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Khendo, 8: I have a new leg, but I worry about losing the other

Emergency Rehabilitation
Nepal

On 25 April 2015, Nepal was rocked by an earthquake, affecting 8 million Nepalese people. Khendo, 8 years old, lost her leg in the disaster. After more than six months of rehabilition sessions with Handicap International, she received a prosthesis and can now walk again. Khendo will soon return to school.

Khendo in the National Disabled Fund rehab center with her physiotherapist Sudan

Khendo in the National Disabled Fund rehab center with her physiotherapist Sudan | ©Tim Dirven / Handicap International

Khendo, 8 years old, lives in the Sindhupalchok District of Nepal. On 25 April 2015, she was playing, as she often did, with her cousin, sister and grandmother. Her father, Mangal Dong, is a farmer, and her mother, Gangjey, works as a cleaning lady in Kuwait.

Suddenly, the earth started shaking and everything stopped. Mangal Dong raced home. His house had been destroyed.
His daughter, Khendo, was buried underneath the rubble, she was still alive but her legs were wounded. Khendo’s grandmother and sister did not survive.

It was a tragic moment: "We had to cremate them there, as no one could help us move the bodies. There were victims in every family. It was a real nightmare."

Her mother, Gangjey, only returned to Nepal two months later. She felt guilty for not being there: "I was paid to leave my eldest daughter behind."

Three days after the disaster, Khendo, whose leg had become infected, was urgently flown to Kathmandu. Her left leg was amputated and she underwent rehabilitation sessions with Handicap International at the Bir Hospital Trauma Centre, then later on at the National Disabled Fund, the rehabilitation centre which is partnered with the association. Early on, she met 8 year old Nirmala who had also lost a leg. They quickly became saathi (friends) and are now inseparable. Their closeness is a real driving force.

"In the beginning, Khendo was very sceptical and refused to do the physiotherapy exercises. We decided to work with the two young girls together. Khendo, seeing Nirmala do the exercises, evolved and showed willing. Little by little, she made enormous progress. I become very close to the two girls: they consider me a member of their family and are very comfortable with me," confides Sudan Rimal, a physiotherapist for Handicap International who has been treating them since the fourth day after the earthquake.

In October, Khendo and Nirmala received prostheses and are continuing their rehabilitation sessions at the National Disabled Fund. They stay with a few members of their family in a basic apartment in Kathmandu. Every day, a private teacher comes to their home. In a few months, they’ll be able to go back to school.

"We didn’t think that Khendo would be able to walk again. It’s wonderful. Without Handicap International, we would never have been able to provide her with this care. Our little girl has changed a great deal. She’s less shy and more vocal," reveals her uncle.

He does however have concerns: "Despite everything, we are worried about her future. Will there come a day when she can take part in farm life again? Will she be able to take care of livestock and work in the fields? What will her life be like when she grows up?"

As for Khendo herself, she smiles: "I want to go to school, to learn and become a nurse. I want to become a 'bigger' person."

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