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    Experiencing India First-Hand: Giving Care and Compassion

    (September 1, 2016)

    EHA USA Executive Director Robb Hansen had the opportunity to travel to India and visit several EHA locations in July. In the coming months, in a series of articles, he will share his first-hand impressions of EHA's work.

    As my eyes drift across the green fields of crops that line the country road, I almost feel I could be in rural Iowa. Instead, I am in Maharashtra, a state in west central India, about two hours from the Arabian Sea. The fields are a mix of sugar cane, beans, and some corn. Rather than a big John Deere tractor, the farming implement of choice is pulled by a bullock. Much of the work is being done by hand and the farm-to-market process involves a stream of women bearing piled loads atop their heads.

    The jeep slows and we turn off the narrow paved road onto a dirt track.  My head rocks from side to side as we bounce along what is best described as a wide foot path.  Riding with me are Ashita and Danny, a doctor and a community health worker from Chinchpada Christian Hospital.  This is the second stop on an afternoon round of calls into the community to visit palliative care patients in their homes. The rain has stopped and the sun has come out. Soon we abandon the vehicle. It cannot take us where we need to go, and we continue on foot.

    In India, particularly among the poor, medical care to alleviate the suffering of dying patients is relatively rare. Scarce family resources hardly seem well-used when spent on someone who will soon die no matter what is done. There are mouths to feed. Education to pay for. Tools to buy. Still EHA manages an expanding effort at eight of its locations to alleviate suffering and demonstrate compassion for terminally ill patients who otherwise would be more or less left to die in pain and silence. This care underscores the values that drive EHA which reflect the worth of every individual.

    On this stop Dr Ashita, a gifted internal medicine doctor, gently examines her elderly patient. The woman lies on a rope bed on the "front porch" of the family's simple hut adjacent to their fields. A thin mattress beneath her provides some comfort, and was a gift from the community health team wanting to show Christian love to the woman and ease her last days. She is protected from the relentless assault of insects by a suspended mesh netting.  It is oppressively hot and humid now.  Sweat runs down the back of my neck as I watch the tender care EHA's team provides for this family. After quickly retrieving a second bed from inside the hut for me to sit on, the woman's husband stands nearby watching over her, quietly listening to the instructions of the doctor.

    There is very little that can be done. Now the woman is complaining of the tension in her abdomen and requests that the team drain the fluid from her to reduce the pressure. Unsure if it is necessary, the doctor decides that it is a simple enough step to take to demonstrate the reality that the team cares for the woman. Using a syringe and a bottle, the woman's belly is drained of the infected fluid that permeates her body. When the procedure is done, the doctor instructs the family (others have drifted nearby since our arrival) on how to administer the medicine that will provide relief in the coming days. Later Ashita told me that she only expected the woman to live another ten days.

    As we walk away from the dwelling, I am struck by the vast need here in India. In spite of the sophisticated government plans for medical care to reach into every corner of the country, the system all too often breaks down. The work of EHA is absolutely critical in places like Chinchpada where our hospital is the most sophisticated medical treatment facility for miles in every direction. Quite literally there would be no resources available to families like the one we have just visited if EHA was not here.

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    Hospital Contact Details

    Chinchpada Christian Hospital 
    Chinchpada, Taluka Navapur
    Nandurbar District,
    Maharashtra - 425 417
    PHONE: 02569-243226, 243243

    How to get there:
    Travel by train from Delhi to Surat by Rajdhani Express then 4 hours by jeep OR Fly to Surat then 4 hours by jeep to Chinchpada

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