Over 1,200 surgeries at 10-day Kashmir camp

It was a challenging, but most satisfying mission for a team of 35 doctors, all of them Rotarians, and two volunteers to perform 1,223 surgeries and minor procedures at government hospitals in Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag (medical college) districts over a period of 10 days (Sep 3–13). “The project required a lot of detailed planning in logistics and support from the UT government, health officials and local hospitals,” explained PDG Dr Girish Gune, general surgeon and project chair of Kashmir Surgical Project-III held in September 2023.

The seed for the third medical camp in the troubled state was sown when Lt Governor Manoj Sinha during the inauguration of the second surgical camp in Sopore, Baramulla district, in May 2022, urged Rotarians to hold a similar one in South ­Kashmir which is ravaged by militancy.

Four-year-old Sarah Ebrahim Bhatt, who was operated for congenital bilateral squint eyes, with her father.

Both PDGs Dr Gune and Dr Rajiv Pradhan, project advisor and pathologist, through Adeep Mehta, a Rotarian from Jammu, RID 3070, the chief coordinator with RIDs 3131 and 3132 for holding medical projects, started their liaison work with Dr Mohammed Rather, director, State Health Services. The latter appointed Dr Abdul Rauf as the nodal officer for the Rotary Surgical Project and he was supported by health secretary Bhupinder Kumar at regular meetings.

After several zoom meetings and adept spade work, “we put together a team of general surgeons, gynaecologists, orthopaedics, ENT, plastic and paediatric surgeons, ophthalmologists and anaesthesiologists — the majority being Rotarian doctors from RID 3131 and 3132,” recalled Dr Pradhan. PDG Upinder Ghai and Dr Jagat Surinder (RID 3170); onco surgeon Dr Umang Desai (RID 3060); and Dr Darshana Shah, Dr Manisha Jagtap and Dr Ujwala Devare (RID 3030), also joined the project team.

Project chair PDG Dr Girish Gune, laparoscopic surgeon (second from right), and his team at the operation theatre.

A Rotary team was sent to check the medical facilities and interact with the chief medical officers and superintendents at the government hospitals; While Gune and Rahul Phase, a Rotarian, made a quick trip to Kashmir to finalise the surgical project in September.

All surgical equipment, facilities and medical supplies were arranged by the J&K administration. “Local health officials did a door-to-door survey through Asha workers and volunteers to enrol patients for the camps. Even the initial hurdle of lack of adequate number of OTs, equipment and trained staff was sorted by the health officials through quick purchase, relocation of staff and equipment and putting additional tables in OTs,” said Pradhan. He has organised over 25 medical missions to 16 African countries.

After seeing the flawless 1,223 surgeries done by the team of 35 Rotarian doctors in a record time of 10 days in four revenue ­districts, the then superintendent of ­Anantnag Medical College and Hospital Dr Malik Abid Hussain quipped, “I think our surgeons should also accompany your Rotary teams to serve in other parts of India. This project, by alleviating the pain and suffering of a section of Kashmiris, has earned their goodwill.”

Dr Meenal ­Chidgupkar, gynaecologist, during a surgery.

Suffering from malignant colon, Gulam Rasul (42), from Anantnag, said “I was writhing in acute pain for two months and needed surgery badly. I owe my life to these messengers of Allah.” Reactions from other beneficiaries were generous too. The parents of four-year-old Sarah Ebrahim Bhatt, hailing from Pulwama, who was operated for congenital bilateral squint eyes, said, “Now our daughter has got normal vision. We will give her the best education and make her a doctor, thanks to the Rotary medical mission.” If one can sum up the mood of the surgical camp beneficiaries, here it is: “Allah has sent you as Rotarians to save our lives,” said Shabana Khatun (32), a resident of Anantnag, who had a large uterine tumour with severe anaemia leading to heavy blood loss during menstruation.

Following the success of three surgical projects in Dec 2012 (at the Rotary Eye and ENT Hospital, Udhampur; a 10 day camp, 1,100 surgeries); May 2022 (at Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara and Ganderbal; week-long camp, 2,474 surgeries) and the latest one in September 2023, the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has urged the Rotary medical mission led by Gune and Pradhan to hold similar surgical camps in Poonch and Rajouri districts, preferably in April-May this year. “I will be visiting these border areas soon along with two other Rotarian doctors for a recce to decide on the duration of the surgical camp, types of surgeries to be conducted and also liaise with the local health officials,” said Gune.

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