Our founder, Phil Borges, along with two Volunteer Production Assistants, Rachel Gray and Catherine Cussaguet, are currently in Nepal working with Resurge International. The organization does incredible work to provide free reconstructive surgeries for the poor and builds year-round medical access in underserved areas. We will post their stories throughout the coming week.
Written by Rachel Gray
The film crew and the medical team collectively set off for a journey though the quiet mountains of Nepal, away from the busyness of Kathmandu. Dr. Shankar (the lead reconstructive surgeon in Nepal) travels to remote areas in Nepal to see patients and perform surgeries about once a month. On this trip we visited four patients in their homes (a rare occurrence for Dr. Shankar who is busy performing surgeries building a huge arena for social change).
We traveled down a bumpy road to visit elder patient Man Kumari, a burn survivor of seven years past. Coming up to the house I see kids being dropped off from school in a small auto rickshaw. A cool looking man with a long white beard and John Lennon style glasses is standing in the road. A man is herding his goats uphill. Villagers are carrying heavy loads too and from the forest. Kids are pumping water from the well. The van approaches and even before we all get out, Man Kumari extends her hand out to Sara and is already in tears. Sara is the chief coordinator for ReSurge international who met Man Kumari this past year. It is clear that she is happy to see us.
She pulls out plastic chairs and we sit and talk outside before we set up the interview. Man Kumari motions for me to come inside. She pulls up her sari and reveals the massive scarring and discoloration on her right leg. Man Kumari’s tragic accident involved a kerosene lamp tipping over and her Sari lighting up in flames. Her skin contracted behind her knees disabling her from walking. Man Kumari is a poor woman, and access to health care is very limited in remote areas of Nepal. She didn’t have the means to make it to a hospital, and thought she might never walk again. Man Kumari expressed how difficult it was to live in her village without being able to walk. As a single woman living alone, how could she possibly supply for herself? How was she supposed to get water? Man Kumari said if she had to live like this forever, she would rather die.
Years later when Dr. Shankar first saw Man Kumari, she came into his office crawling on her knees. Dr. Shankar enabled her to walk again, and essentially restored her life.
What’s amazing about this story is how the villagers responded to her tragedy. The villagers came together after the accident, each household gave her 20 rupees (the equivalent of 25 cents). This enabled her to buy a bus ticket to Kathmandu to get surgery. Two young men accompanied Man Kumari on her journey, carrying her to and from the bus, all the way to Kathmandu Model Hospital.
The villagers also built her a home that she lives in. It’s one room, with a bed and a place to cook. I see a small alter embedded in the wall, and other little jems. A true grandmother’s home.
Man Kumari expressed that the villagers are like God to her, especially her daughter who supported her through this whole process. There have been so many cases where women get abandoned by their families, and shunned by society after a burn incident. This is not that story, and so it leaves me with hope.