Organising a surgical camp is like assembling a complicated lego model. People and equipment come together from far and wide and mingle to assume form,purpose and character. The team gels together over seven days pushing boundaries with equipment, challenging weather, and impassable roads that prevent health care from reaching these remote regions.
This year, our stalwart radiologist, Dr. UmaShanker felt bonhomie from Bangalore as the gynaecologists Dr. Ravi and Dr. Aryanya and the eye surgeon Dr. Jude Simmons were all from his hometown. We heard them bonding with each other in Kannada. The anesthetists Dr. Athipro and Dr. Preeti were from AIMS Delhi, and our eye team as usual were from CMC Ludhiana.
Piled into two force travelers, two Boleros, and accompanied by one pick up groaning with all our equipment including generator, Boyle’s machine and a humungus autoclave, led by the never tiring Dr. Bishan, we made our meandering way over Rohtang pass. Our outward journey was delayed by three hours by a landslide, but once clear of that, we reached Kaaza by the evening. Our team seasoned with many years of experience, swung into action to unload, and set up everything, deploying a functional operating room and outpatient clinics in the Kaaza civil hospital.
The next day onwards the outpatient clinics saw long lines of people queuing to be seen, for eyes to be checked, for potential surgery, but always the most popular request was for Dr. Uma to place his magic ultrasound probe on their tummy and tell them what deep mysteries lurked within.
Pea harvest was delayed in Kaaza this year so we saw less patients than the years before, as the folk battled to gather their harvest before the weather turned inclement. Nevertheless, we were able to see 857 patients, perform 16 major surgeries and 14 minor surgeries, 13 eye surgeries, and perform over 355 ultrasound examinations. All procedures were free for the patients.
Significant among the surgeries were two appendectomies performed on laborers and one two year old with ludwigs angina on the brink of respiratory distress. We marveled at God’s timing in permitting us to be there in time to take care of these emergencies.
This year we were able to induct the major surgeries into the FALCON RCT trial, an international study on surgical site infections being conducted across the world by the Global Surgery Collaborative, of which we are a part.
All the surgeries went off smoothly and uneventfully, despite the erratic power supply, a minor explosion of an oxygen regulator in the ot (from which thankfully no one was seriously injured). There were no complications and all the patients were discharged smiling and well.
On the final day, our visitors gathered the stamina to undertake an adventurous motorbike ride to see the mummy of Ghiuu, which proved an experience they are unlikely to forget.
Thank you one and all for the Kaaza surgical camp 2019. We are very grateful to all who made this possible, and brought smiles to the people of this region for whom this represents the only annual hope of obtaining elective surgery in their region.