Radha Devi Shaud, from rural Nepal, was with her daughter in the jungle cutting firewood (used for cooking) when she slipped and broke her leg while climbing down from a tree. Her young daughter and her daughter-in-law helped to get her up, and carried her on their backs to the market. From there, Radha was brought by stretcher to the nearest road and driven to the hospital with her husband and sisters. Once she got to the hospital, she had to wait for three days before she could receive an operation to fix her leg. Following the operation, Radha was not able to leave her house for 6 months and unable to work for a year due to her disability. Today, Radha still feels pain in her leg and is discouraged by her inability to contribute to her family’s income.
What Radha’s Story Teaches Us
Many navigate the rugged terrain in rural Nepal daily in order to farm and gather raw materials, including firewood. The geography of rural Nepal increases the risk of injury substantially due to environmental factors such as terrain or wild animals; yet, many community members rely on their ability to work every day in these conditions to support and feed their families. Often those who live in poverty have no choice but to face natural elements to provide for their families.
Environmental factors can also be a hindrance to accessing good quality and immediate health care in rural settings of extreme poverty. For Radha, it took over an hour for her family to transport her to the roadside before she was driven to the hospital, a journey that was cumbersome and delayed by the remote location and the treacherous terrain.
When asked how she reacted when she broke her leg, Radha says, “I thought about everything. My cattle, kids, and how I will have to spend the rest of my life crying…without one of my legs, half my life is over. When you don’t have a leg, how will you live the rest of your life?”
An injury for someone living in poverty can be debilitating. A broken leg, and the subsequent recovery and disability, prevents Radha from working and the out-of-pocket cost associated with treatment of her injury is a severe financial burden that further perpetuates the cycle of poverty for her family.
Radha’s operation required a metal rod be inserted in her leg, and she still has some residual pain from the break and operation. “My work had been mostly in the fields and raising cattle. I haven’t been doing much, only what I can,” she says. Today, Radha’s six children take care of much of her work because she is unable to.
When speaking about the pain she feels today, she says, “Yes it hurts, even sitting down hurts. I can feel a pain like needles when I’m bending down and I get an awful pain in my knee.”