An organized rhythm at SIRC

Well, life sure is full of activity for the SIRC folks in Nepal.  Esha, the Executive Director has had a lot to contend with in the past 10 days.  Avika her youngest daughter had to be hospitalized for a couple of days last weekend, so besides running a spinal injury rehab facility, attending World Health Organization (WHO) cluster meetings, meetings at the Ministry as well as other aid agencies, she’s also had the worry for her youngest daughter to contend with.  When they present the global award for SuperMum this year, it should be given to Esha Thapa – she has my vote!

Fortunately, Avika is doing well now.  Esha and I skyped Thursday night and Avika was busy blowing me kisses while her older sister Aahana was very excited to be back at school.

And how is SIRC doing?  As Peter & Claire put it aptly in their blog, there is an organized rhythm to life at SIRC. It continues to be very busy with over 114 newly injured patients now admitted.  Add the 38 patients already at SIRC before the earthquakes, and that’s triple the usual capacity.

Excerpt from SIRC

  Permission given by the patient to share her story.  Excerpt from SIRC:  “Shristi Maya Tamang is the 100th patient at SIRC and is from Sindhupalchowk. She is 18 years old. She has recently given SLC and awaiting the result. The devastating earthquake on the 25th April has completely destroyed her house in the village. She was badly injured and brought to our centre after being operated in TUH, Kathmandu. She is provided with comprehensive medical rehabilitation in our centre. The spinal cord injury has posed difficulty in her mobility but we are trying our best to help her regain some mobility.” Photo credit SIRC.  

  • Dipesh (SIRC’s Administrative Director) is doing a very fine job at coordinating the day to day work at the centre while Esha focuses on fundraising and advocacy for SIRC.
  • Recruitment of additional nurses, physios and other SCI professionals has been a key focus, making new hire orientation and staff training a priority for heads of department:  Chanda (Rehab In Charge), Mandira (Nursing) and Keshab (Occupational Therapy).
Mandira is shown here receiving the 'Clinical Study Grant' (2000 Euros). This grant was jointly provided by International Network of Spinal Cord Injury Nurses and Wellspect Healthcare Research Grant. This study has the potential to increase awareness in developing countries and increase knowledge related to bladder management.

Mandira is shown here receiving the ‘Clinical Study Grant’ (2000 Euros). This grant was jointly provided by International Network of Spinal Cord Injury Nurses and Wellspect Healthcare Research Grant. This study has the potential to increase awareness in developing countries whilst improving knowledge related to bladder management.  Photo credit SIRC.

  • Having Fiona Stephenson (the Volunteer Coordinator, volunteering herself) has been of huge assistance coordinating overseas volunteers and pairing them with Nepalese staff – each learning from one another.
  • This week Dr Apichana Kovindha of Chiang Mai University, Thailand and her team of SCI specialists have been providing medical support at SIRC.
  • As they leave this weekend, they have handed over their work to Dr Christine Groves, experienced in rehabilitation medicine from the US who will stay at SIRC for what we hope to be, an extended period of time.
  • Dr Renee Maschke (Director of the Spinal Cord Unit in Perugia, Italy) is planning on spending some time at SIRC later in the Summer.

How fortunate are we to have such immense support from the global SCI network. Dhanybad.

Check out Peter & Claire’s blog that provides greater detail on the medical side of things at SIRC – something that is not in my realm of expertise at all!  Thanks to you both.

You have heard me mention Stephen Muldoon in previous posts.  He is the Assistant Director, International Complex Care Development at Livability International.  Too lofty a  title for such a down to earth man in my opinion.  Me, having the business and admin skills I have and helping Esha and Nikita out in whatever way I can, has allowed me to work closely with Stephen and his wife Maggie Muldoon – who is Overseas Programme Manager also with Livability International.

I have learned lots from this pair in the past few weeks – they have been patient with me but also so very encouraging as I translate my experience from investment management into the development arena.   It probably helps that they are Irish, (as I am) – there’s just that innate understanding of terms and references, and they get my quirky sense of humour.  We also share a passion for Nepal and a deep respect for the fine folks at SIRC.  We haven’t met in person yet (as skype doesn’t count) but I look forward to December when we will all be in Nepal for the ASCON conference SIRC are hosting.

The Fisher Foundation, Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland awarded Livability International (Stephen & Maggie Muldoon) with a special grant to assist them in their humanitarian response to Nepal's earthquake.

The Fisher Foundation, Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland awarded Livability International (Stephen & Maggie Muldoon) with a special grant to assist them in their humanitarian response to Nepal’s earthquake.  Photo credit Stephen Muldoon

Read the Fisher Foundation’s announcement here.

Stephen was also guest blogger on the BBC’s Ouch Blog, check out his latest posting here.  If you like it enough I might ask Stephen to be a guest blogger here – what do you think?

I hear the combination of Esha and Stephen results in a formidable pair.  I can just imagine them at WHO meetings, ensuring (little old) SIRC’s voice is heard and given the same respect as the aid agencies with well-known household names.  Esha is a very capable advocate for spinal cord injury in Nepal, has been since she first took the Executive Director job at SIRC in 2002.  I wonder if she ever envisaged that, in less than 13 years she would play such a key role, planning the future of Nepal’s policy on injury & rehabilitation?  Hats off to her.

Stephen has been in Nepal for 3 weeks now and has been of significant support to Esha and SIRC.  He’s amazing really.  To navigate the complex bureaucracy usually associated with large organizations is alive and well in Nepal.  It takes a lot of energy, brain-power and strategizing to find one’s way out the other side.  Stephen’s many years experience in Asia (including years living and working in Bangladesh with Maggie and their two boys) gives him a genuine understanding of how to plot the right course.  They get things done between them.  As I have said before, the Irish are akin to the Nepalese.  Say no more.

One last thing before I end this post.  I was on a skype call with Stephen during the week and I noticed the lightshade swinging above his head in his hotel room.  It’s shaking a little he said but it’s fine.  So we continued on.  Later, he emailed me to tell me it had been a 4.5 aftershock.  That would be considered an earthquake here in Vancouver!  It struck me that the continuing aftershocks are now part of every day life – it must be terrifying for those with such vivid memories of the destruction that took place in April and May.  But I have noticed I don’t hear it so much from the staff at SIRC who have coined a new motto:

“If we don’t do it who will? If we don’t do it now – when? If we do it, we will do it right.”

That says it all, now doesn’t it?

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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