A two-year-old Nepali child has become the 5000th patient to receive free life-transforming surgery provided by Open Heart International (OHI) volunteers.
Nishant severely burnt his right leg when he was six months old after falling onto the cooking fire in his home. Since he had never walked prior to the accident, his family feared he would never walk at all.
In April, Nishant’s mother, Harimaya, heard that OHI volunteers were offering free burns contracture surgery at the Scheer Memorial Hospital in Banepa near Kathmandu.
It took Harimaya and Nishant three days to travel the 500 km from their home in Kailali to the hospital, where Dr David Pennington and his medical team operated on the boy’s right leg. Three days later the toddler was walking with assistance.
“To see Nishant—aka `Mr 5000’ to the OHI team—running around for the first time in his life brought tears to the eyes of his mum and the team members,” said John Sanburg, OHI’s Nepal Project coordinator. “This was my final visit after 20 years of mission trips to Nepal, so to have the 5000th OHI patient on this trip will be a special memory.”
Burns are the second most common injury in rural Nepal, accounting for 5 per cent of all disabilities. Many Nepali women and children are burned at home on their cooking fire, which is traditionally situated on the floor at the centre of the household. Government hospital networks cannot cope with the demand for surgery resulting from the burns. Many villages have no access to emergency medical facilities, with some families living up to a three-day walk from the nearest road.
The OHI team will return to Nepal next year. They may operate on Nishant’s ankle if he and his mother are able to make the journey back to Banepa.
Nishant is just one of the thousands of patients who have benefited from the services of OHI since the Sydney Adventist Hospital launched the initiative in 1986.
Today, OHI provides free cardiac, orthopedic, ophthalmic, women’s health and burns surgery in 13 developing countries across the world, including Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Rwanda.
More than 2000 volunteers have donated their time, skills and expertise and contributed financially towards trip expenses to enable others to live longer and have better quality lives.