​​​​Edith sitting on bed
Edith Ng (R) working with the therapists and patient on bed-to-wheelchair transfers at Tansen Mission Hospital in the hills of rural Nepal. (Photo: Carol Scovil)

Toronto Rehab staff, Occupational Therapist Edith Ng of the Acquired Brain Injury Program, and Carol Scovil, a Knowledge Mobilization Specialist and Rehabilitation Engineer in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Program, returned last month from their fifth trip to Nepal where they did rehabilitation training in a rural hospital. In response to the devastating earthquake last weekend, they wrote this story for UHN News on their work in the South Asian country and their concern for those dealing with the disaster's aftermath.

Four weeks ago, we were wrapping up a great trip to Nepal, where our team had been doing rehabilitation training in a hospital in a rural part of the country. Watching the devastation of the earthquake in the last few days has been heart-wrenching.  The news has been full of the destruction and need in Kathmandu, and we are only now beginning to hear about the many remote villages that were also affected.

For us, this was our fifth visit to Nepal to support rehabilitation there. We went with NepalAbility​, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to enhancing rehabilitation services within Nepal through education and training for Nepali staff, patients and families.

Carol in pink/red shirt talking to group
Carol Scovil (L) discussing options for the patient with his family, and the social worker, at their home in the hills of rural Nepal. (Photo: Edith Ng)

NepalAbility has sent 15 volunteer rehab teams since 2006 to provide education and training in many areas of rehab. Joining us on our team were clinicians from Alberta working at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Centennial Center for Mental Health and Brain Injury and University of Alberta: Dr. Shaun Gray, physiatrist, and Mary Mark and Lorna Richmond, rehabilitation nurses.

NepalAbility has been partnering with United Mission Hospital Tansen, an acute care centre in a town in the hills of Nepal, to develop and support neuro-rehabilitation for patients with stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury.

The hospital requested a week-long rehab nursing training program to allow their nurses to better care for patients with complex rehab needs. We collaborated with local therapists to provide the nursing training, which was well received. We also worked alongside local clinicians in therapy and in fixing up some donated wheelchairs.

We were fortunate to be able to visit a patient discharged after a spinal cord injury in his home in a small village on the hillside. He had a reasonably accessible setup inside, and in the immediate area around his house. However, it was an hour's walk for us to get there and back, and a rugged jeep would be required to navigate the rough roads for him to come or go from his home.

It is these small villages that we think of now, after the destruction of Saturday's earthquake. Our hearts go out to all of those left homeless, injured and mourning loved ones. We are grateful that all of those we know in Nepal are safe, and Tansen is far enough away from the epicentre so the hospital is okay.

Team shot in front of hospital
Edith Ng (second from left) and Carol Scovil (back row, third from L) with the NepalAbility Team, local teachers and nurses who took part in the Neuro Rehab course at Tansen Mission Hospital in the hills of rural Nepal. The hospital and its patients and staff were not harmed in the earthquake. (Photo: Edith Ng)

We have friends working long hours in the overwhelmed hospitals in Kathmandu, and know people heading up to the remote villages to begin to provide relief. And we know people who have been camping out for several days, for fear of aftershocks. It is hard to watch this disaster from afar.

The ongoing need for rehabilitation in Nepal in the coming months and years will be significant. We are glad to have been able to support Rehab over the past nine years and in our most recent trip. NepalA​bility is working with our Nepali partners to plan the next team for fall 2015, and provide continued support in Nepal.

If you want to donate to support the relief efforts in Nepal, there is a summary of organizations providing aid here.

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