Himalayan Hospitals

by Tim Sleeth

A leap into the unknown Nepal


Spending time in third world hospitals was not exactly what I had in mind when I set out to make local connections. I had returned to Kathmandu after weeks of biking around the Himalayas. The return to the city offered a chance to relax amidst the lively, narrow alleys of Thamel, dodging rickshaws and vendor entreaties to purchase counterfeit outdoors gear. It was the midst of the FIFA World Cup and despite Nepal having never qualified, it hadn't stopped the Nepalese embracing the occasion. Strings of flagged bunting crisscrossed the streets creating a festive atmosphere. It was whilst sitting on the floor of a café watching Australia lose to Holland 2-3 in a first stage qualifier that I was bitten by a kitten. Not buried in an avalanche or robbed at gunpoint but mauled by a seemingly innocuous household pet. Despite its teeth reaching the bone of my finger, it did not appear a mortal wound until the gravity of the situation was conveyed to me by the paramedics I was with. Whilst Rabies always seemed like an unlikely scourge reserved to Harper Lee novels, I soon found out that it is alarmingly endemic in Nepal where a positive infection left untreated is almost always fatal. With this new information I found myself on the way to the hospital to get the first of a month long course of needles and a completely different travel experience than expected. Despite the location of the wound I was told it would be necessary to administer the first few needles to the glute - and would it be ok if a few nurses sat in for educational purposes? Having assented in the interest of medical advancement, I spent the tortuously long period following bent over an operating table with my pants around my ankles and the doctor explaining the topography of my behind in relation to immuno-globulin delivery to a room full of giggling nurses. The medical necessities over, the appointment turned into an unforgettable Q and A session with the local doctor and nurses. With an aching finger and an equally sore behind, I left the hospital with a new perspective on the lives of those present. An experience replicated at each of the hospitals across Nepal and India I visited for boosters over the next month with those I shared the waiting rooms with. I heard their stories and they listened to mine. To a laughing audience I regaled possibly the only tale of a savage animal attack where the predator is embellished by becoming increasingly smaller and adorable with each successive telling.