Sarina Hospital physiotherapist Sam Forrest knew volunteering at a burns hospital in Nepal would be a challenging eye-opener the minute she walked through the door.
Broken beds and sub-standard hand hygiene were just some of her first impressions of the 150-bed hospital in Banepa, north of Kathmandu.
Spurred on by her fulfilling volunteer role with Special Olympics Australia, Sam and acting nursing director surgical services Samantha Sanders joined a contingent of Australian nursing and surgical volunteers with humanitarian agency Open Heart International in February.
Here the volunteers provided vital medical and surgical care to Nepali burns patients who would otherwise go without reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation.
Sam was assigned to perform pre and post-operative assessments and treatments on patients at the hospital and handover skills to local healthcare workers.
Working closely with unwell and often vulnerable patients over the four-week period led to Sam forming close bonds with those she treated and helped rehabilitate.
“There was a mother and her four-year-old son who had sustained severe burns to their legs after three men broke into their house pouring petrol on them and setting them a light. I have a son who is also four, and I felt a mix of angst and sadness that this had happened to such lovely people,” Sam said.
“Many patients required respiratory management, mobilisation, circulation, strength and range of motion exercises to assist with their rehabilitation.
“This included assisting the hand therapist to create thermoplastic splints which patients could discharge with once the bulky dressings had been removed from wounds.
“I also spent time with the hospital’s physiotherapy department and taught them how to make some dynamic thermoplastic hand splints. In return, they helped us create handouts for patients by translating the content. We had originally tried to make the handouts using Google translator but, quite funnily, it didn’t quite convey the messages we had in mind! So, it was good to have the help of locals.”
While burns specific treatment is common-place in Australian hospitals, accessing this type of care in Nepal is difficult.
Samantha Sanders took on the role of anaesthetic and scrub/scout nurse after making a difference in the lives of children with craniofacial conditions volunteer organisation Operation Smile.
“In Australia, we’re used to equipment and support being readily available but in Nepal there are limited resources which are solely sourced through donations. Many techniques are back to basics and we had to compete with frequent power outages,” Samantha said.
Samantha was also part of the medical education team who provided teaching sessions to the hospital’s nursing college. area
“Visiting volunteer medical and surgical teams from Australia, Japan and the Netherlands will visit the hospital this year. During this time, they upskill and educate local nursing students on women’s health, burns treatment and cleft lip and palate conditions, making a huge difference to not only region’s healthcare but in-turn improving the skillset of local staff.”
“Despite their circumstances, they were smiling and engaged well with our staff and treatment process.”
Helping to create long-term self-sufficiency has proven to be one of the most rewarding experiences for the duo, with both anticipating further volunteer work in the not too distant future.
Media Contact: Amie Galletly | Communications Officer | 4885 6808