Operation Good Samaritan Mission Trip Report
Damoh, India, January 2003
By Anil P. Punjabi, MD
These patients underwent thorough preoperative evaluations by the pediatricians. There is a general surgeon, Dr. Ashish Agarwal, who is young and very willing to learn. He assisted me in all the surgeries. After the patients were examined and medically cleared by the pediatricians and anesthesiologist we started surgeries on the same day of my arrival and did two cases that day, a 14 year-old girl with a cleft lip and a one year-old girl with a cleft lip.
The next day, we selected our most difficult cases, ranging between five months to twelve years of age. I did combined cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries. Of the 11 surgeries that I did, my youngest patient was 5 months and the oldest was 14 years old. There were nine girls and two boys.
On the second day I did the difficult combined procedures. Please keep in mind that this is a small mission hospital with about 50 beds and one primitive operating room with an anesthesia machine that is basic with only halothane and no respirator. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Sharma had never done any cleft cases before and really rose to the occasion and did a splendid job.
Electrical power supply in this area is very unreliable and unpredictable. There was no electricity during most of the day as precious electricity is diverted to the farms for agriculture. We survived on a generator that provided very weak power during our surgeries. Instrumentation was very basic, but I had my Dingman retractor and a few instruments from the US and sutures.
It was very encouraging and satisfying to see that all the surgeries went off smoothly and there were no complications. On the second day we did four surgeries and on the last day we did about five cases. The operating room is use to handling approximately two cases per day. It was indeed quite unique for them to be doing so many cases. But the nurses, assistants, and scrub technicians were extremely experienced, well trained, efficient, and very helpful at all times. The patients incurred no charges and had all their care including surgery, hospital stay, and medications for free.
This trip was both fulfilling and tragic. The gratitude of those who received treatment was tempered by the anguish of those who had to be turned away. That was heart wrenching. The doctors, nurses and employees of the Mission Hospital are dedicated, caring, and undaunted; they are an altruistic, enterprising, and venerable group of individuals.
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