Written by Michelle Ngirbabul (Communications and Development Intern) and Tristan Alexander (Elon Fellow)
How can a single procedure drastically change the lives of an individual, a family, or a community? I had the privilege of working one-on-one with past recipients from CRHP’s January 2016 surgical camp as well as new patients for our upcoming camp last month to listen and record stories about their lives. I also helped collect their diagnostic tests in preparation of our December camp with our partners, the Freedom from Poverty Foundation. This unique experience allowed me to enter into the surgical world and start to seriously think about how surgeries, often referred to as the “neglected stepchild of global health”, can be critical and life changing in the field of development.
In a 2011 bulletin, the World Health Organization outlined three common misperceptions about surgery: 1) many think surgical care is of low priority because it does not effectively decrease the global burden of disease; 2) surgery is much too expensive an intervention to be included in public health; and 3) worldwide surgical imbalance has largely been confined to providing short-term relief through medical missions. These misconceptions are largely to blame for the lack of major donors willing to support or acknowledge the importance of surgery within the global health field. Rather, these misconceptions continue to allow the deaths of more than five million people a year, primarily breadwinners in households and delays critical investment in adequate local health infrastructure and staff training.
Along with our partner, FFPF, CRHP recognizes the long-term good that can come from investing in surgeries, but don’t just take my word for it! Read some of our stories to hear from the recipients themselves on how their surgical procedures and our donors’ generosity will drastically alter their lives. The stories I collected showcased struggle and undying perseverance. Find the profiles below of our new patients for our December Camp! Don’t forget to check out our other post to learn more about our returning patients!
Sheikh Hamid Shabib
One fire, five people, and thirty seconds. Thirty seconds was all it took to uproot the lives of the Shabib family. Twenty years ago, Sheikh’s house caught on fire while his four kids were inside of the house. The kids’ ages range from four to ten years old. Refusing to accept the idea that his kid’s lives could be lost, Sheikh ran into the house to save them. During his rescue mission, he got badly burned from the waist up and suffers from severe injuries to his upper extremity. Sheikh now has burn contractures throughout his upper body and bone deformities on his hands and arms. His wife suffers from asthma because of the fire and is unable to work. While her husband was in recovery, she worked in the fields as a laborer, but it became more challenging and dangerous and she quit not long afterwards. Despite the accident, Sheikh had to find work, and he became the only breadwinner in the family.
Gokul Maruti Hazare
On what seemed like a regular day, Gokul Maruti Hazare decided to visit a friend at a local family-owned restaurant. Gokul never would have guessed the series of events that occurred that day – or that by the end of it everyone would call him a hero. On that fateful day, Gokul’s friend got into a heated argument with his wife which escalated into a fierce fight. His friend, devastated by the impact of his deteriorating relationship, decided to take his own life. His friend’s method of choice? Fire via gasoline. Flames were everywhere. The heat was sweltering. The smoke was thickening by the second. Gokul only had a few precious seconds to act — so he did. The dark cloud of smoke that surrounded the restaurant left Gokul gasping for air. Unwilling to see his friend die, Gokul braved the intense flames and heat to retrieve his friend, uncaring of the consequences. Luckily, they both escaped alive; however, they have worn the emotional and physical scars of this bittersweet day since then.
Gokul is a hard-working man. He is 42 years old and has a wife, a son, and a daughter. He was a driver prior to his accident, and although he did not make a lot of money, he made enough to support his family. Prior to his heroic attempt, Gokul drove long distances; however, now he can only drive for short periods of time due to the excruciating pain resulting from burn contractures on his left axilla, elbow, and fingers. Because of the tremendous cut back on his driving, Gokul makes significantly less money now and is unable to support his wife and two children. Gokul hopes this surgery will help repair some of the damage to his fingers so that he can resume work and continue to financially support his family.
Suraj Prakash Walunjkar
Suraj grew up in a tiny village named Jawala. Suraj’s mother experienced birth complications during his delivery, and Suraj was born with in his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. As a result, he suffered from oxygen restriction to the brain, which severely impacted his cerebellum. Suraj now has extreme difficulty walking and standing because the cerebellum controls our balance. He now battles cerebral palsy every day. His autonomy in movements is restricted, and he always needs support. Suraj had surgery done on tendons behind the knee and on his hips two years ago; however, it was not enough to help him gain enough control and mobility to walk independently. Suraj is still unable to grip objects, walk, or reach. These are movements we learn as babies and often times we take for granted. Despite all odds, Suraj is a survivor- he continues to pursue an education. He is now in seventh standard and is working as hard as he can to pursue his passions. Suraj and his family are grateful that CRHP can be a part of his life-long journey to recovery and can help him continue to gain the gift of mobility.