Cerebral Palsy, Paediatric Neurology, Gynaecology, Orthopaedics, Ophthalmology and General Medicine Camps January 2020

Spotlight on the first camp of the year

With over 400 patients and a team of five doctors, appointments stretched, from the early morning late into the evening of Saturday 18th, January. One light, though, shone through the whole day - Haven's new slit lamp gave Dr Suman Biswas more insight than ever into his patients' vision. As we awoke that morning, we were all filled with a sense of something great to come. A slit lamp allows ophthalmologists to diagnose a number of chronic and vision-endangering conditions, that can't be seen otherwise. Our newest asset, a highly sophisticated and specialised piece of healthcare equipment was going to be put to use for the very first time.

For such a significant moment in Haven's calendar, our new Ophthalmology consulting chamber, named the "Slit Lamp Examination Room", had a red ribbon tied across its closed door. We waited with considerable anticipation for the grand opening, when the true architects of this amazing achievement would arrive to cut the ribbon and signal the start of our most advanced Ophthalmology Camp to date.

With a view to surpassing the eye care on offer during our weekly optometry clinics at the centre, Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr Suman Biswas put forward the inspiring idea of acquiring a slit lamp during his very first visit to the Haven Centre back in January 2019. While running the Ophthalmology Camp, he observed many potentially debilitating and dangerous ocular conditions were being missed and left undiagnosed. Dr Biswas felt the villagers' lives could be dramatically changed for the better if a slit lamp was available during eye examinations. This inspiration became a reality thanks solely to the extraordinary generosity bestowed by Dr Sunil and Mrs Shipra Roy, who have been championing Haven's cause for a long time.

They have always supported our projects on the ground and, with their enduring commitment, they seized this opportunity to do even more to advance our work. "Turning Memories into Hope" is the mission statement of the Ipshita Memorial Trust which was set up by Sunil and Shipra Roy to honour their daughter, Ipshita. Having just recently qualified as a doctor and about to set out into the world to follow in her father's footsteps, Ipshita was so very cruelly taken from their lives by the criminal actions of a negligent driver. This benevolent donation through The Ipshita Memorial Trust, by Sunil and Shipra Roy, means so many patients can now be given the hope of keeping their sight. And, indeed, it is a wonderful way of honouring the memory of their daughter, Ipshita.

Grappling with 110 patients for the January 2020 Ophthalmology Camp, our two opticians, who run our weekly optometry clinic, began their work early from 8am carrying out eye tests and other basic diagnostics. This meant that many of the referred cases requiring slit lamp investigation would be ready by 10:30am when Dr and Mrs Roy, and Dr Suman Biswas were all expected to arrive. A Haven member took the time to visit the Ophthalmology waiting room to address all the patients and explain just how fortunate they were to be the very first to have the opportunity of such advanced eye examinations.

On top of his donation, Dr Roy also ran the General Medicine Camp, where he was on a tight schedule. Even though he needed to leave the centre at 5 o'clock sharp, he was still seeing patients while the cars outside were loading up and getting ready to set off! In total, Dr Roy, with his usual friendliness and outstanding level of care for each patient, saw 96 cases and referred 5 for further investigation.

It's not since February 2017 that Dr Sheela Purkayastha has been able to make a visit to our centre. She is the only gynaecology consultant that the women from the village have had enough courage to ask Haven members, specifically, to bring back. They've repeatedly told us that Dr Purkayastha really listens, and understands their problems or at least tries to, without judgement or embarrassment for them. She also spends the time to get to know her patients' family and home lives, to find out all the possible reasons behind the conditions they present with. This time was no exception to her previous form, Dr Purkayastha provided solicitous care to 45 women, and referred 6 for further treatment. She was assisted by MBCF's now fully trained nurse, Rumki, who's been with us for many years and has become an invaluable member of the team. Dr Purkayastha complimented Rumki's ability to pick up the gynae-specific skills quickly, and without any need to repeat instructions or requests, which helped the camp run very smoothly.

The other half of the Purkayastha duo is Professor Sudipta Purkayastha. It's their fourth visit together for a camp, after an almost three year absence. He ran the Orthopaedic Camp well into the evening, past the referral board meeting, as many of the villagers wanted to make the most out of his superb skills. For the last three years people had come to MBCF to ask if the "bone-doctor" was coming back. Many of his consultations required exercises to treat pains that they were experiencing, while culturally in the area patients expect medications, Prof. Purkayastha painstakingly explained the benefit of specific exercises for each ailment. One patient [pictured] wasn't sure about the approach, at all, but after being gently shown the exercise for her chronic back pain, she felt relief for the first time and, in surprise, told a nearby Haven member: "Oh my word, it's true! I think the pain has gone down a bit!" By the end of a very long day, Prof Purkayastha saw 79 patients in total, and referred 7. The camp was run at the highest standard, and every patient left with the right treatment for their condition.

This first camp of the year included Haven's second ever Paediatric Neurology camp. Dr Santanu Bag, who first assisted in Cerebral Palsy, ran it again after a successful camp around the same time last year. As a paediatric neurologist he treats children who have problems with their nervous system, which can start in the brain, spine, nerves, or muscles. These can lead to problems such as seizures, headaches, or developmental delays. In this camp Dr Bag exercised his impressive experience and knowledge, by drilling down into the details of each patient with their parents. His consultations were long and precise, trying to unpick the symptoms and onsets. Dr Bag worked closely with Prof. Purkayastha and Asis Ghosh, in Cerebral Palsy, to discuss different diagnostic and management steps for each child. On this third visit, he saw 38 children, and referred 8 for more tests.

Asis Ghosh first met the MBCF team through Prof. Sudipta Purkayastha's connection to the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP). This year, along with his colleague Tanusree Das, Special Educator, they both returned to HAVEN as individuals working privately, and running their own Cerebral Palsy camp. Asis saw all 35 CP children that MBCF has been looking after from very early in their lives. He monitored their progress, and continued the care and management techniques that he so diligently taught the parents in previous visits. Crucially, Asis advanced those techniques in the children he found most responsive to cognitive stimuli, giving their parents new information. The day was long, because Asis explained and demonstrated each activity to the parents of every child. The new methods were made clear and kept simple, giving each parent the gift of bringing comfort and excitement to their children. One particular moment of joy was when a little boy with heavily impaired vision, was able to reach out and grab a 'smiley-face', drawn on a card and then mimic the expression. The boy's mother was delighted, as was Asis as he could see the child respond brightly to the exercise.

As with all previous camps, the centre hosted a break with a mouth-watering feast, and a cultural performance. It gave both volunteers and patients a moments' breathing space, and a time to come together. For this camp, the lunch, known as a 'bhandara', was sponsored by the Majumdar family who have been a part of HAVEN since it was founded. The lunch was held in the memory of Dr Rupendra Kumar Majumdar and was enjoyed by all who came. We would like to thank the Majumdar family for their kind sponsorship.

Haven's biggest thanks must always go to the MBCF staff and volunteers, some of who attended our primary learning centre and are now students of the Haven Academy. Without our team on the ground, the camps could not have taken place, and so many patients, who have no other means of accessing affordable healthcare, could not have been helped. These thanks of course extend to all the visiting doctors and consultants, whose generosity will not be forgotten, and whose time has already changed the lives of the people Haven helps.









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