The memories will remain

by Matthias Völkner/RBU,  2011/10/21

The Duncan Hospital is a small mission hospital in the Indian town of Raxaul close to the border to Nepal. In Bihar, one of the poorest states of the country, it probably is the most important care facility for ill and severely ill persons living in the region.

Paramedic and medical student Matthias Völkner worked in India on an honorary basis for a period of four weeks. Photo: humedica

Since 2007, humedica has been sending doctors and medical care staff to the hospital regularly in order to support local staff in a sustainable way with their important work for the ill and poor of the region. Matthias Völkner from Tübingen is one of them. At the end of August of this year, he set out for India in order to offer his help.

"The mission at the Duncan Hospital was the first humedica mission I did not take part in as a coordinator, but as a medical team member. So far, my work for humedica in Darfur and Haiti always was strongly influenced by the respective current disaster situations and I mostly fulfilled the tasks of a coordinator, and did not have the time to treat many patients.

My journey from Germany to India took me from Stuttgart via Milan and then to New Delhi, where I was received by an employee of the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA), the provider of the Duncan Hospitals. Then I travelled by train for 26 hours in order to reach Raxaul, the location of the hospital I was to work at for the next few weeks.

The hospital grounds are very large, and staff, family members of the patients and the patients themselves are all accommodated there. I soon realised that I was working at a mission hospital, as every day began with a morning service, on Sundays there were two services and a Bible study group took place once a week.

Local doctors and nurses all worked at their performance limit, which is why an incredible amount of work can be done with a minimum number of staff.

Matthias Völkner stitching a head laceration. Photo: humedica

Being a medical student, for me the essential objective of this job was to learn from the chief physicians. My Indian colleague Dr. Sunil was responsible for me during my stay of several weeks and during the activities in the operating room. The range of surgeries went from caesarian sections to hand surgical interventions.

At the hospital they operated all the patients, whose treatment the surgeons felt capable to do and whose complaints could be treated with the means available at the hospital. I was soon integrated into these working procedures and after only one week I was assigned my own tasks. Being a trained paramedic, I assisted at the emergency department in order to make targeted use of my knowledge.

Many patients were hospitalised due to poisoning with organophosphates, and rapid action was necessary in these cases. I laid stomach tubes in order to remove the remaining poison from the stomach, laid feeding tubes so that the patients could be treated with the necessary antidote as soon as possible and I was responsible for securing the patients' breathing in consultation with the doctor on duty.

On one of my working days, we had five patients with profusely bleeding head lacerations. In order to relieve the doctor on duty, I took care of the wounds and stitched them in the small operating room. There were several situations like this one, when I could take over some patients and treat them myself. The local doctors were glad about this help, as they had some time to take care of additional tasks.

What was particularly impressive for me, however, was the visit to the Drop-In-Center, where drug addicts are provided with medical and pastoral care. In India, it is not illegal to buy drugs and hence, apart from the Indians, also many Nepalese travel accross the border to Raxaul in order to buy and consume drugs.

Matthias Völkner and his Indian colleagues, all of whom work at their performance limit - day by day. Photo: humedica

For me, it was very impressive to see the work of the employees at the Center. Many of the drug addicts have never before experienced love and affection. For many addicts, the encounter with Christians at the Drop-In-Center is the beginning of a life without addiction.

The employees invest a lot into their work, but nevertheless fast success or a change of the lives of the drug addicts can often not be achieved due to the high fluctuation rate. The work at the Drop-In-Center reminded me of the work Jesus did 2000 years ago: Jesus did not go to see the healthy, he turned to the ill and the poor in order to help them.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity of spending these weeks at the Duncan Hospital in India. Seeing the love and commitment the hospital staff members put into their work in order to help the people in Raxaul and the surroundings impressed me deeply.

In the end, I learned a lot during this stay not only from a medical point of view. The memories of the trust the doctors and nurses put into God in difficult situations will remain for a long time still."

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