BHIM – ANOTHER HARD FATE
During a project visit to Mugu in November 2012, we were just going through all the boxes of equipment for the birthing centre, when I was called outside. On the forecourt lay a stretcher, on it a man, motionless, two men carried him. Bhim is 47 years old, as I learned and suffered a horrible bus accident in India six years ago. Since then he has been paralyzed from the belly button. Bhim has no living relatives, no wife, no children or siblings and his parents are already dead. Neighbours take turns in caring for him. Someone pulled back the blanket and my eyes fell on his match-thin legs. From his stomach a tube ran outside, collecting the urine in a bag. When I asked him, he told me that this tube was laid six years ago but that he had never seen a doctor ever since. I promised Bhim to visit him at home in the next days, so that I could get an idea of how he masters his daily life and what he most desperately needs. He was very happy to see me standing in front of his house the next day when I visited the neighbouring village. He lives in a small hut, which usually serves as a grain silo or storage room. There is a wooden bed and one side of the wall serves as a shelf and storage space and that’s about it as the room is not larger. Lying on the bed, he can grab and take some things by himself, but for everything else he needs help. Of course, he also suffers from decubitus, which means that has gotten bedsore (usually caused by lying in his own faeces).
He desperately wished for a wheelchair. The room is on the flat roof of a house, which offers about 5 by 5 meters. With a wheelchair he could at least move here by himself. I thought about the fact that one or two meters mean such a freedom for him, that we can hardly imagine it. He also asked to be supported by food because he was totally dependent on his neighbours (he had no money and no possessions as he could not earn money). The neighbours could not share meals with him every day, especially not in times of hunger. In addition, he urgently needed warmer clothes, a blanket and a mattress as well as medical care. When he showed me his medication, I was completely shocked. He simply took the medication prescribed to him six years ago for amoebic dysentery. Usually one must take this medication about 5-10 times a day, but he only took one pill per day if someone had organized it for him. Horrified, I tried to explain to him that he should not take this medication for such a long time and promised to have a doctor look after him. After talking with our managers, we decided to provide Bhim with long-term help by our birthing centre team, who will now regularly visit him and provide him with what he needs. Before we left Mugu, I gathered some valuable things from our team, such as a down jacket, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, thermos… and we gave it to him. Bhim beamed with joy and the hope and relief to be finally not forgotten anymore shone from his face.
Direct help for Bhim
We immediately initiated direct and regular help for this man to provide for his biggest needs. He now receives rice, legumes, cooking oil and salt every month. Enough so he does not have to starve anymore. His neighbours prepare the food for him and once or twice a week the staff of our birthing centre visit him, spend some time with him and look after his well-being. Thus, Bhim always has a contact person, in case he needs our support and the visits interrupt his boring everyday life.
In regular intervals, Bhim is now also visited by the doctor of the district hospital to check on his health and to treat his bed soreness. Due to his paralysis, Bhim will permanently need a stomach catheter that was placed in the hospital six years ago and has never been changed ever since because he never saw a doctor again in Mugu. It is unbelievable how this did not end in a catastrophe. Now the doctor regularly changes the abdominal catheter to prevent urinary tract infections. Otherwise, Bhim has no other health problems as of right now. As soon as possible we organized for his biggest wish (a wheelchair) to come true and with the next plane we sent a makeshift wheelchair to him. Bhim was delighted to be able to increase his range of motion a little bit.
Helping people help themselves – future plans
Bhim is not an uneducated man. He can read and write and used to work for many years as a driver in India. He has seen many places in Nepal and India. To distract him from his otherwise boring life, the employees of the birthing centre bring him books from the small library that we have set up. We also gave him a radio, so he could hear news and music and fight the loneliness. According to him, especially the music and the books bring him a lot of fun: “In the past, my life was often so boring and monotonous. That’s why I’m happy to be able to read regularly and to listen to music. This is a nice diversion for me. Thank you very much.” But our plans for Bhim went even further. He can use his arms and hands purposefully. Therefore, we taught him how to knit. The idea behind it is to let him knit wool hats, sweaters and socks for the new-borns of our birthing centre. We provide him with the necessary tools and wool and Bhim “produces” helpful things for our birthing centre. Of course, we also pay him for his work, so he can earn some money to buy himself what he considers necessary. Thus, Bhim regains some financial independency and at the same time he can contribute to the new birthing centre and be part of this positive change.
When our project manager Dikendra visited him on his next project trip, Bhim sat in front of his silo in his wheelchair and enjoyed the sun. When asked, how he was doing, he replied: “I have no family, no relatives and even when the neighbours gave me a roof over my head and food whenever they had enough, I was still all alone. I often wondered, why I keep on living. ‘Back to Life’ helped me so much and gave me new hope. There are people who help me, who take care of me and I can give something back through my work. I am much happier than a few months ago. I have new hope and found a reason to live again.”
Stella Deetjen, 2013