Operating in Nepal

David Nunns is a newcomer to St Peter’s, having recently moved to Nottingham from Leicester. He works at Nottingham City Hospital as a Consultant Gynaecologist and visits Nepal twice a year with a Christian medical mission called the International Nepalese Fellowship (INF) who fund mainly medical care projects in Nepal. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and medical care is scarce. Doctors and nurses are few and far between. The INF organises camps in remote regions in Nepal with emphasis on eyes, ENT and gynaecology.

With the last camp I took three weeks off work, Qatar Airlines kindly donating an airline ticket. On arrival in Kathmandu I travelled by bus for three days to the very west of Nepal. This was followed by a short flight to the village of Simikot. This area has a population of 22,000 people and is approximately 3,000 metres above sea level. Ben Nevis is 1,300m! It was cold and the altitude sickness was mild. The ‘hospital’ was a big hut with several rooms and we spent the first day scrubbing floors down - it was filthy. There were two operating tables present (very old), but we had brought with us a portable generator, steriliser, sutures, instruments, etc. The team included two gynaecologists, two anaesthetists, scrub nurses, Nepali translators (very important), a pharmacist, and Ellen - our tireless camp organiser.

Women were told of the camp by radio and word of mouth and we saw 100 patients a day, and operated on around 5-6 per day. Many women had prolapses - big longstanding procidentias - these had vaginal hysterectomies. Sterilisation was the commonest operation - very important when you have had seven or eight children! Many women had walked for several days to get to the camp and the poverty was distressing.

Food is in short supply and for six months a year, because of the snow, the community is completely isolated from all outside contact. There was a small ward but most women had left once the spinal anaesthetic had worn off! There were many we could do nothing for - lots of congenital abnormalities, several burns contractures, and a woman with a large vesico-vaginal fistula. I became very good at wrist ganglions as several blokes turned up with them!

The faith in Nepal is predominantly Hindu, but Christianity is slowly spreading. It is illegal to preach religion other than Hinduism. All emails to and from the country are vetted, with key words such as ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ beings scanned by the Government.

I am returning again to Nepal shortly.

David Nunns

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 9th March 2003