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Boulder-Lhasa Sister City Project (BLSCP)’s Medical Trips to Kham

Medical Trips to Kham, Tibet - Conscious Journeys

Conscious Journeys has provided Boulder-Lhasa Sister City Project (BLSCP) [boulder-tibet.org] with three excellent tailor-made trips to Kham since September 2014. The objectives of our trips have been to provide health education for a preventable, endemic parasitic disease called neurocysticercosis (NCC) and to visit Lhungtse, who is a teen-age Tibetan girl recovering from a serious case of this disease. For each trip our excellent tour guide, driver, and interpreter/translator was Tenpa Tenzin.

Because Lhungtse’s father passed away in 2004, her mother has been working for twelve years as a farmer to support her family of three. Around 2007, Lhungtse began losing her vision in both eyes and also started suffering from headaches and seizures. In 2010, Dr. Li Tiaoying, Sichuan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (SCDC), Chengdu, Sichuan, diagnosed Lhungtse with NCC. Thanks to many generous donations to Boulder-Lhasa Sister City Project, Lhungtse received ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt brain surgery in September 2013 at Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital in Chengdu. The surgery and subsequent medicines have largely reduced her headaches and seizures but did not alleviate her total blindness.

NCC can be prevented through effective health education for Tibetan farming communities. Our education materials include a pictorial NCC life-cycle diagram, which shows methods of transmission to humans and methods of prevention. In September 2014, Dr. Rosenberg, a BLSCP volunteer, educated more than 100 rural Tibetans, including school administrators, health care workers, village leaders, tour operators, and tour guides. We visited Lhungtse’s home in Yajiang County. Following our request, Lhungtse’s mother invited five village leaders to her home to be educated on NCC prevention by Dr. Rosenberg. They asked several questions and took extra copies of the the NCC life-cycle diagram for the local monastery and schools. Although Lhungtse’s mother missed most of the teaching while attending to household chores, we later held a private education session for her.

In May 2015, we visited Lhungtse at Ganzi Prefecture Special School in Kangding. We met with the headmaster, who thanked us for our efforts to help Lhungtse. He said that the school also has the goal of helping disabled students to become independent. The school has around 100 blind and deaf students. We attended Lhungtse’s massage therapy training class. The school has hired a blind massage teacher, who is providing potential vocational training to around 15 students.

In November 2015, we again visited Lhungtse at her school. She was happier and more confident compared to our previous visit. In her dormitory room she was very pleased to show us how she can make her bed and also demonstrate for us several repetitions of one of her physical exercises. She explained that her cue for taking her medicine is when she finishes washing her eating bowl after each of her three daily meals. When we were leaving the school for the weekend, she insisted on having no assistance for negotiating the two long flights of stairs from the school courtyard down to our vehicle. As we were driving to a restaurant for lunch, Lhungtse told us, “I am so happy to be with you!” Then Tenpa asked her, with a smile, “What do you mean?” She replied, “Life right now is smooth.”

Except for her total blindness caused by the parasitic disease, Lhungtse is reasonably healthy. She has made considerable progress following her brain surgery in 2013. So far the ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt in Lhungtse’s brain has been working well. We hope and pray that her shunt system will not have any complications, such as mechanical failure, obstructions, or infections.

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