Nepal is full of sacred sites – shrines, temples, and monasteries -some of which I’ve been graced with experiencing during my time off here. However, I’ve been reminded during my journey here that there is nothing more sacred than family – the family that gave what they could to help me get here despite relation, and my new family that has supported me through the challenging exhaustion that comes at us daily with treating as many patients as possible while sorting through the difficult conditions. 

One of these challenging conditions belonged to a wonderful man with a family that displayed the ultimate commitment to their father’s wellbeing. Such a commitment in fact that in order to bring him to our clinic, his sons carried him literally on their back for two hours, then hired an ambulance to take him the rest of the three hours to get to our clinic doorstep. Upon hearing that his condition was far too severe to be fixed with one treatment, they rented a room in a local guesthouse to stay for the week to see how his condition would respond to treatment.

Upon assessment of his abilities and review of his CT scans and medical reports from M.D.s, we came to the conclusion that he was most likely suffering from an advanced aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. He came to us with joints that were so stiff and muscles so hardened and cold, that he was unable to extend his legs or arms more than 5 degrees, he could not straighten his left forefinger what so ever, nor could he bend his right fingers more than 20 degrees. He therefore couldn’t even lay flat; his knees and elbows were always bent. With a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, and guided exercises throughout the week I saw great improvement.  His arms were now able to straighten 95% of the way and his legs could extend by another 20 degrees. The dexterity of his right fingers had improved slightly and his left fingers began to loosen their once extremely tight flexion. His toes were now able to wiggle and flex a bit more.  I saw everyday, his severe immobility turn towards mobility.

Even though we had some great results, due to the severity of his condition, I came to the conclusion that significant lasting improvement was not within reach in a week.  I also realized that palliative care to improve his quality of life would take continued daily treatment, and this man lived far away.  Knowing that I couldn’t keep the family from their home for any longer, I taught his sons massage, moxibustion, and exercises in order for them to continue their father’s care at home.  They said they will try and bring him for another round of treatment after the upcoming Nepali holidays.  Also, while here, the family saw a Tibetan doctor, and decided to start him on Tibetan herbs long term. 

Although it was difficult to let go and say goodbye, I took comfort in knowing that he would continue to be cared for by the amazing commitment and love shown by his family. -Sarah Martin

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