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49-year-old Ladakhi monk who runs a free hospital

Last Updated on December 20, 2020 at 7:48 pm

Buddhist monk Lama Thupstan Chogyal was born and raised in Spituk village near Leh. He belongs to a family which has practised traditional medicine for generations. However, he chose a path different from his family members.

He got his education from the local Spituk monastery for a few years, followed by a monastery in Karnataka for a few years. Then, he headed to the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamshala. After that, he went to South Korea to study the Korean language and Zen Buddhism. He went to the UK on a scholarship for some time and left in mid for work with Ladakh Heart Foundation (LHF) in 1997 following a life-changing visit to Delhi.

When he went to Delhi, the sight of many sick patients, particularly young children, struggling with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) at the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara in the Civil Lines area of Delhi troubled him. These patients were in need of treatment. This sight disturbed him to a point that upon returning home, he asked a local physician if there was any way of curing it.

He was told by the doctor that those patients were in need of penicillin, large quantities of distilled water and syringes. He asked the local health department to place an order for it and he would arrange the necessary funds. He spent nearly Rs 26,000 for penicillin and other material which was distributed in nearby villages. In addition, he also requested the local health department to conduct a proper awareness campaign around RHD in remote villages so that it could be diagnosed/treated early.

Chogyal managed an ambulance with help of a friend settled abroad. He registered LHF Society towards the end of 1997, and its contribution in recent years has helped in almost disappearing new cases of RHD in Ladakh. LHF receives 500-700 patients every month. These patients are treated by some of the best doctors of Ladakh like Dr Tsering Landol and Dr Tsering Norbu, both of whom have been awarded the Padma Shri. There are around four doctors who regularly work voluntarily, and a couple of nurses as well.

Even though there is a lack of single rooms, 49-year-old monk’s hospital is helping the administration quarantine suspected cases as much as they possibly can. Monk says that they are helping our doctors, nurses, cleaners and ambulance drivers in whatever capacity so that they can perform their duties to their best capabilities. He is at the hospital every time to help the local administration. Moreover, Leh is sparsely populated so it’s easier to manage a containment.