Dr. Mark Zimmerman is a missionary physician serving with Patan Hospital in Lalitpur, Nepal. He is a senior consultant and professor with the hospital, which has grown into a government medical school, the Patan Academy of Health Sciences. In addition to patient care responsibilities, he teaches medical students and is involved in establishing a training program for internal medicine specialists. The mission of Patan Hospital is to provide quality, compassionate health care to everyone who comes to the hospital, regardless of ability to pay. It serves people from every district of Nepal, from the remote villages as well as from the Kathmandu valley. The following is an excerpt from Zimmerman’s Christmas 2019 letter to family, friends and supporters.
The week before Christmas, toward the end of medical rounds, the resident doctors and I came to the bed of a sturdily-built young woman lying still and straight on her back. One of the doctors presented her case to me as a 36-year-old who’d come in from the eastern district of Sindhuli because of several days of abdominal pain and vomiting. On examination, he’d found her abdomen soft but tender; an elevated blood lipase pointed to acute pancreatitis as the cause. But there’s always more to a story than its dry, clinical particulars, and so it was with Asha’s.*
At each of the other five beds in the ward, one or more family members of the patients stood waiting, lounged on bedrolls or chatting among themselves, and their five bedside tables were cluttered with cracker packages, half bowls of soup, thermos bottles, and pieces of fruit. Asha was alone, and her table was empty.
“Where are your people?” I asked her.
“There’s no one,” she replied.
“What do you mean ‘there’s no one?’ You mean they’ve all gone downstairs to eat? Someone should stay here with you.”
“They died in the earthquake. It was only my daughter and I left, and I had no choice but to send her to an orphanage. So, I’m alone.”
On that sunny afternoon in April 2015, Asha had taken her 3-year old daughter to pick flowers in the fields at the edge of their farm. When the ground stopped lurching, she ran back to the house and found it collapsed on her parents, brother, sister-in-law and husband.
“All died,” she said, holding up her index finger, which showed a jagged scar. “I cut myself trying to dig them out.”
The rest of the story…