Charge nurse Mario Hughes has left his job to dedicate his time and medical expertise on a life-changing venture in Nepal.
Mario, a familiar face in cardiothoracic surgery at The James Cook University Hospital, took the decision to resign after 25 years working in hi-tech intensive care units to set up an intensive care unit in a hospital in Pokhara.
The 50-old recently returned to the Middlesbrough hospital after taking a year’s unpaid leave to work as a volunteer setting up intensive care facilities at Kaski Sewa Hospital at the foot of the Himalayas.
After a lot of soul-searching, he has decided to go back and finish the job in Pokhara before moving onto the Bajhang Community Hospital – a non-profit community-based organisation in one of the remotest districts of Nepal. Funding is desperately needed for this project as the area has a life expectancy of only 41, compared to 89 in the UK.
He said: “I really want to go back and finish the job I started in intensive care – there are no ambulances, and a very poor transport system so many patients don’t actually make it to hospital and if they do they’re very sick.
“I remember a particular patient last time I was there who’d had a motorcycle accident and no other hospital would take him – we stabilised him and got him transferred to Kathmandu. He later came back to see us with his father and they were both very emotional when we met.
“The people are so grateful that you are out there trying to make a difference and that’s why I’m going back. Of course every time I think about it at the minute I ask myself ‘am I doing the right thing’ and get butterflies but it is what I want to do and I’m going hook, line and sinker!”
Mario is swapping his £40k salary and all the trimmings of everyday modern life in the UK to work for £400 a month, living in a room kindly provided by the hospital with no hot water.
“It’s a completely different environment to work in. Often the nurses do two jobs as they get such a poor income so it’s not uncommon to be working in intensive care 12 hours a day, six days a week,” he added.
“In terms of healthcare, I’m going back in time 50 years and moving from a state-of-the-art modern hospital to one where staff are washing bed sheets by hand on the roof and we’re tearing up sheets to make into clean hand-towels for infection control. However we’ll do what we can with the resources we have available to us.”
So what do Mario’s family and work colleagues think about his change in career?
“My son’s grown up now so is independent and some of my family have been a bit tearful but I think everyone knew I would end up doing something like this,” he said.
“They’re all really happy for me and I don’t think a lot of my work colleagues expected me to come back last time. I’m just pleased to be making a difference…”
You can follow Mario’s journey on his blog at Travelpod, where there will be a future link to donate towards the Bajhang community hospital project.