Getting TB in Nepal

Last week I got sick. I was in hospital for just under a week with pneumonia. When the doctors heard that I had visited Nepal “recently” (over 6 months ago), you could almost hear the alarm bells sounding in their minds. “This guy could be carrying a contagious foreign disease”. As quick as a flash, everybody was wearing face-masks, the nurses had donned what looked like rain-coats to protect themselves from me, and I was shafted off to another hospital that specialized in infectious diseases to be investigated for tuberculosis. Many of the nurses who came to attend to me had as one of their first comments- “So, I hear that you’ve been to Nepal!”.

It turned out that TB was always a rather unlikely diagnosis. I had only been in the country for a very short period of time quite a number of months ago, so it was unlikely that what had flared up now was related to this. It was admitted that it was only because of the word “Nepal” that the first doctor had jumped to this as a possibility, and all the fuss about TB followed. What I had was just simply a nasty bug I picked up from somewhere in Australia, not overseas.

My experience in hospital has caused me to ponder much about our life here in Australia and about life in Nepal over the last week. Times of sickness are often a grace from God, given to remind us of our dependence on Him, to refocus our minds on the great blessings we take for granted, and to help us appreciate more the sufferings of others. In hospital I was surrounded by such an air of professionalism amongst the medical staff. Every step of the journey seemed to be anticipated and catered for, even when I was at the lowest ebb of my sickness.

The thought did occur to me several times- “what would it be like if I did have TB?”. Then my attention turned to the church leaders we work with in Nepal, and wondered what it would be like for them if it was one of them who had contracted TB, or even just pneumonia? Good health care is hard to find in Nepal, especially in rural areas, and even then, it is financially beyond the means of most. Many people do get respiratory related diseases in Nepal, simply from constantly living in an environment where the room is full of smoke from cooking over open fires.[1]

Many times, people just put up with long term illnesses which are never fully resolved. If you ask people if they need prayer, many will instantly refer to some long term health problem which they simple have learned to live with. Add to the health challenges the pressure of the increased antagonism of the government towards the church, and the situation of our brothers and sisters in Nepal becomes all the more grim.

My time in hospital reminded me of just how amazingly blessed we are in Australia, and how much we take for granted of the lifestyle we enjoy here. Nepal is a country where you are more at risk of encountering a range of problems should you travel there. This should remind us so much though of how blessed we are and how much God’s grace compels us to help our brothers and sisters in Nepal who have known nothing else but that environment for their entire lives. Thanks for your support in standing with your fellow believers in Nepal in prayer in the challenges they face.