Student paramedic Zoe May has added real world skills to her final year of uni, working in Nepal where medical attention is desperately needed.
If you’re a medical professional, or training to become one, and have ever wanted to do something that makes a difference, that changes who you are and who you could be, then this could be what you need. Zoe May is one of nine third year paramedic students from Central Queensland University who have just returned from earth quake damaged areas of Nepal with the Wild Medics Project Group.
Wild Medics provide 18 remote medical expeditions annually that offer free health care to over 7000 people in 3 countries.
What inspired you to join the Wild Medic Team and travel to Nepal?
When I received the email with the invitation for the trip, I remembered a paramedic I had worked with on placement had been before and couldn’t stop saying how much of an amazing place Nepal was, how great the people are or what a life
changing experience it would be. I emailed back with my expression of interest and was lucky enough to be one of the students selected. The excitement began along with the preparations and packing!
Did this journey smash any fears you had??
I feel it broke through many barriers for me. Without a doubt, confidence comes from attending something like this. We only had basic medical supplies and equipment to help people in these remote areas. Also I feel my self-confidence increased throughout this trip in a few ways, knowing that what I have spent years studying is in fact exactly what I want to do, knowing that I can prepare myself and gear to a standard to live in a creature comfort free world and still enjoy every second of every day and the confidence in the people around me to help support and care for those that presented themselves at the clinic.
What did you learn from the women who live in these remote villages about happiness and simplicity?
We feel we are the lucky ones, with all the comforts of the Western world that we have, but I’m not so convinced. These ladies looked stunning, each one of them, smiles from ear to ear, perfect skin, dressed head to toe in stunning colourful dresses, and being able to wake up to stunning views like that every day! There is something to be said about nature being so good for our hearts and souls.
A lady that sticks in my mind was a lovely lady who was 94 years old. She was galivanting around laughing and joking with everyone like a 21-year-old would! It is beyond inspiring to see a lady of her age enjoying life so much! Her smile and laugh were infectious, and it is probably my favourite moment of the trip, something that is so simple yet so moving.
Was there a wide and varied case mix of patients?
I spent two days checking most people into the clinic and doing basic health checks on everyone that passed through before seeing the Doctor, and the blood pressure and heart rate on the patients was text book, every single one! Most didn’t smoke or drink and did physical labour type jobs, I think this kept them in good physical health. The main complaint we saw was gastrointestinal tract infections and urinary tract infections due to the poor hygiene throughout the villages.
The patients ranged in age from 4 months old to a lovely old gentleman who had walked two hours to see us and was an incredible 104 years old!
We also taught the kids basic first aid, what to do in an emergency, hand washing, to cover their mouths when they cough and how to brush their teeth. We passed onto the school a first aid kit and supplied the village kids with fresh new tooth paste and tooth brushes!
With period poverty a huge issue here in Australia we are interested to know how these women manage their period in poverty stricken villages.
An outlawed practiced, Chhaupadi, is that of huts placed outside the home for women to sit in during menstruation. During this cruel act many women and young children lost their lives as the cold would encourage them to build a fire and they would pass away due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Sanitary items were available but due to the “impure” status of the women during menstruation there isn’t much education around these items. With the money we raised we left pads for the school girls to access. Due to the large amount of pollution within Nepal itself, I think the female population would benefit from the reusable/washable pads.
What did you learn about yourself??
I was my happiest self, living out of a backpack in the toughest conditions. I literally lived with basic necessities - food, clothes, shelter (tent). Nothing more! I carried my own backpack while climbed and every ounce count at those high-altitudes where the oxygen levels drop to just survival.
I loved taking the trails where no vehicle or human would reach. I got addicted to freedom, space and the pollution free environment.
What would you say to any woman who’s a doctor, nurse, paramedic or other health professional who wants a life changing experience?
I couldn’t recommend a wild medic type trip enough, I doubt it will be a last for me. Even those with a basic first aid understanding would enjoy working alongside the paramedics and doctors that attend these health camps. The people meet you every step of the way with a smile and friendly head nod, they love seeing us walking through the village and showing us their lifestyle. The village kids loved playing games against us, and as a group all in our thirties, these kids kicked our butts in every game we played them in. The smiles on all their faces made it all so worthwhile.
We also learnt how to make the local dishes from the women of Sisterhood of Survivors which is a group that help to stop trafficking of women into the sex slavery circles. They teach these women life skills so they can go out into the world and make a difference. The English these women speak after only a short time of learning, was incredible. They are all studying to be paralegals or chefs and are just an incredible picture of strength. They are going out and showing the world just how worthy they are.
I couldn’t recommend this trip enough, the experience as a whole is nothing you could ever replicate within Australia. It is not hard to wake up and have a coffee looking at the Himalayas!
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