I’m in a pharmacy fifteen kilometers north of Nepalgunj in a dusty travelers’ town named Kohulpur. Bhim Nepali, the journalist we have come to visit, brought us here an hour ago for Phoebe and now I am back to pick up the medicine and pay the bill. Nepali’s eat rice twice a day, with stewed vegetables and daal. Outside of Kathmandu, this is the only option for hot food. Despite the fiber supplements she took three times a day, Phoebe’s stomach didn’t digest all that rice and for five days her system refused to move things through. She spent yesterday lying in bed.
I scan the bill, which comes to 330 rupees, a little less than five dollars. I look down the list of items: the taking of blood pressure, a urinary sample, a pink substance he told her to swallow in the examining room that looked like pepto bismal and now we must pay for the entire bottle. There is also a pile of other pills and bottles he is stuffing into a bag for her to take: a chewable tab for stomach worms, a sheet of pills for something called gastric, a bottle of liquid for what I think is heartburn and a few painkillers. These are the medicines he says she must take to cure her of her disease.
A woman sits with her young daughter behind me. The girl has a lump the size of a golf ball on her neck. She waits for the doctor to finish with me before he can call her into the space behind a bed sheet hanging from the ceiling that serves as the examining room. An old lady sits next to her with a bandage around her eye and another around her ear. A few others sit on benches close by. I can sense their attention in our exchange and the doctor’s growing impatience with my questions. Perhaps he is not used to patients challenging his choice of medicines.
A few weeks ago, after experiencing mild stomach agitation and headaches, Prakash had gone to see a doctor in Kathmandu. The doctor suggested to eat more hot Nepali food. This doctor had given the same suggestion to Phoebe. Perhaps this is the cure for most illnesses here? Wasn’t all that rice a source of her problem?
Prakash acts as translator, but in English the doctor tells me I have two options. One, she could take all these medicines and be cured tomorrow morning, or two, she could go to the hospital. The choice, he says, is mine to make.
As I walk back to the hotel empty handed, I hope perhaps the doctor’s simplification comes from the fact that English is not his first language. Surely he’s not so browbeat with those Nepali who rely on his medical knowledge to keep them safe from illness; those Nepali who might not have as much education as I do, or might not have the reasoning to ask simple questions or the courage to disagree with supposed medical authorities.
Posted By Therkelsen
Posted Jul 26th, 2008