Standing taller every day

In two districts in Nepal, in one afternoon, two girls’ lives changed when the earth shook. In the Okhaldhunga district, seven-year-old Nirmala became trapped beneath a collapsed wall. While in the Sindhupalchok district, seven-year-old Khendo was buried under the rubble of her house.

Once found, the two girls were moved to Kathmandu—in Khendo's case, after being found and walked down a mountainside by Portland, Oregon-native Shane Basi, and later transported by helicopter. There, doctors at Bir Trauma Center decided to amputate both girls. Sudan Rimal, a Handicap International physical therapist, met them in the hospital. "I have been working with them since their accidents,” Sudan explains.

“I have delivered numerous rehabilitation sessions, first at the hospital where they stayed for three months, then at the National Disabled Fund, a rehabilitation center and partner of Handicap International."

"Six months after the disaster, they both received an artificial leg and learned to walk again. They have made tremendous progress. The support they give to each other is incredible. Their friendship is their strength."

These days, Nirmala and Khendo visit the rehabilitation center about once a month. “They do muscle stretching and exercises to improve their flexibility,” Sudan says. “Their prostheses are adjusted every six months to adapt to their growth. They are more aware of their bodies and of the importance of doing their rehabilitation exercises.

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"They can tell me when and where they are in pain. They understand what they feel, at least in part. They encourage each other to do their exercises and make progress. They are amazing."

Between sessions, it’s imperative that the girls do their exercises to maintain their strength and flexibility. Sudan explains, "We also train (their) teachers, so they know how to help the girls with their rehabilitation exercises. They are very keen to learn and ask a lot of questions."

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Many things have changed for the two girls since the earthquake. They have had to adapt to a new school, a new routine, and a new environment. Nirmala's parents are still living in the capital, but Khendo’s parents live far away in the countryside, where they work as farmers. Khendo has a guardian to look after her.

The two girls have each other's backs. Nirmala and Khendo are now in their second year of school and spend every waking moment together.

Nirmala and Khendo love English, badminton, and playing hide-and-seek. When asked about the future, Nirmala answers with a gleam in her eye saying she dreams of becoming an actress. When asked what she wants to do, Khendo says she wants to be a teacher, "to help children become good people."  

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