Understanding HKC’s Health Programming
Imagine yourself in this position:
While boiling water for tea your child knocks the pot over, onto your foot. The burn is severe and you know you should see a doctor, but the cost is too high. You must choose between $3 for medicine or several meals for your family. You choose food for your family. Several days later the wound is healing poorly and you can tell it is becoming infected. You wait, apply turmeric and oil and hope that this will be enough to heal the wound properly. Another week passes and your foot is severely infected. You finally decide it is time to seek treatment. You are running a fever, your foot is swollen and your wound starts to smell. You finally acknowledge it is time to go to the hospital. Your doctor is shocked by your condition, but not as shocked as you are when you see the bill. You now need to take out a loan from a local loan shark to save your foot from amputation.
This scenario is not uncommon.
The reality of Nepal’s broken healthcare system was thrust upon us when a parent of three of our children became extremely ill. This woman, we will call her Mansi, couldn’t have been more than 30 years old. She had lost her husband some years prior and was raising 4 children alone in Nepal, far from her home and family in India.
By the time she was brought to the hospital it was already too late. She was so thin, she had almost wasted away completely. The first diagnosis was pneumonia.
Mansi had known she was sick, but going to the hospital was not an option; she could not afford it and she would have to leave her children home alone. She fought until she couldn’t fight anymore, and finally she was admitted to a public hospital. It was at this time her children asked us to come along to visit her.
This hospital was not like any hospital we had seen before. It was cold and unsanitary. The lobbies were packed with people and the whole place was terribly understaffed. We asked time and again for blankets that never came, and learned quickly that nothing is provided by the hospital. Families are responsible for bringing in food and caring for their loved ones, bathing them and even turning them in their beds. Her only caretakers were her young children.
It was at this time that Happy Kids Center stepped in. We paid for her medication and did our best to provide her with the basic necessities, but by this time it was already too late.
A short time later Mansi died in the hospital, leaving her four children orphaned.
We learned only after one of our volunteers who had visited the hospital contracted Tuberculosis, that this was likely her true cause of death.
TB is an epidemic in Nepal, whereas in the Western world it has been almost eradicated and considered 100% curable with the exception of cases where the patient has another serious illness such as HIV. TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that most often affects the lungs. It begins with a cough, fever and weight loss, presenting very similarly to pneumonia. Testing for TB is simple and inexpensive, but Mansi never even received this test.
After this tragic loss, we vowed to be a resource for people from our community, so that they can seek help when they are in need; so that no other child or parent needs to die of a curable disease because they cannot afford treatment.
At Happy Kids Center we now offer to reimburse the cost of healthcare for individuals from our community who face severe illness or injury while living in extreme poverty. For families living in poverty, even the most treatable conditions go uncared for in Nepal. This is primarily due to an inability to afford the cost of care which inevitably leads to more problems for both their health and finances down the line. With your help, starting in 2019 we will also begin providing an annual physical health screening for every child registered with HKC.
Health Fund Accomplishments in 2018: