Standing Proud …. and so they should

SIRC’s Administration Director Dipesh Pradhan reflected on the year that was – a tough and difficult year that saw the Nepalese experience two large earthquakes in April and May respectively, with continued strong aftershocks – another two days ago measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale.  Thousands lost their lives, and many more injured – some very seriously with spinal cord injuries.  It is these seriously injured patients that arrived to SIRC for medical care and SCI rehabilitation.

SIRC was a 52-bed facility, that in a matter of weeks, had to ramp up to accommodate over 200 SCI patients.  The heads of department of medical care, nursing, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work had to get their heads together fast to determine how they were going to accommodate a 4-fold increase in the number of patients, whilst maintaining the medical care and rehabilitation for over 30 SCI patients already being cared for at the facility.

Key staff members immediately mobilized  and targeted every major hospital in the Kathmandu Valley, identifying patients with spinal cord injuries who would need to be transported carefully to SIRC.  SIRC staff also taught medical staff the importance of regular turning of the patient to prevent pressure sores and early insert of catheters to avoid infection – two key actions that ultimately can save the life of the SCI patient if done from the outset.

Their efforts were coordinated by Dipesh and his team back at SIRC.  Communication was easiest through the use of Facebook on smartphones (there was not enough electricity to run laptops or a strong enough internet connection to guarantee quick responses).  The transport of SCI patients is a job for specialists only, so every driver and ambulance available was dispatched to transport patients to SIRC, one by one, and very carefully.

In Nepal, it is expected a family member will accompany the patient to bathe, feed and care for the patient, do their laundry as well as any other general care needed.  This meant the kitchen staff, in a matter of days had to provide two meals and one snack for over 600 people …. every day! ….. from a kitchen no bigger than my sunroom and dining area combined.

With such an increase in the number of people at the facility, keeping the wards, walkways, bathrooms and common areas clean was a huge challenge.  The ladies who do a straight up job, had their work cut out for them.

The office staff were inundated with paperwork and book-keeping, fielding phonecalls from the Nepalese Government’s Ministry of Health and Population, as well as many other iNGOs and SCI colleagues from around the world, wanting to help.

The Management Team had some big decisions to make, many many decisions in fact …. all needing a decision immediately with so little information but still having to make the best decisions they could.  They sure stepped up to the plate.

All this is to say, SIRC and their family of staff rose to the challenge that was presented to them, and went on to save the lives and futures of many people so cruelly affected by the earthquakes.  I was in awe with what the Board as well as Esha and her team could achieve with so little, indeed humbled and proud to be even associated with SIRC.

It’s now been 5 months since the ferocious earthquakes, and despite the ongoing aftershocks, life has settled down somewhat so it was time to stop, breathe, reflect and celebrate.  SIRC does celebration very well let me tall ya!

Esha and Dipesh led a staff meeting on September 22nd to express their gratitude to the staff for their remarkable work and efforts in Nepal’s time of need and recognized a few individuals who shone like stars throughout such a difficult time.  The following are a few photos showing the noticeably larger number of staff, along with photos of some of those SuperStars I was telling you about.

Jai Spinal!

The noticeably larger team at SIRC

The noticeably larger team at SIRC

Staff recognition 1

Team Leader of the cleaning crew

Team Leader of the cleaning crew

Suman is one of the excellent drivers at SIRC

Suman is one of the excellent drivers at SIRC

Staff recognition 4

Photo credit:  SIRC

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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