Medical mission to Congo Republic touches 1,600 lives
Chetan Aggarwal, governor of District 3080 (center), arrives with members of the medical mission to Brazzaville, Congo Republic.
T he 70-year-old woman, paralyzed from the waist down, looked frail and desperate as she appealed to the visiting doctors from India for help.
Her vision limited by cataracts for more than 20 years, the woman explained how she had been repeatedly passed over for care, and how she had become a burden to her family and others, recalls Rajendra K. Saboo, 1991-92 RI president and 1996-97 Rotary Foundation trustee chair, who helped organize the medical mission to the Republic of the Congo.
The woman's cataracts were removed and an intraocular lens implanted. Saboo, providing some extra help in the operating room, lifted the woman off the table to return her to her wheelchair.
"You could see the gleam in her eyes and on her face. She had a very calm and serene expression," says Saboo. "She turned back and told the doctor thank you.
"There have been moments like that in each of my visits," he continues, recalling previous medical missions. "These are the moments when I feel far more satisfied than when I was sitting in the top office of [RI World Headquarters]."
The mission to Brazzaville, Congo Republic, in August included a team of 15 doctors from District 3080 (India), including three ophthalmic surgeons, three gynecologists, three anesthetists, two dental surgeons, two general surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, and a public health expert. Saboo, District Governor Chetan Aggarwal, and four other nonmedical volunteers assisted.
The mission was funded in part by a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant. The medical team spent 11 to 12 hours a day for 10 days at two hospitals treating about 1,600 patients, who were prescreened by volunteers from District 9150, which covers 10 countries in Central Africa and served as the host partner. The team also donated two incubators and 500 mosquito nets.
"The experience can never be described in words. The joyful faces, the grateful eyes, and the gratifying gestures are probably the best gift one could ever receive." -Gulshan Thakral
Saboo has organized a number of medical missions to various countries since 1998, including Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Swaziland, and Uganda. He said he has envisioned a mission to central Africa for a longtime, but because of a variety of obstacles, an opening emerged only recently.
Even with much need in his own country, Saboo says these medical missions are vitally important.
"We are not only treating patients, but we carry on the transfer of knowledge," he says. "The doctors work side by side with local doctors, imparting experience and knowledge.
"We do not live in our own needs," he continues. "I am not only looking out for my own country -- that I must do. But I must look even beyond that. In the process, we are building bridges of international friendship and understanding."
Gulshan Thakral, a dental surgeon and past governor of District 3080, says the mission has enriched his life.
"The experience can never be described in words," he says. "The joyful faces, the grateful eyes, and the gratifying gestures are probably the best gift one could ever receive. It has added yet another dimension in my approach to the suffering of fellow human beings on this earth."