After three years of the Covid pandemic, this time we had a medical mission to Baripada, Odisha, in March 2023. Here’s a flash back to Baripada from 16 years ago. We had started medical missions in Rotary after Usha asked me to do hands-on service beyond borders and the first mission was in 1998 to Uganda. We decided to have medical missions in India, and in 2006, we selected the poorest of the poor area of Kalahandi, Orissa. Baripada was next in 2007.
The support of PDG DN Padhi opened all doors for us. DG Dhian Chand requested PDG Subhash Garg as project director for the mission, which was held from March 6-14, 2007. With the spirit of Service Above Self, our motto, we had a team of 27 dedicated doctors and volunteers. With DG Dhian Chand and PDG Subhash with his wife Praveen, my wife Usha and me, we took the flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar.
Driving from Bhubaneswar, we halted at Bhadrak for lunch at the Hotel Orion, which was arranged by RC Mid-Town Bhadrak president Ajay Agarwal. After a vegetarian lunch, we started for our destination, Baripada. RC Baripada was led by DG Pramod Rath and his team of Rotarians.
Reaching Baripada, our doctors were disappointed when they went around the district hospital. However, we are thankful to the district administrator and hospital functionaries under the guidance of the district collector V K Pandian, who helped us. There was no modern equipment in the hospital, especially in the dental department which didn’t even have a dental chair. The dynamic young district collector ordered the health authorities to get whatever possible locally and assured us he would provide all possible help and meet the requirement for smooth working in the hospital. He directed those in charge to get the necessary instruments and equipment from Kolkata. We were impressed that he got all this done within 48 hours. When we left the hospital, the facilities were much improved, and the entire hospital staff was happy and thankful to our team.
Thousands of patients were examined. Some of the surgeries by speciality surgeons were very complicated. The following surgeries and procedures were successfully provided: Ophthalmic: 106 cataract, plus108 OPD; Skin: 1,431 OPD; Plastic: 32+50 additional procedures; Gynae: 25 major surgeries; Ortho: 62 patients, 132 procedures+85 OPD; Dental: 405 patients, 2 major surgeries and 446 procedures, ENT: 12 surgeries+85 OPD. Medicines were provided for OPD patients as well.
There was a critical case which was finally saved with divine blessings and doctors. A two-year old child had cleft-lip. The surgery was done by specialist plastic surgeon Dr P S Chari, supported by anaesthisiologist Dr Pramila Chari. But the parents of the child, out of compassion, gave food to the child within one hour of surgery and asphyxiation occurred. It was difficult to save the child since it was an emergency. Dr Pramila kept attending to the child, giving the protocols and we all prayed during the night for the life of the child. At 4am, she phoned to say the child is now safe.
There were specialist doctors from all major fields: Shobhit Ghai, G S Brar, S K Saini, Vijay Sehgal, Jayant Navani, Raman Abrol, P S Chari, Pramila Chari, Vijay Pal, Vanita Gupta, G K Bedi, Taposhi Patnaik, Gulshan Thakral, Rashmi Thakral and assistant doctors Arpeta Gupta, Malini Sehgal, Rawat and Rajiv Kumar. We all volunteers were fully involved in distributing to OTs and departments.
On the last day, we organised bhandara (feast) and served thousands of people. The night before our departure, the district authorities organised a local cultural programme, dinner and presented mementos to us all. On our return, Yashveer Singla arranged darshan at the Shree Jagannatha Temple, Puri. We stayed there overnight and the next morning we went to Bhubaneswar to catch our flight.
Fast forward to the medical mission in February 2023 in Baripada. Our team of doctors and volunteers took the flights and were received by DG Pravudutta Subudhi and other leaders of the district. At the hotel, our team was received by the seniormost PDG D N Padhi and his wife Deepa. Past governors of the district met for reception and dinner. Next morning we took the Innovas for Baripada and after a wholesome vegetarian lunch we reached our destination.
PDG Subhash Garg has been the aviator of mission. PDG Dr RS Parmar was the mentor. All doctors and volunteers stayed at the Hotel AVA Guest House, which was comfortable. The doctors were Shankar Gosavi, Surinder Sodhi, Bhushan Kumar, Krishna Sasanka, Anil Kumar, R S Parmar, Girish Gune, R Bharat, Sarla Malhotra, Vineet Nagpal, Anil Verma, Pragya Saini, Nivedita Singh, Sushil Saini, Ravjit Singh, Devendra Paliwal, Surinder Makkar and Man Singh. Praveen Garg linked to all members, DG Ved Kalta, DGE Arun Mongia, Brij Parmar, Guneet Anand, Charu Mongia, Sunita Saini, Usha and myself.
On Feb 13, the mission was inaugurated by deputy commissioner, Baripada. Thereafter, our doctors along with local doctors started performing surgeries in different OTs and in all the specialties. We found that all the instruments were at the Civil Hospital along with updated equipment and para staff.
We met at the meeting led by the project chairman, PP Birendra Sahu and club president Rakesh Singh and local club volunteers.
We had breakfast and dinner together and the atmosphere was one of camaraderie. It was spirited in the evenings and in the morning we were ready to work at the hospital. Praveen Garg was coordinating the tea/coffee and lunch with volunteers Guneet and Charu. DGE Arun Mongia was around, serving where he was required.
Usha and Arun Mongia went to the senior citizens, who were all very old and lonely women, some of whom had lost all memory and prepared a special lunch for them. The next day, Usha and Arun went to the home of leprosy-negative patients and served them food. They had tears of gratitude. Another day, Usha, Praveen Garg and Brij Parmar went to meet mentally challenged girls, gave them snacks and ice-cream. They sang and danced.
In the morning, some of us went walking and jogging, guided by our host Rajkumar Khandelia, in different areas including his farm. He brought everyday dinners without onion and garlic for Usha and me.
Balasore Rotarians wanted to visit Rotary Eye Hospital on Mahashivratri day, and we went. Accompanied by Dr Parmar, I saw the hospital and was impressed that it had been established and was being run by Rotarians without grants. The chief host was IPDG Santanu Pani, with Rajkumar Khandelia leading Rotarians and others. After the meeting and lunch, we returned to Baripada.
During the mission these surgeries were performed: Plastic 31, Eye 120, ENT 13, Ortho 32, General 91, Gynae 58, Dermatology 462 , making a total of 810. OPD was about 4,000 patients at Baripada, who were given free treatment and free medicines. A satisfactory mission completed, we bid farewell on Feb 20 to our hosts in Baripada and returned home.
The writer is a past RI president