Greetings from Kathmandu!

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July 19, 2014 - Greetings from Kathmandu!  

Our wonderful journey through the country hills and city streets of Nepal has finally come to an end, bringing with it great memories that will last for many years to come. We have not had a blog post since we arrived in Kathmandu, so I will fill everyone in on our adventures since then. 

We left Chyangba by helicopter one week ago. For many of us, including myself, it was our first helicopter ride. The helipad was a grassy flat area above the monastery in Chyangba. It was a little wobbly taking off initially, but once we got into the air, the views of the mountains were unbelievable. We went in 3 helicopters since each one held only 6 people. The helicopter I was on was very smooth during the flight. The second helicopter that arrived in Kathmandu endured a little more turbulence. We also were very lucky with the weather. The day after we left, heavy rains hit Chyangba continuously for many days, and our guides who had to travel by bus in order to bring all our camping gear back had to deal with multiple landslides on the muddy road. Luckily, everyone made it safely back to Kathmandu.

The first thing we all did when we got back to our hotel in Kathmandu was to take a shower. Best. Shower. Ever. I took take two in order to get all the gunk off. We then took a couple of days to recuperate from our trip. It was nice to be back to our hotel, but many of us felt a little homesick, not for our homes back in the US, but for the new home we had come to enjoy and love back in Chyangba. It was also a bit of a shock for me to come back from the tranquil hills of the Himalayan Mountains to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu Valley. We all had a ton of emails waiting in our inboxes, a reminder of the lives we had left behind for a few weeks. 

The folks at Peak Promotion were very nice and helped us arrange a tour of the city as well. We went to the famed Monkey Temple, so named because of all the Rhesus monkeys that live there. It sits atop a hill and can be seen from many points from within the city. We also went to a Buddhist Monastery, a crematorium, and a Hindu Temple. It was great to learn more about the history of Nepal and Kathmandu and the role that religion has played on this country. 

After a couple of days, we began our EMT training course with the Nepal Ambulance Service. Frank and Justin, both of whom are EMT instructors, arrived in Kathmandu just in time to teach the course. The course ran for four days and involved running through practice scenarios at the NAS office with the EMTs in small groups. The members of the trekking team acted as patients. It was great for Frank and Justin to be able to share their EMT experience with the NAS EMTs and to provide them with an opportunity to refresh their medical skills. 

We were also able to go on ride-alongs on the ambulances with the EMTs. Some of us wore GoPros on our heads in order to capture the action.  In the call that I went on, our patient needed a hospital to hospital transport and required the use of the ventilator. It was interesting to see the role that the NAS EMTs play in the overall healthcare structure of Nepal. Undoubtedly, they are the best equipped to provide ambulatory services in Kathmandu. Thank you very much to our friends at NAS for providing the opportunity to work with EMTs, and we hope to see you all again soon.

During this time, I began my PharmaCheck research project. The PharmaCheck project involves collecting medications from different hospitals and pharmacies around Kathmandu in order to test their quality. In many countries around the world, there have been numerous reports of substandard and counterfeit medications popping up in clinics. We thought it would be invaluable to test the quality of drugs in Kathmandu in order to see if Nepal is also affected by this issue. I went on motorbike with Pasang, one of the employees at Peak Promotion, and we traveled throughout the city searching for drugs. It was great to be able to explore the city on the back of the motorbike. Although it is hard to see from the city center, once you get outside a bit you can see the mountains that surround Kathmandu and provide a beautiful backdrop for this great city.

Audrey, Laura, Olivia, and I also had the chance to visit Helping Hands Community Hospital. The opportunity was arranged through Ramesh, a paramedic that I met during my ride along. We received a tour of the hospital from the director and also saw patients. Audrey was able to see her first surgery in their OR. We were all very impressed by the strong social mission that the hospital has, as they are able to provide medical services to many Nepali people for low or no cost. We were also astounded by the quality of the medical equipment that the hospital has. It was a great opportunity to see the inner workings of a hospital in Nepal. Hopefully, we will be able to come back and collaborate with the hospital in the future.

The end of the EMT course a couple of days ago concluded all our medical and educational activities in Nepal, and we were finally able to go on vacation mode. By then, many of our members had started to leave the country for their various destinations. Last night, we held a ceremony in the dining room of our hotel. We were fortunate to have present at the ceremony two high level government officials who presented the members that were still in Nepal certificates of appreciation for our work in Nepal in the past few weeks. A couple of hours later, we held a dinner meeting with the board members of NAS to discuss the future path of NAS and how to best get there. We shared with them our observations during the training course as well, and they seemed very delighted to have our perspectives on their organization. It was a very productive and enjoyable meeting, and we would like to thank the board members for being wonderful hosts. I was personally amazed by their dedication and passion to providing ambulatory services to Kathmandu Valley. We wish them and the rest of the NAS team the best of luck in the upcoming months, and we hope to hear about the numerous successes they will soon accomplish when we come back to Nepal. 

This morning I came downstairs to find Dr. Murphy in front of a video camera. He was filming a short segment for a documentary about Wang Chu, our fearless Peak Promotion leader. The documentary is about Wang Chu's life and history, and provides detail about all the social work that he has done for Nepal including his involvement in our medical trip. I cannot wait for the film to be finished to hear more about Wang Chu's amazing journey. We are all very grateful for his hospitality in Nepal and for organizing our trip, and we wish him the best of luck. 

Besides these activities, most of our time here has been spent shopping and eating following by more shopping and eating. Many of us bought more trekking gear so that we would be well equipped for the harsh weathers of the hills of Palo Alto when we head back. Another popular item was cashmere scarves, which can be found all around the streets of Thamel, the touristy/popular shopping district in Kathmandu. We chanced upon a wonderful Japanese/Nepali fusion restaurant in Thamel thyat we went to twice. We also found a nice Korean restaurant. 

Unfortunately, like many great things in life, our trip has finally come to an end. The last cohort of our group is flying out tonight. I would like to thank once again all the members of Peak Promotion for making this wonderful trip possible. We all have developed strong friendships with the staff and have gained a deep respect for the Nepali people. I would also like to thank Dr. Murphy for taking the time to work with us and for making this opportunity possible. Many of the members of the team joined the trip to see if medicine would be suitable for them as a career, and I am sure that they received a positive insight into the profession.  Lastly, I'd like to thank all the people that we have worked with during our trip, from the doctors at the community health post to the folks at NAS and at Helping Hands Hospital. We wish you all the best, and hope to see you soon.

Until next time ~ 

Max Liu and the rest of the Chyangba Medical Team 2014!