Nurse from Nepal uses stay in Springfield to help in COVID-19 fight; now headed to nation’s top hospital

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - At the end of July, Kamala Simkhada will be moving from Springfield after living here for five years to start a new chapter in her life at one of the nation’s top hospitals.

Her journey to get there has been a blessing not only for her, but to folks in the Ozarks as well.

Kamala is originally from Nepal, a south Asian country bordering China to the north and India to the south, east and west. Most of the country is situated in the Himalayas, and on the border with China sits the highest peak on earth, Mt. Everest.

Kamala has been scaling new heights as well, starting as a pediatric nurse in her native country.

“I love kids,” she said. “They’re like instant joy and they live in the moment.”

Nepal is also known for its diverse geography and beautifully-adorned old buildings.

“We have lots of history and architecture dating back to the 13th century,” Kamala explained. “Once upon a time they even said we had more temples than we had houses.”

But in 2016 Kamala decided to leave her homeland to pursue a Masters degree.

“I applied to seven different countries,” she said.

She ultimately ended up joining her sister in the United States and while her sibling lives in Arizona, Kamala decided to attend Missouri State where she got her Masters in 2018 and settled in to a Springfield community much different than the one she’d been used to.

“This feels like a totally different planet,” she said of the comparisons between the Ozarks and Nepal. “There’s a lot of nature here. We don’t have this in Nepal. It’s more congested. I’m a nature lover. I like going outdoors and meeting people. I try to be a kind and sympathetic person and I want everybody to be happy and healthy.”

To that end Kamala went to work at CoxHealth in the dialysis department and once the pandemic hit she also helped COVID-19 personal get suited up in their PPE gear.

“It’s so hard being in that suit for so long,” she said of the COVID-19 health care workers. “To see what they go through you have a lot of empathy for them.”

And working in a hospital during the pandemic definitely changed her outlook on life.

“Life is so unpredictable,” she said. “Everyday it was like, ‘I’m going to work. Anything can happen today.’ Waking up you would go to work with that fear. ‘This might be the day. What if I get it today?’”

Last October, wanting to do more in the fight against the coronavirus, she moved to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. Initially she worked as a contact tracer until the vaccines became available when she switched to administering shots at the various clinics.

At first it was a manic time as the lines were long and people were having to make reservations to get shots. But as the months passed, the long lines dried up and the turn-outs turned into a trickle.

“We’re just sitting there with all those resources and it’s empty,” Kamala said of the more recent clinics. It’s like, ‘Oh my God this is scary!’ We’re trying so hard but it’s not just our fight. We all have to cooperate as a community.”

Coming from Nepal where vaccines are scarce Kamala considered it a huge honor when she got her own vaccine shot in Springfield.

“It was such an emotional day for me,” she recalled.

And she can’t believe that people in America turn down a chance to get a readily-available vaccine that residents in her home country would give anything to have.

“It is frustrating and it’s kind of hurtful for me because health care is so advanced here,” Kamala said. “I wish we had that in our country. People are dying trying to find a vaccine. We just have about a four percent vaccination rate so far because we don’t have enough supplies.”

But now Kamala will be leaving the Ozarks for Baltimore where she has a new job in pediatric critical care medical research at Johns Hopkins hospital. Founded in 1889 Johns Hopkins is one of the most prestigious and respected medical facilities in the country as the birthplace of many medical advances. At one point it had also been named as the top hospital in the U.S. for 21 straight years.

Obviously it’s an amazing opportunity for Kamala, but it’s also a little hard to say goodbye to a place that made her feel at home.

“I have met so many good people,” she said of her stay in Springfield. “I’m so thankful and I’m a little sad to be leaving this comfort zone. Leaving is scary but it’s a great move because I want to learn and grow more. I’m inquisitive and this is a good opportunity.”

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