A middle-aged Nepali woman walks into the clinic and greets Fatima, “Doctor!” and gives her a warm hug. There are two of them and they both seem excited just to see her. There seems to be a bond between doctor and patient, the likes of which I’d never seen before. Fatima Younoos has been practicing for 55 years and believes she is still learning. She may be famous for her cures through acupuncture but she also practices acupressure along with Tibetan and Chinese herbal medicine. Ten months ago, she moved her clinic next to Kaze Durbar between Naxal and Kamal Pokhari, but officially the address is Kamal Pokhari.

Born in Lhasa, Tibet, Fatima is one who likes to say, “I am going to be 77”, rather than say that she is 76. “My father was a Chinese and my mother, a Nepali, and one of my maternal uncles was employed at Nepal’s Consulate in Lhasa,” she says. Fatima talks of her younger days, “I was 22 years old when I started learning traditional healing from my Tibetan guru, a famous doctor named Thupten Tshering who taught me Tibetan medicine. Then I went on to learn Chinese acupuncture from Doctor Nawang Lopsang. After that I interned and learned a lot from practice.” She also gleaned much knowledge from her constant questioning of doctors she was working with. She then opened a small clinic in Lhasa but also spent hours on horseback to reach poor villages where she treated patients, learning all the time.

Fatima left Tibet and came to Nepal in 1983. She opened her first clinic named ‘Hua Tho’ around 1991 near the Russian Cultural Center in Kamal Pokhari, Kathmandu. She recently changed the official name to Fatima Healing Center although the board outside says Fatima Chinese Acupuncture Center. The new place in Kamal Pokhari is big, with multiple rooms both on the ground floor and the floor above, but most of the action seems to take place on the upper floor.

There are a dozen helpers, both men and women, who are all busy with the various techniques of healing that they apply on the patients. Fatima’s son Nasir who studied General Medicine at the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Shanxi, China arrived here in 2015 after completing his studies in 2014. “The course I studied encompasses all Chinese medicine like acupuncture, acupressure and traditional medicine,” says Nasir. He is busy moving from room to room, checking the patients and giving instructions as I talk with his mother. He also has a business degree from the California State University. His brother Jamal who used to be in the clinic before him, now spends time between China and Nepal and was not around during our visit.

Reflecting on her experiences she remarks, “I don’t say I know enough; I am always learning and my greatest teachers are my patients, because I learn more from each case. The same cure doesn’t work for everyone and you have to find the right combination of healing methods. You have to approach each case from a different angle.” She believes the most important aspect of healing is to make the patients feel at home. She wants to embrace all her clients as part of her family, giving them love and care. This was clearly displayed by the two women who greeted her with so much love. “That feeling of belonging speeds up the healing process,” explains Fatima.

   

According to traditional Chinese medicine, a person’s health is the result of a harmonious balance of the complementary extremes of “yin” and “yang” of the life force known as “qi” (pronounced ‘Chi’). An imbalance of these forces is said to lead to illness. Acupuncture can help patients with all kinds of health issues, even facial paralysis after a stroke, arthritis, insomnia, sciatica, headaches, migraine, dizziness spells, gastritis, sinusitis, hypertension, fertility problems, asthma, epilepsy, obesity, skin treatments and more. But treatment at Fatima Healing Center goes far beyond acupuncture, as half the patients I see lying on beds are receiving acupressure while Fatima instructs some to take traditional herbal pills which she insists must be reduced with time.”You were taking two a day, now take only one a day; you are getting better,” she instructs a Tibetan lady who listens attentively.

As a means of explaining how acupuncture works she says, “There are 400 points in the body. You can compare your body’s problems to a road block, a traffic jam. Your system is clogged which causes health problems and placing a needle at the right places opens up the blockage and your system starts functioning normally.” She also believes that much of people’s problems are caused by stress related to lifestyle. “The tension and unhappiness that people go through living in the city, cause tightness in your body, which blocks the channels. So even listening to music helps relieve the stress and lead towards healing.” There is soft music playing where the patients are lying on beds receiving treatment. “You don’t see this kind of stress in the villages; they are happy with what they got,” she remarks.

There was a time when Nepalis were hesitant to come to Fatima, while the expats raved about her healing powers. An expat lady once told me, “I can’t live without her; she relieves all my pain!” Today people from all walks of life, rich and poor are seen at her clinic and since she believes in charging all equally, there is no discrimination, while some are given free medication. Her assistants engage the patients in constant conversation, even teasing them, perhaps to ease the tension and make them feel at home. It seems to work.

Fatima has many stories to tell of how her patients have fared. “Eighteen years ago, a 13-year-old girl came to me with her father. All the doctors in the hospital had toldt them that her kidney was damaged beyond repair. They told them to just make her comfortable; there was nothing that could be done,” recall Fatima. The girl’s face was swollen from too much medication and could barely walk. She tried acupuncture but it was too painful for the girl. So she switched to herbal medicine. After five days of medication, the father and child left and didn’t return. Circumstances at home had made them leave suddenly. Months passed and Fatima was worried, “Maybe she passed away,” she thought. But one day the father came with his mother and reported, “My daughter is fine now and going to school.” She didn’t hear from them again for years, until one fine day, they reappeared. “The girl had got married and came to visit with her child, her father and grand-mother to thank me. It was a joyous moment,” recalls Fatima. She also talks about a rich Indian man who came with his daughter who had a hip problem and couldn’t walk and was more or less bed-ridden. She was treated with acupuncture and recovered.

I was fortunate to see one of the youngest cases, a 16-month-old baby who couldn’t keep her head up and wouldn’t look around but always down. Fatima asked the mother to put her on the table where the doctor then started playing with her and asked her to raise her head. She did and the mother was elated. The kid was clearly improving. “A combination of acupuncture and acupressure can cure such cases; I get lots of babies with problems,” says Fatima, still playing with the child.

The clinic is busy with plenty of patients walking in; there are foreigners, Nepalis, Tibetans and some Muslim women. “Would you like to try some Tibetan tea?” Fatima asks me. I decline and tell her I’m suffering from a stomach ailment. This was still troubling her when I later got up to say goodbye. She turned to her assistant and said, ”Give him acupressure and some hot stones treatment.” So in an instant, I became one of her patients, lying on a bed next to a few foreigners and Nepalis. That’s when I realized the atmosphere in the clinic was more like being with your relatives at home. There was jovial chatter while I received some serious elbowing and rubbing followed by a peaceful session of hot stones on my back. Yes, I did feel relieved and may go back for more. I was already feeling at home and Fatima’s friendly and caring nature gets to you.