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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perspectives on Lifeline Express

Update: Part of the IHI team at Chitrakoot waterfall. Photo taken by Kevin Frayer from AP

Hour 1: Board train
Hour 2-9: Sleep
Hour 9: Charu, Horace, Julia & Britt awake
Hour 10-13: Card games, books, and chai.
Hour 13: Seth awake
Hour 14: Chai
Hour 15-24: Card games, books, and HUNGER.

In short, our train ride from Madurai to Hyderabad. Luckily, Hyderabad airport made up for it with McDonald’s!! Yummy :)

After 48 hours of travelling, including the train ride, we thought we would die if we saw another train in front of us. How wrong we were...

The few days on the Lifeline Express have exposed us to an extremely underserviced population of rural India: the tribals. Let’s take a look from their perspective.

Fuelled by a promise of restored vision, ability to walk and run, a triumphant smile, they journey from far and wide. They travel for hours with brothers, sisters, grandparents, parents, children, to reach Jagdalpur. At last they see it. A train, the first one they’ve seen this close, with a huge crowded tent in front. Greeted by teams of doctors, nurses and volunteers, strangers dressed in green and white with masks. They are a little afraid, but they are resilient. Full of courage, they press onwards, placing all their faith and trust in the medical volunteers from afar…

From our perspective, this experience has been eye-opening (pardon the pun), to say the least. We have had the opportunity to observe the administration of health care in the most remote of locations, to people who have previously been untouched by the outside world. We have seen cataract surgeries performed on elderly tribal people (rows upon rows of sunglasses on these folks was a sight to warm our hearts), orthopedic surgeries on young children whose families cannot afford these high-cost procedures otherwise, screenings for cleft lip and other paediatric conditions (Pierre-Robin sequence. It was a difficult diagnosis but Dr. Cheng & Prasad managed it.). It has been a pleasure to see this dedicated team of physicians, nurses, and administrators from all over the country work together to deliver care that will significantly impact these peoples’ lives.

Tonight we prepare to part ways as a team: Seth off to Thailand, Brittany and Julia journeying to and through North India, Horace and Charu doing some learning and research (hopefully!) at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. We look forward to these new and exciting experiences, and though we will miss being all together, we will have plenty to share when we meet up in 2 weeks!

Pictures soon to come ;)

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