Volunteering in a nutshell – Dr. Richa Dhakal

Nepal is a developing country where health care facilities are centralized in major cities. During the second wave of the COVID pandemic, patients were unable to get treatment in the hospitals due to limited resources, and so the death toll was increasing rapidly. Consultation with a doctor was next to impossible as many physician offices and clinics were closed during the lockdown. In this chaotic situation, while I was seeking ways to engage in providing care for those who needed it, I saw a post on social media asking for volunteers for teleconsultation. At such desperate times when the number of sick patients and death was rising, I immediately volunteered to serve. Through the telehealth platform, I was able to serve people from every corner of my country who otherwise I would not have been able to meet. For me, teleconsultation was a new and invigorating experience, where with the power of my voice, I was able to heal the sick.

It is sometimes said, teamwork is dreamwork. But during this program, everyone worked very hard and together as a team. I was able to palpate enthusiasm and passion from all the volunteers, the technical support team, fellow doctors, and seniors. Evening huddles, where we discussed our patients and daily experience, helped us to be better prepared for the next day. As our phone number circulated through various media portals and reached remote places of the country, call volume increased and we got calls from all across the country.

One case I consulted on was particularly interesting. A middle-aged man, in a scared and nervous voice, said, “Namaste, I heard about this program from the radio. I had a question regarding COVID-19 infection. Did I get the right number?” He was calling from a remote area of Kailali. After hearing his story, I can only imagine how terrified he must have been being sick and in an area that lacked proper healthcare facilities. To get tested for COVID, he had to travel for days to a health facility where he tested positive. I had an extensive conversation with him, counseled him, and addressed all his concerns. I told him to reach out to us any time he needed. After counseling, encouragement, and support he sighed relief. I was surprised how just fifteen minutes of conversation helped reduce his anxiety and reassure him.

Just like a croissant, the benefits and rewards of being a part of the volunteer team were multiple folds. Being able to help patients at such a dire time was in itself rewarding. Later, I received multiple calls from my patients who expressed gratitude for my service. This unexpected and kind gesture motivated and encouraged me and other volunteers.  Appreciation and gratitude made us strive to do even better. HFN telehealth was an opportunity where I got to experience more than just patient care. I am thankful for this opportunity, all the team members, and all the patients who entrusted me with this responsibility.

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