Laura Bruulsema, Vanessa Montagliani,  Jingfei Zhang, Joyce Ching.

·      PAHS Medical Student Team:  Durga Rokaya, Nishant Joshi, and Saubhagyi Singh

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