Volunteer Review: Giedre B., Acupuncturist in Nepal
I am Lithuanian, but have been living in London in the UK for six years. I graduated from Middlesex University as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. Before beginning to practice in London, I decided to travel and also to combine traveling with my occupation. I went for three months to Shenyang, China to do clinical practice in Liaoning Hospital of TCM.
As I had planned to do some volunteer work, I decided to join a project with Projects Abroad and come to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, for three months to work as a volunteer acupuncturist. If you are wondering why volunteer and why do it in such poor country as Nepal it is because I believe that everything happens for a reason in this life.
I take the opportunity to learn and practice Chinese Medicine as a gift, one that I have to be grateful and obligated for. In order to give something back in return, I arranged this trip to Nepal to treat people by applying Chinese Medicine principles.
Arriving in Kathmandu
The first few days in Kathmandu went by very quickly. I was taken to the hotel, given an introduction to Nepali customs and general rules before being transferred to my host family and here I am, at the Sahara rehabilitation hospital ready to work as the practitioner of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Tui Na massage.
Patients who stay in the hospital are mainly people who have experienced a stroke and are now at the sequela stage with unilateral paralysis (hemiplegia), numbness and slurred speech, MS and spinal injuries. The patients with muscular-skeletal and neurological disorders come to the hospital to receive physical therapy treatments every day.
During the first few working weeks I understood that Chinese medicine is not a very conventional treatment method in Nepal. Even physical therapists do not refer patients to acupuncturists despite the fact that workshops about the benefits of Chinese medicine and acupuncture was done by other practitioners of TCM. However most of the patients who received acupuncture and Tui Na massage treatments acknowledged the benefits they received.
Working at Sahara Rehabilitation Hospital
I shall now tell you a little about a few of the patients that I worked with at the hospital.
Kamala, a very sweet lady, suffered with right side hemiplegia after her stroke. Following the last treatment she said she will really miss the mornings she spent with me undergoing acupuncture and massage.
Amber had facial spasms on the right side which disappeared after 10 treatments. He was always a little anxious about the needles, so sometimes I had to calm him down by needling Yintang point.
Bikas was the only patient who came to hospital to have treatments three times a week for 9 weeks. He has ankylosing spondylitis and lumbar disc prolapse. Chinese medicine cannot treat those disorders however can significantly reduce the pain and prolong the progress of the disease. And as he told me every time after acupuncture and massage treatments he felt significant relief of his backache and pain in his legs.
One of my favorite patients, Shiva, had left side hemiplegia after a stroke. He lost his wife six months ago and his bereavement transformed into depression. He started to drink heavily until he had a stroke.
After two acupuncture treatments he didn’t show any response. When I decided to treat him using scalp acupuncture treatment method: needling specific areas on the head that correspond to the cerebro-cortical distribution functions of the scalp. During the stimulation of the needles on the second treatment Shiva started to move his thumb and index finger. After five treatments he was able to raise his leg up to a 45 degree angle. After ten treatments he began to walk with the help of his granddaughter.
When I saw this patient for the first time, I saw sadness and hopelessness in his eyes. When he started to recover he gradually became a different person: a cheerful and talkative old man with shining eyes and a big smile. His granddaughter said that after each acupuncture session he was more and more motivated to stand on his feet.
After ten weeks working in Sahara rehabilitation hospital I can say that I am really happy that I came here. I’ve got more confidence in my work and in myself, I’ve found new friends, I’ve fallen in love with Nepal, its food and customs. But finally and most importantly, I was able to help patients with their health problems by treating them with Chinese acupuncture and Tui Na massage. I am certain that there can be no better feeling than this.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.