In March 2022, while COVID-19 was still actively impacting the world, TEAM5 continued its efforts to reach the most remote locations on earth, including Nepal providing healthcare for those who have never had the opportunity before. Here is a summary of our notes from the field thanks to our financial sponsor Tasmanian Tiger.
TEAM5, a veteran platinum medical foundation, was able to secure dates and agreements to enter Nepal and aid the indigenous regions following numerous delays and licensure problems related to international travel. The team coordinated dental, medical, and ultrasound clinics. Additionally, this specialized team provided local dentists and healthcare professionals with on-the-job training, which elevated the quality of their care post TEAM5's departure. This small team of specialists saw approximately 110 people daily and collaborated to achieve the best results in each challenging case.
Carrying out these missions in harsh and highly remote locations calls for specialized skill sets demeanor, commitment, and advanced practitioner knowledge. There are no MRIs, CT scans, blood panels, or diagnostic machines other than a handheld ultrasound to perform patient tests. Eric, our Physician Associate, led this expedition's team, including recent University of Exeter Medical School MSc in Extreme Medicine graduates, including professor Dr. Burjor Langdana, a well-known specialist in wilderness dentistry and mandibular facial reconstruction. Additionally, the team included Dr. Chris Duncan, an internal medicine specialist; Dr. Saskia Muller, a former shadow program resident and emergency room doctor; Laura Thompson, an RN; Winchman Paramedic Ollie Neece, and Bryan Vande Sande, a surgical technician assigned to the USAF Special Forces Command, and our assistant team leader.
This team arrived in Kathmandu after originating from various locations around the globe, including the United States, England, Scotland, and Croatia, some traveling more than 30 hours. Once united, the team set out on a 12-hour overland journey to reach their first remote basecamp in the Palpa District, comprised of tents, outdoor latrines, and showers. Since TEAM5 is the first organization to receive approval from the ministry to carry out this kind of mission, hundreds of Nepalese patients who have never had the opportunity to receive medical care—certainly not from western providers received dental and medical attention over the next two days. The local dentists received extensive training from Dr. Langdana on several treatments with the assistance of rotating TEAM5 members. Dr. Duncan would perform endless ultrasounds and look at internal medicine complaints until the sun had set, then repeat the process the following day while Eric, Dr. Muller, Nurse Laura, Medic Bryan, and Medic Ollie ran an urgent care center, treating patients' concerns.
Unfortunately, the presence of westerners in areas plagued by poverty also draws opportunism, political attention, and local corruption, all of which hurt the innocent indigenous people to whom care was being provided. Due to several issues, which included both the local and national government in Rampur, the decision was made to relocate. TEAM5 drove 12 hours west across treacherous roads and mountains where only one car could fit at any given time, with drop-offs that would be thousands of feet in elevation. It should be noted that driving in Nepal is, without question, the most dangerous part of this mission. In general, keeping your head down, listening to your iPod, or playing games on your phone when traveling is recommended.
Our second stop was in Tahun, where local politics, corruption, and bribery had no impact on the service or the experience. The local doctor welcomed us with open arms and seemed pleased to see us at what they consider a hospital—a dilapidated structure with little to no power, broken medical equipment, outdated pharmaceuticals, and poor sanitation.
After three days and caring for hundreds of patients, TEAM5 moved north to Pokhara. It took a full day of driving on the dangerous roads to arrive at our third location. Unfortunately, due to pollution, the team members only saw Mount Sarangkot. When we arrived in Pokhara, we were disappointed to find that Mount Sarangkot, the best location to see Machhapuchhre and Annapurna and observe the sunset or sunrise, was completely obscured by pollution from China and India. Even in Kathmandu, the smog made it impossible to see Mount Everest; the only time we were able to see it was when the plane was taking off.
In total, TEAM5 was in Nepal for approximately three weeks. Despite the political turmoil, lengthy travel times, sweltering weather, and tent housing, this team changed the lives of many individuals and provided exceptional treatment to hundreds of others. We are happy to announce that TEAM5's next expedition will be to interact with Guatemala's indigenous Mayan people in the Rio Grande region in September 2022. This mission was made possible by remarkable supporters, including Tasmanian Tiger, Snugpak, Sand's Care's, WileyX, Leatherman, Americare's, US Elite Gear, Medaire, Darn Tough Socks, Butterfly Ultrasound, and others.
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