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Our Humanitarian Trip to India 2012

Published Thursday 6th of December 2012 04:12:59 PM

It was a chance encounter with a former student that initiated the venue for the 2012 Stanborough School Humanitarian Trip to India. Dr Jacob Prabhakar, who is presently the Medical Director of the Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital in Jalandhar, India, visited England in June 2011 and made an unplanned visit to meet me. It was then that we briefly discussed the possibility of Stanborough School students assisting his staff with the eye camps they conduct in the villages of Punjab. When we met again in Jalandhar in August 2011, to put more flesh to the plans and to study the feasibility of the intended visit, the project began to take shape. The venue seemed ideal and most of the boxes got ticked.

On a cold February Sunday, the team consisting of eight students and two teachers, met up in London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 with not only their own luggage but several cardboard boxes of clothes, toys, shoes and other items to give away to the village people they were going to minister to. At the end of the nine hour journey and the safe touch down early on Monday morning at Delhi airport, they were picked up and taken to guests rooms at the North India Union of SDA in Hailey Road. After a five hour journey on the following day, the team arrived at the Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital where they would stay for the next 11 days.

The next day after breakfast they travelled for an hour by minibus into rural Punjab to a Sikh gurdwara where there were about fifty elderly men and women waiting to be screened for a cataract replacement operation. These people had come from the surrounding villages and assembled here. The screening involved the initial examination by the doctor to ascertain the extent of the cataract. If there was a cataract the patient was sent to four different stations to be screened for biometric measurement of the cornea, blood pressure, urine analysis and finally the optimetric measurement of the lens. At each of the stations Stanborough students assisted the technicians with the screening. At first a little apprehensive about their lack of expertise and the exposure to unfamiliar body fluids of strangers, they quickly responded to the crash training course and fitted in with enthusiasm and interest. The successful patients were then transported to the Hospital for the cataract operation.

Those who were not eligible for the operation would undergo medical treatment to ensure their eligibility and return for rescreening later. Back at the hospital the efficient medical team carried out the cataract surgery with machine like precision and efficiency. Dr Prabhakar leading the team had the incredible gift of carrying out 35 lens replacements in one hour. The students were divided into groups. One group to be with the patients in the waiting room while their pupils were dilated, another would receive the patients into the anaesthetic room while anaesthetics were injected into the eye socket. The patients were then escorted to the anteroom to be gowned and prepared for the operation by another group. Once in the theatre, a fourth group of students were responsible for ushering them to a seat and applying antiseptic over their eyes and surrounding tissue. Then the patient was assisted on to the operating table for the two minute procedure and then assisted off the table and led to the anteroom to be prepared to leave the theatre.

Another team of students would be responsible for escorting them out and once out of the theatre other volunteers escorted the patients to their beds where they would recover and be treated. The recovery and treatment took just over a day after which the patients returned to the gurdwara. The students returned to the gurdwara for the post operative assessment and final discharge. As the patients were being discharged, the gratitude that emanated from their heart was indescribable, partly because of the language barrier but mostly because of the genuine and emotional nature of the gratitude. One could imagine their feelings as they were given clear vision again and would be able to contribute usefully to village community life again. At the next eye camp close to the Indo-Pak border region, Stanborough students worked with their respective medical teams and assisted 500 patients of whom 400 were eligible for the surgery.

Before the Stanborough team returned to England they had the wonderful opportunity of seeing the beautiful sights of India such as the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Wagah Broder flag lowering ceremony and the capital city of India, New Delhi. This trip was organised as part of the community service ethos of Stanborough School.

By Mr K Poddar (Trip coordinator)
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