Welcome to healthcare in India

By Saralyn Mast – Horizon News & Features Editor

Most Hesston students used this past spring break as a time to rejuvenate, travel, see family, sing with chorale, or work in Texas or Georgia. For seven nursing students and four community members, this time off led them to India.

“It was our goal in to have the students increase their knowledge and relationships with each other and other cultures,” nursing professor Jean Rodgers said. “We wanted to expose them to all parts of India and have them start looking at a framework of healthcare in other cultures.”

This team going to India started to widen these areas of their life as they embarked on what became “an indescribable experience,” starting at Menno Clinic in Chiluvuru.

John Murray, Pastor at Hesston Mennonite Church and Subbarrao Yarlaggada, founders of Menno Clinic, led the trip along with Rodgers. Students Anna Yoder, Grace Schmidt, Kara Ropp, Rachel Tippin, Logan Duerksen, Rachelle Wenger, and Andrea Delgado, as well as Pastor Murray’s son John, departed Wednesday, February 29.

Monday and Tuesday: Rounds at Menno Clinic

The team rotated through multiple observations at Menno Clinic on Monday and Tuesday. Taking blood pressure, sitting in with the doctor, visiting the pharmacy, and observing the dental and eye care clinic, the group took in the busy day-to-day of the clinic. Tuesday they actually got to see cataract surgeries. The surgeon completed six surgeries that day despite having to complete one procedure by flashlight when the electricity turned off mid-surgery.

They observed differences in methods. Anna Yoder noted, “instead of putting booties on like in an American hospital, we would always take our shoes off to keep the germs out of the surgery room.” Anna also commented on how the doctor would suck on tubes to get the amount of blood or liquid he needed, instead of using pipettes, the instruments doctors use in the United States.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: Hospital Visits

The team toured Siddhartha Medical College, Nagarjuna Hospital, and a government hospital on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. During that time they got to observe a doctor intubate patients, which is the process where the put a breathing tube down the patients throat.

Yoder, who is accustomed to the sterile environment of American medical facilities, said that she was shocked by the state of the government hospital.

“It was beyond explanation,” said Yoder. “‘Dirty’ does not describe what it was like.”

Nor does the word “crowded.” These hospitals, which accommodated 1,000 patients a day with only 50 doctors and 120 nursing staff, were set up in wards with rows of beds and on top of that, the patient’s families would be with them too.

Yoder described some of the methods used by medical personnel. One of the most concerning was the fact that the staff did not wear gloves, which Yoder said “was very scary” considering the prevalence of hepatitis and HIV among patients.  In fact, one doctor explained that they treat all their patients like they have HIV and Aids until proven otherwise.

Yoder said Wednesday was her favorite experience. The school they visited was so welcoming, giving them a tour and showing them the labs.

“The school was very proud of what they had and gave up their time for us,” Yoder said.

Students did not just show them around, it was the head honcho that gave the tours.

Yoder explained that the welcoming experience “showed their culture.

“They give up what little they had for our sakes,” she said.  “What if someone from India came here? What would it look like to have President Keim stop what he was doing and give them a tour?”

Weekend: Free Time

In the rest of their time in India, they made a lot of house visits in Chiluvuru. They also shopped for saris, got temporary henna tattoos for a wedding ceremony they were invited to, visited a Hindu temple, milked cows, churned butter to make curd, a yogurt side dish, and packed as much local culture as possible into one weekend.

On Monday and Tuesday they made their way back to Hesston College with mixed emotions. They had to leave their new friends at the Menno Clinic but they were also excited to be back home.

Murray summed up the experience on the trip blog:

“In the past two weeks we have sat on ridiculously long flights, eaten new foods, seen a different healthcare system, been immersed in a new language and culture, and most importantly, built relationships across all these barriers.”

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