She caught my eye and waved me over, patting the bench next to her. I sat down and we gave each other a “Namaste” in greeting. She patted her chest and introduced herself as Parvati Poudel. Once we got beyond my “easily doable” conversation including, “where are you from,” “how long have you been in Nepal,” etc, Parvati launched into a patient and persistent conversation, as one must if one wants to communicate with someone who barely speaks your language. She used repetition, enunciation, and lots of gestures, until she was confident I understood.
Parvati outside “gynecological examination room #2” (though I don’t know what happened to #1!)
Realistically, she had no rush as she sat on the worn wooden bench of the top medical facility in Udayapur district and waited. She was just one among a throng of women in line to be evaluated for Uterine Prolapse (UP) and other gynecological problems by a team of qualified doctors in town for only 5 days. So our conversation was likely a welcome respite from the dim grayness and heavy air of the hospital’s unadorned cement atrium. Being one of the few unaccompanied women at the camp may have explained her more than a typical curiosity in me. During one of my rounds of picture taking, she indicated that she wanted me to take her picture, then she gave my camera to someone else so I could join her in front of the lens. When she re-initiated a conversation later, she would not end her insistence that I come to her home where she would feed me mangos right from the tree and milk fresh (not only from buffalo but the cow as well) until I took down her neighbor’s phone number and promised that if I was every anywhere near her hometown of Beltar that I would call and meet her.
Women in the hospital waiting to be seen
I also learned that despite the severity of her prolapse the doctors here would not be able to give her a hysterectomy during this free camp due to an infection she had from the small rubber pessary ring that was currently using to keep her uterus inside her body. Rather, she had been given a prescription for about 7 medications she should take for 15 days and told she should then travel to the private teaching hospital several hours away from Gaighat and pay for a hysterectomy from a location with permanent facilities. Realistically, as she would not likely be able to raise the money necessary for the operation (equivalent to $300-500) she likely have to wait until she heard of another free camp somewhere in the area and hope by the time she got there her infection would not have returned and she could receive an operation then.
Later that afternoon as I was leaving the hospital to walk back to NESPEC(the NGO where I spent last summer) Parvati decided to come along. At one point as we walked she put her hand on my arm, stopped me, and shoved a plastic bag with 2 mangos into my hand. I started to protest, feeling awkward taking food from this ill woman whose clothes hung on her wasting frame, but though better of hurting her pride or refusing her hospitality and tried to graciously put them in my bag. When we arrived at NESPEC she hung around the grounds for a bit, while I chatted with my colleagues there – many whom I had not seen since my return to Nepal. She would periodically make eye contact with me (possibly reassuring herself I was still there?) and smile, but mainly lurked in the periphery. Later in the evening, before she faded off into the dusk, she asked someone to confirm I had her number and that I had indeed promise to call her the next time I was in Beltar.
Posted By Nicole Farkhouh ( Uterine Prolapse Alliance)
Posted Jul 20th, 2014