14 December 2015
Dr Meera Gondhia, 26, who works at the Royal Free Hospital, shares her experience of volunteering for the Better Lives Foundation for the first time this year.
I was privileged enough this September to volunteer as a doctor in India with Better Lives Foundation, an organisation which strives to improve health and education for people in developing countries.
We packed our equipment, scrubs and sleeping bags and made our way over to Jakol, a beautiful village in the Himalayas set at 6,000 feet above sea level. Here, we set up camp and, between our international team, saw more than 500 patients a day and managed to identify and correct 80 patients with cataract.
We were fortunate to have with us a team of opticians, nurses, a paediatrician, a pain management specialist, GPs, specialist gynaecological nurses, pharmacists and a set of professionals who specialised in alternative medicine.
I saw patients who had never seen a doctor in their lifetime, some of whom were blind or deaf and had accepted it as a way of life. I was amazed to see an array of presentations including a child with an undiagnosed tetralogy of fallot (congenital cardiac abnormality) and patients who were unable to walk with no given explanation.
One example was a 14-year-old girl who presented as deaf with a speech impediment. On taking her history (through my 11-year-old translator), she was clearly shy and had rarely been spoken to. Her father explained he was unable to afford a 10-hour journey to the local hospital, let alone the cost of treatment. On examination, she had the worst otitis media with effusion I have ever seen. I believe she developed hearing impairment, thus developing a speech delay. I attempted to clean out the ear and gave her some antibiotics, in the hope that it will change her life. Experiences like this makes one appreciate the value of our healthcare system and the incredible work that the NHS does.
I would like to thank everyone who helped with the fundraising. Ideally the aim is to set up regular camps and train local clinicians so that they may be able to continue health care and most importantly good health care education to improve lives.
For more information visit www.betterlivesfoundation.org
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