Gaden Relief Projects

Helping Tibetans and Mongolians
preserve their unique cultures.


Leh Hospital Report
October 14, 2008

By Celeste Kilmartin

On September 1st we departed the Zanskar valley. We were five: Zasep Rinpoche, myself (Celeste), John, and two nuns who needed medical attention, Skalzang Lhamo and Lobzang Putick. Skalzang is from the Karsha nunnery. She is 38. She had recently been diagnosed with kidney problems and tuberculosis but now has chronic weight loss and no appetite. Lobzang is 22 and from the Sani nunnery. She has lost the hearing in one ear and is slowly losing her hearing in the other. There were two other young nuns that we had arranged to take to Leh for dentistry, however, in the end, they were fearful and would not accompany us. They both had a rotting wisdom tooth, causing them pain. We had heard, unfortunately, that tooth problems are most common, and the people endure significant pain...and sometimes death.

My first day back in Leh was spent with Skalzang and Lobzang at a doctors clinic getting a requisition for the nuns to go to the hospital and have the many tests he prescribed. The next day we walked the 2 miles to the hospital, stood in long lines for admission to each of these test rooms; which soon had no resemblance of lines at all. There was what seemed absolute chaos as the many exam rooms opened into a narrow hall that was so overcrowded with people it was almost impossible to even find the doors. Every now and then a door would open a crack and a pinched face would peer out calling the next group of names. Most people had no way of hearing their names because the door would get rushed and most of the elderly weren't in the mix. It appeared to me that we may not get seen today, tomorrow, or at all!! This week was a Ladakhi festival and because of that, the hospital had many visiting doctors and specialists. This was to our advantage as well; and consequently,...the throngs of people.

Skalzang's list of tests included: an ultra sound to look at kidneys, liver, pancreas, and spleen; an electrocardiogram for heart, an chest exam for T.B.; blood and urine tests; and an endoscopic exam to look from her throat to her stomach for a possible malignancy! And all of these required waiting at yet another door!!!! Lobzang's tests were more door! I deposited Lobzang in her line and told her I'd be back. Most of the tests for Skalzang were behind doors that were marked something it was a matter, for most of the day, of finding someone who spoke enough English so I could determine we were in the right places.

For some reason, Skalzang had no idea... and really would have rather turned and run!!! After Lobzang had sat patiently for hours while I helped Skalzang...I went back to her and found her line had not moved at all. In fact the other Ladakhis in the line said to me several times in unison... "No doctor. No Doctor!!" Out of fear that this was not going to happen, I went to the door and knocked. A nurse appeared who spoke enough English for me to ask if the doctor was in?? I was swiftly ushered into the room while hurriedly gesturing for Lobzang to "come quickly!". We immediately sat with the doctor (who wasn't supposed to be there!?), who then immediately sent us into another room where she was given extensive hearing tests with surprisingly modern equipment and a headphone. It all happened so fast that I could only believe that it was due to my being foreign!!! I hate to admit to accepting preferential treatment over the people who live here, but there was no other way to explain it.... and no other way to get finished here before we were to leave Leh!

So, it was determined that Lobzang's hearing can be restored with surgery. The surgery may take place this September, but if that doesn't happen, it will be scheduled for the spring, as the road in and out of the Zanskar will close for winter. This was such amazing and happy news for Lobzang. I saw the prettiest, happiest smile. She looked at me as if I were her mother! talk about melting my heart! I think she had not been able to hear for so long, she thought this could never change. We were able to have this result within the first day at the hospital.

Skalzang's tests, however, took 2 more full and frustrating days to complete, which believe it or not was fast considering the circumstanses!! We learned that her T.B. is now completely gone; her kidneys, liver, heart, and stomach are all functioning normally. There is no indication as to why she is having her symptoms. But her relief was so obvious that her anxiety seemed to abate immediately...and perhaps, after all the problems she has had, this was the best medicine!

It was with great joy that I was able to help the nuns find wellness, and also to be a part of this project... a new water line, new stoves, warm clothing, medicines, and reading glasses! I walked away with a larger measure of "wellness" as well...just to know how much the littlest things are needed and appreciated. it is so much more than coming away feeling important about all that can be done... it's about coming away with such a full heart. It was hard to leave them behind and depart Leh, but we all left with the satisfaction that what seems so little to us can change the lives of others. Gaden Relief has made this possible. There are more that need attention (especially some of the young ones)...and now that I understand their fears ...and they trust and know me. I would like to help them continue to stay well. The hospitals are free... it's simply about holding their hands in a larger world. It is a small price to return the nuns home to the Zanskar with their health.

Yes! I want to help! Your donations will go directly to Tibetans and Mongolians in need. Gaden Relief has a sterling record of putting over 95% of donations to work. All of our staff are volunteers and pay our own expenses. So you can rest assured that your donations will be put to maximum effect to help those who need it. Donate now.