Hyatt O’Callaghan spends three months volunteering at a Medical Project in Nepal
22nd October 2013

As she put the pen down for her last GCSE exam, 16-year-old Hyatt knew she’d be flying to Nepal the next day. She also knew she’d be gone from home for 3 months: “I was a bit nervous that people would treat me differently because of my age, but really I was just excited to use this long summer holiday. Perhaps the exam nerves and the Nepal nerves were mixed together, but I knew when I arrived it was going to be a great experience!”


When she first got to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu’s narrow streets, Hyatt took it in her stride: “My mum is Sudanese so I’ve been to a developing country before, I’ve seen crazy traffic like you get in Kathmandu, and experienced the thick air of a polluted city. What struck me about Nepal though was all the colours – lots of houses are brightly painted, and the clothes people wear really make the place alluring.”


Hyatt’s first month in Nepal was volunteering at Alka Hospital in the district of Patan; beginning her placement in the Emergency ward. “On my first day I nearly fainted; a baby that was severely burnt was being treated in the ward. His arm was so badly burnt the finger nails were curled up and the baby was screaming his eyes out. It was tough, but it certainly prepared me for what was to come.” Hyatt developed a working relationship with a number of the staff in the hospital during the opening stages of her placement – learning skills such as wound dressing and monitoring vital signs; fundamentals of medical care in a town where motorbike accidents are so common.


After experiencing emergency medicine Hyatt moved to the Gynaecology ward – an area she might like to specialise in if she decides to study medicine: “Observing in the Gynaecology ward wasn’t always easy, but it enabled me to build up an understanding of the basics of Gynaecology, while developing knowledge of the associated pathologies prevalent in Nepal.” During a hysterectomy operation the doctor removed a benign tumour and showed Hyatt the uterus: “It was incredible, I’d never seen anything like it; getting that kind of exposure to surgical medicine is something you don’t get until fourth or fifth year medical school in the UK. This placement has allowed me to learn some of the basics of medical science; including anatomy, pathophysiology and clinical assessment. The doctors allowed me to put into practice a number of skills that I had been taught; such as auscultation, palpation and the administration of injections.


Overall Hyatt says she’s learnt some core skills during her time in Nepal: “I’ve realised how confidence is key,” she says “To succeed you need to remain calm and communicate confidently with your mentors in order to gain their respect and learn. I have become far more independent during my time in Nepal; I found this liberating. This independence along with some of the reflective and analytical skills I have improved on will benefit me in the future.


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