It has been a year and a half now since my transplant. But in March, I had symptoms of jaundice which meant my liver was not functioning as it should. On the day after Nepal went into COVID-19 lockdown, I was admitted into Teaching Hospital.
I was under high immune suppression medication, but was kept in the Emergency Room for six hours, at risk of opportunistic infections. In the evening they sent me to a COVID-19 isolation room even though I had not been tested, and had no fever or symptoms. A COVID-19 patient was nearby, coughing.
After complaining to the nurse and doctor-in-charge, they finally moved me to a general ward. There is no teamwork in this hospital, the level of care was poor and ad hoc. The patient next to me had TB. Soon enough, I contracted pneumonia. I was rescued from the hospital just in time, and am recovering at the home of my American god-parents near Kathmandu.
Among the many lessons I have learnt from my ordeal is that Nepal needs to revise its laws. Many patients and their families are already struggling with their illness and lack of money, the least the state can do is make the paperwork easier.
The law about limiting organ donors to immediate family was made to prevent commercial organ trade, but what if there are willing donors who are not family, like in my case?
It is also the responsibility of the state to make transplants affordable and accessible. I wish Prime Minister K P Oli a speedy recovery from his second kidney transplant, but he may not be aware of how difficult it is to navigate the bureaucracy for a transplant in this country.
I do not want others to go through what I did. The disease is bad enough, but for ordinary people like us everything is made much more difficult. The government needs to amend its laws and policies to allow affordable transplants in state-of-the-art facilities, so Nepalis do not have to go abroad. It would save costs for patient families, and prevent large amounts of money from leaving the country.
There are many who emotionally, physically and financially helped me through this process, and I cannot thank them enough. Especially my soulmate Chand, who left her job and family to be with me in Delhi. I pray for the long life of all of these incredibly generous people. They have given me a ray of hope as I experience and explore the impermanence of life. It has no beginning and no end. Our body is a host and the soul lives on forever.
Rinzin Norbu Lama is a documentary filmmaker and youth politician from Samajbadi Party Nepal.
Even more secluded sanctuary by Rinzin Norbu Lama
One day in the life of Mingmar by Rinzin Norbu Lama