Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wheelchairs in Pokhara, Nepal

We had the opportunity of being part of a wheelchair assessment team to Pokhara, Nepal, November 22 - 29, 2014. Specialists flew in from Utah to train physicians, therapists and other medical workers from several of Pokhara's medical clinics, and we were fortunate to be included as some of the students.
The wheelchair assessment team in Kathmandu airport on the way to Pokhara
During the three day training we learned how to assemble wheelchairs, how to assess the needs of the recipients, and how to get around safely in a wheelchair in a variety of situations.

        Learning what it is like to move about on
rough terrain

Elder Coffey preparing the wheelchairs

Sitting in on a wheelchair assessment for a
spinal cord injury patient

Then on day three, the recipients came, hoping to qualify for a wheelchair of their own. Their stories were ones of courage and hope.
Rosan Karti is 12 years old and loves going to school where he can see his friends.  About 6 years ago he began to experience muscle weakness, which has slowly begun getting worse, his parents told us.  They brought him to the wheelchair distribution by LDS Charities in hopes that he might qualify for a chair. The assessors checked him out - “Muscular Dystrophy”, his diagnosis sheet read. They would give him a chair that day.

When I caught up with him he was in a Rough Rider wheelchair, in the field practicing moving around in his new chair.  I sat in the grass, basking in the sun, with his parents sitting nearby.  He stopped, exhausted, unable to move his chair any further.  While getting around on grass is hard, it was evident to me that Rosan’s problem was more than just the terrain.  His father kneeled beside the chair, Rosan very haltingly grabbed onto his father's shoulder, and slowly, slowly pulled himself onto his dad’s back.  His dad gently lowered him to the grass.  Then the dad learned over and gave him a hug and a kiss to his forehead.

The parents looked so happy for this day.  Rosan beamed with delight. But I realized the long and arduous journey yet ahead for this boy and his family.  My mind flashed to other young boys I have known who also watch their childhood pass with increasing weakness and greater dependence from this dreaded disease.  I looked at the family again, the dad tousling Rosan’s hair in the sunlight.  I had to turn away so they wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

Sushma Bhundari (20 years old) was only 3 years old when an accident with a vehicle left her with a spinal chord injury, unable to walk.  She is a bright, intelligent young woman and is studying to become a software engineer.  Sushma lives fifteen minutes from school and had a standard wheelchair which her family members pushed through the rugged roads and rough terrain to get her around.  Before, she always let others push her chair, but now with the Rough Rider chair from LDS Charities, she is excited to become more self-reliant and independent.  

Sushma Bhundari in her new wheelchair

“I hope having this chair will make it easier for me to get around.  I hope I can get myself around now by myself,” she said.  Achieving a greater level of self-reliance is an important goal for Sushma. 

For so many, having a wheelchair is a transforming experience, an opportunity of restoring a measure of dignity to their lives.

 The woman beside me is 80 years old and suffered a stroke several years ago.
For some, the wheelchair is their life.

Kim and Gaye Brown were the wheelchair specialists from Utah who came to oversee the wheelchair training.   Elder Brown told me of his first assignment as a wheelchair specialist for LDS Charities years earlier in Sierra Leone.  One woman in an old wheelchair came requesting a new one.  He noticed her seat, nothing more than a wooden slat, was rotting from exposure to the elements.  He suggested to her that she take care of her wheelchair when she was not using it by keeping it in a protected place, like a garage. She didn't know what that was. 
Kim Brown discusses wheelchair assessments
with one of the students

“Carport?” he asked.  No idea. “Some kind of an overhang, or even in your house?” 

Wide eyed, and with tears streaming down her cheeks she said, looking down at her chair, “Mr. Brown, this is my house.” It was all she had to her name.

Tears flooded his face. Kim Brown was forever a changed man and would never look at life the same way again.

Patrick Cheuk, Asia Area Welfare Manager (center),
helps assess a wheelchair recipient
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  

Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee?  or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  
Matthew 25: 35-40

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