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“Patient navigation” system brings hope and healing

April 24, 2017 • Nepal
Parbati and Menika - patient navigation
Parbati and her daughter Menika have benefited from Samaritan's Purse's "patient navigation" program.

Samaritan's Purse's "patient navigation" program in Nepal is helping children receive the medical supplies, food, lodging, and transportation that they desperately need.

After Parbati B.K. realized her daughter had an irregular heartbeat, she took Menika to the nearest clinic—no easy task for a poor family living in one of Nepal’s many remote mountain villages.

The clinic confirmed Menika’s heartbeat was irregular, said it was nothing to worry about, and suggested a check-up a year later.

Long before that year was up, Menika developed a very high fever. Parbati took her to the nearest mission hospital, where doctors said the girl appeared to have a congenital heart defect. They said Menika, now 11, needed to be examined by pediatric heart specialists in Kathmandu.

For Parbati, that was like telling her Menika needed to fly to the moon. Parbati has three children, and struggles to survive on what her husband can send her from his laborer’s job in Delhi, India.

The family’s income is only a few dollars a day, and so Parbati didn’t have the money to transport her and Menika to Kathmandu. Furthermore, Parbati had never been to Kathmandu, had no idea how to make her way around the chaotic city with a sickly daughter, and didn’t know the first thing about how to get face-to-face time with a pediatric cardiologist.

Fortunately, the mission hospital linked Parbati with Sundar Dhoka Saathi Sewa or SDSS, an organization in Kathmandu with which Samaritan’s Purse partners to help desperate people from rural Nepal navigate Kathmandu’s big-city medical system.

SDSS’s “patient navigation” program includes:

  • transporting patients to Kathmandu
  • accompanying them on hospital visits
  • translating for them (if their rural dialects aren’t understood by hospital staff)
  • paying for initial investigation and treatment before surgeries provided by the Nepal government
  • serving as the patients’ advocates with medical professionals
  • Accommodations and food during their stay in the city—including post-operative recovery and therapy

Samaritan’s Purse Canada donors pay for all of SDSS’s patient navigation services for children with heart problems or disabilities. More than 1,000 of Nepal’s children and families have benefited so far.

SDSS arranged for Parbati and Menika to travel to Kathmandu where they met with a specialist who said surgery could repair the girl’s heart defect. Menika came back to Kathmandu six months later and had her surgery, then went back to SDSS’s housing and rehabilitation facilities to begin recovering.

It was there, only six days after her operation, when a visitor from Samaritan’s Purse Canada talked to Menika and her mother.

“It’s been good,” Menika said with a shy smile. “I can breathe much better now than before.”

The dark-haired girl still looked relatively frail and tired. But she noted that before the surgery, her heart was so weak that she could barely walk.

“I am so happy that you have come to the remote parts of Nepal to help us,” Parbati told Samaritan’s Purse Canada. “Thank you. Even to find the money to come to Kathmandu would have been very hard for us. We wouldn’t have dreamt of having the support necessary for the surgery. It’d be impossible.”

Partnering with SDSS to offer surgery and patient navigation services for children with heart problems is one of many ways Samaritan’s Purse is providing urgent medical care to struggling people in the developing world. Please support these sometimes life-saving projects with your donations and prayers.

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