Visiting Nepal for the first time in 1989, Carol Vernal, LVN, was appalled when she learned that because of the lack of quality healthcare 44% of all deaths there are caused by malaria, diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections and so she became determined to help.
But determining how was more complicated than she thought.
I was naive in thinking that I could go into any big organization like UNICEF and offer my services, said Vernal, who has more than 40 years of medical experience, including owning a business that specialized in hospice care. They all said Go home; you have to go through all the hoops. Then I found out about NGOs -non-governmental organizations.
In 2001, while volunteering for Nepal Trust, a NGO which builds medical clinics in isolated parts of the high Himalayas, Vernal began to develop the idea for Children’s Medical Aid Foundation, an organization she started in 2004 that increases access to basic and specialized healthcare in rural Nepal.Carol Vernal, RN, and a young patient in Nepal.
CMAF works with U.S. medical suppliers and funders to provide resources to Nepalese medical teams, NGOs and communities, Vernal said, noting that they focus on corrective surgery for children with birth defects beyond cleft lip/palate and also establish clinics and hospitals in areas where there is little care. There is one doctor for every 18,000 people and one nurse for every 4000 people.
Besides just lack of access to care, many villagers are injured further by the care they receive from Buddhist Lamas using fire to cure a wound resulting in third degree burns and folk medicine where women rub cow dung on the umbilical cord following delivery.
We have grown by leaps and bounds, said Vernal, who goes to Nepal once or twice a year for three months at a time. Last year we raised funds and medical equipment donations for 150 corrective surgeries.Healthcare staff and patient.
Nurses who want to get involved can do so many ways. Volunteers can work with CMAF mobile medical teams and as couriers to deliver supplies to Nepal. Stateside they can collect sutures and wound dressing materials for donations and advocate and inform about the quality of medical care in Nepal. By helping in anyway, Vernal says that nurses learn about how cultural and spiritual beliefs impact Nepals healthcare and also see both the differences and similarities between Western and Eastern medicine. This fall CMAF is hosting a trip to Nepal open to the medical field where those attending can receive CEUs.
Working to enhance the lives of Nepalese villages through increased access to healthcare has added significance and purpose to my life, Vernal said. Perhaps it can do the same for others.
For more information, visit www.childrensmedaid.org.