Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From a Distance

Providing Free Care in the Villages

I step off the truck and dry sandy Earth greets my shoes. Immediately a cloud of smoke from the dirt makes its way up my pant legs. We have arrived at the village center but I only see one person waiting for the free care. Where are all the people?

The person is an elderly man whose poor condition and back problems are obviously more than the staff of one doctor and two helpers can manage. The man uses a walking stick and is hunched over like a frail Quasimodo. I begin to think about how long this man must have been sitting here waiting and again my mind drifts to the question of where are all the people; after all these services are free.

I look around and only see dirt roads going in all directions. I look closer and can see the people slowly coming to the village center. From far away I can make out the beautiful saris, which are full of vibrant colors and elegant designs. Yet as they approach, the contrast of the saris and women’s physical conditions make a lasting impression. Some have light coats of dirt from the walking or skin that is very dry. Only a quick glance at the feet will bring a sense of reality back, many are bare or have such cracked skin that it is painful to look at. The first two people are a woman who is holding hands with a young child. The next two are a grandmother holding a two year old girl in her arms (See Photo). Two by two they slowly come for free treatment provided by Reliance Industry Limited. This is the village’s method of receiving primary care – a weekly visit by a RV truck. The doctor, who is stocked with only brand name drugs to insure quality, doles out medication for fungal infections, skin problems, fevers, coughs, and several other non-emergency problems. If it is serious, such as TB, they get referred to the TB/HIV Community Care Center. Also patients must present their list, which costs 2 rupees (10 cents) that shows their history of ailments and treatment. I inquire about the fee and the doctor tells me that even the most miniscule of fees has shown to make patients value and adhere to the medication.

I spend my time either sitting with the doctor or walking around the village centers trying to get a feel for the life of the village. There is a line of patients now (See Photo) and many appear to be joking around or lost in conversation. Some of my observations and questions are met with easy responses. “The men are working in the fields or in the city that’s why you don’t see any”. Others take a little longer to process. Many of the women and older children come to get “heel cream”. The bottoms of their feet and their heels are cracked, split, and extremely dry. I am told it’s due to working in the damp fields and farms and that a fungus is the culprit.

After 2 hours the doctor (See Photo) has seen a total of 63 patients, mostly women and children, from two villages. Two by two the villagers walk back from where they came. As they get farther and farther, once again, all I can make out is the beauty of their saris. Yet, this time I know there is much more behind the colors and designs.

1 comment:

Aoh said...

Hello Marco,

It is an interesting experience. I wish to be there and see things too.

Take care up there and see you soon, bros.