Mobile Medical Clinics
More about Mobile Medical Clinics
When visiting one of the leprosy colonies we visited the local barber to see how his micro-business was doing. He asked if the mobile clinic staff was still changing bandages. While unwrapping the bandages, it became obvious that they had not been changed in quite some time. The stench was horrible, and on each side of his ankle there was a giant, open infected ulcer the size of a cantaloupe upon which several flies instantly landed. It was almost more than I could handle.
Our sweet nurse, however, was completely unfazed. She quietly went about the work of cleaning out the man's wounds, medicating them, and applying clean bandages. While it was obvious the man was in great pain, he submitted to her treatment without a challenge. He was grateful that he could count on the regular visits by the clinic.
A Clean Solution
The colonies suffer from a desperate lack of clean water and sewage facilities. Because there is no trash collection, rats, snakes, scorpions, and roaches are common. As the families usually sleep on the dirt floors, they must be constantly attentive to such threats.
The terrible conditions of the colonies naturally invite health problems. Scabies, ringworm, parasites, skin diseases, and lice are an all too common afflictions. They are also highly susceptible to normal infectious diseases that their compromised immune systems cannot fight off. TB, typhoid, cancer, pneumonia, meningitis, and other preventable diseases commonly plague the colonies. Most of the children have never received any vaccinations.
Many of the patients struggle with recurring ulcers. The skin of a leprosy patient is prone to rashes, drying, and breaking. These breaks become easily infected in the colony atmosphere. The patients also cope with a loss of pain in their extremities. What would seem like a blessing to most people is actually their greatest curse, because without the natural protection of pain, the patients easily and continually injure their limbs.
Food supplies are extremely limited. Begging normally provides less than a dollar a day. The patients feel lucky when they have enough rice. Usually dirty water rounds out their diet. In the government homes, the government provides simple meals, but in the colonies hunger is a constant problem.
The difficulty of transportation makes it challenging for the patients to receive regular or proper medical attention. Similar to diabetes patients, wounds on a leprosy patient are slow to heal. Before long, the wounds become gangrenous and sometimes even infested by maggots, requiring amputation.
Recognizing the need to address these issues directly, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh and Ellen Morton contributed the necessary means to establish the first Rising Star Outreach mobile medical clinic in April of 2005. Dr. Mani Balu, head of pediatrics at Uniontown Hospital in Pennsylvania, agreed to join the board as our medical advisor. He now donates more than half of his time working in India with the clinic. Dr. Krishnakanth, a rising star in Chennais medical community, heads the daily operations and has now become a trusted friend and visitor among the Leprosy patients.
Together with their medical team, the doctors have truly worked miracles as they travel from colony to colony, healing. They have been recognized by the governor of the State for their tireless efforts in the Leprosy colonies. Having eliminated the need for the patients to travel outside the colony for care, the patients are now receiving consistent treatment for ulcers and other health issues. Significant progress towards a healthier standard of living is slowly becoming a reality.