The four men were sweating and exhausted. They had been walking for the past hour up and down the Himalayan terrain, their friend Sita laid out on a stretcher between them.
Sita was barely conscious. For the past few months she had been getting progressively sicker, and now she could no longer walk. She had a fever of over 100ºF and was severely dehydrated.
Sita’s problems had begun six months earlier, when some seemingly harmless wounds on her shoulder, thigh and abdomen developed into severe abscesses.
Sita and her husband had exhausted all their options in the village for treatment. They had visited their local government health post, and while the health worker did the best he could, he did not have the appropriate medicines to treat Sita.
As her wounds continued to swell, Sita felt increasingly weak, in pain and feverish. Desperate for answers, Sita and her husband decided to seek advice and treatment from their local shaman, who told them to offer goats and chickens. Even though Sita and her husband were extremely poor, they sacrificed four goats and six chickens. But her sickness persisted.
When word reached their small village of Satha that a mobile medical camp was just an hour’s walk away, with Nepali doctors and nurses who would offer treatment for free, they finally had hope. Adara has organised mobile medical camps in Humla every year since 2011, providing free medical services to thousands of people living in remote villages. The camps bring Nepali doctors, nurses and specialists into Humla for two months at a time to treat as many people as possible. The camps are stationed at local health posts, where clinicians can upskill staff and leave medicines.
“We have two children to feed,” Sita tells us. “At that point, we didn’t have any money left to seek further treatment.”
When Sita arrived at the camp, the Adara mobile team was already busy treating the long line of patients. But as soon as they saw Sita, the whole team dropped everything – they knew she needed emergency attention.
“I have never seen a patient with such a huge abscess,” says Dr Sagar Paudel, one of the expert clinicians at the camp. “It was very serious and I wondered if we should refer her to better equipped hospitals outside Humla.”
But Sita’s condition was so bad they decided she could not risk travelling any further. Sita’s husband also urged the doctors to treat her at the camp: “I cannot afford to take her even to Simikot [the only hospital in Humla] let alone hospitals outside Humla. Please do something for her.”
The doctors sprang into action, giving her an IV drip to rehydrate her body. They then began treatment of the huge abscess in her abdomen. At least 3 litres of fluid was drained out of the abscess. She was then given a dose of antibiotics and was left to rest. The next day she had surgery on the remaining two abscesses and was then kept under close medical observation for four days.
After this expert care, Sita was well enough to walk back to her village. Our team has since followed up with her, and she is doing well.
Whether it’s handling complicated delivery cases in Chala or abscess management in Synda, Adara’s mobile medical camps have saved the lives of countless people and improved the health of many more.
We are proud of what these camps have achieved, but these health camps are not enough. Adara is also committed to improving long-term regular access to medical services in Humla. That is why we support four local-area health posts by supplying medicines and funding the salaries of two health assistants. We have also refurbished the health posts in our target villages to make them clean and functional. Adara also supports a Tibetan medicine practitioner who walks between villages for eight months of the year giving patients traditional treatments and referring them elsewhere if he cannot help. These interventions have helped ensure Humlis have access to year-round care.