When Jane Wilson-HowarthÃ¢??s son, David, was diagnosed with serious neurological disorders, the family faced a major decision. They could stay in England, where David had access to the best services that Western medical care could offer, or they could return to their home at the time in remote Rajapur Island, Nepal, where he would have the chance of living his life to the fullest. There, he would be free from invasive medical testing, and treated as a person rather than an Ã¢??interesting caseÃ¢??. This poignant memoir tells of the familyÃ¢??s time in Rajapur and Kathmandu, conjuring in vivid detail the events of DavidÃ¢??s short but lovingly appreciated life. The sounds, sights and smells of the exotic bazaars, the warmth and complexity of the people and the stunning natural beauty of Nepal form an evocative backdrop to the story of this familyÃ¢??s courage, love and loss.
This is the autobiographical story of an English doctor who, a month after the birth of her second child, returns to Nepal. The book describes what drives her to leave despite the admonitions of doctors and their gloomy prognostications about her handicapped son. It had been a difficult birth; she doesn't know what to expect but fears the worst. Leaving Britain means abandoning access to good medical care, but it allows the child to live in dignity and happiness; it allows him to escape from daily blood tests, feeding tubes, hospitals and institutions. He defies the doctors' predictions and his parents enjoy his short life; they live as a normal family not dominated by hospitals. They also learn from the tolerant accepting attitudes of Nepalis. The mother struggles with guilt, often thinking that she has made the wrong decision, but guilt is mitigated by seeing the joyous carefree child develop. * A group of giggling young Nepali mothers gathered around to see my five-week-old: to compare babies. They took him from me and pressed in to see. "How beautiful", "Such soft white skin", "These little holes in his ears are a gift from heaven". This was the first time strangers had admired my new baby, and at that moment I knew that it had been right to flee England. Doctors had struggled to drag David out through the bloody incision in my belly, but strangely when I first set eyes on him, I was relieved not shocked or surprised by his harelip. This, only this, was the defect of my premonitions. I fooled myself for a while as I tried to behave as a good obedient trusting patient, calmed by the bland reassurances of over-stretched doctors. Finally though I couldn't help seeing that he was a strangely quiet, still baby. I realised then that he was ill, very ill. I knew that he'd received a death sentence the day he was born, but I suspended belief until almost the day I planned to leave the country. We had been living in urban Nepal, but would be moving to remote Rajapur Island in the middle of the largest tributary of the Ganges. We were up-beat about going but Nepalis warned of the heat, bandits and disease in the Plains. On Rajapur though we entered an accepting, straightforward community where David was special "touched by god", not abnormal. Our neighbours saw beyond his handicap. He stopped twitching at the slightest sound and he rallied physically too. Soon there was a sparkle in his eyes and slowly, he started to respond to us, tease us. We were right to take him away to Nepal. And David's older brother, Alexander, was spared spending his early years in dank England, hanging about in hospital waiting rooms. We settled into a contented, sleepy life on our island where we lived close to tiger, rhino and wild elephant, and village boys taught Alexander to climb mango trees, make catapults, catch skinks and fly kites.
Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth is a British physician. She has led expeditions to Peru and Madagascar and completed high altitude treks in Nepal. Jane lived in Asia for eleven years, working on various health projects. Currently she works in England as a general practitioner.