For 8+ years, Gold Coast Hand Therapy therapists have given up their Christmas holidays to travel to India with local Plastic Surgeon Dr Dilip Gahankari as part of his annual, free reconstructive /plastic surgery camp in rural India at the Mahatma Gandhi Tribal Hospital. The majority of people who are seen are tragic victims of very poor post burn management and have developed burn contractures never seen in Australia or western countries.
During the camp, there are life-changing surgeries performed on village people who have often travelled several days to come to the camp. Many sleep under the trees or in makeshift camps awaiting their surgery.
Dr Gahankari and the team collect donations all year round in order to run a western style operating theatre. They bring along visiting local surgeons, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a therapist as well as several kilograms of sutures, dressings, sterile gloves and thermoplastic material. Gold Coast Hand Therapy donates the thermoplastic material for splints made while at the camp and the therapist leaves behind additional material for the local staff to use.
Each day begins with a morning walk around the camp at dawn and finishes late into the evening. Over 2-3 days approximately 100-150 procedures (large and small) are expertly performed. For the therapists, the days are filled running between 2 theatres making post-op splints for neck, arms, hands, legs and feet, taking many photos, learning to be theatre nurse assistants and checking on recovery, as well as liaising with the local lay-trained nursing team (using our very best sign language and limited Hindi). Lots of love, respect, enthusiasm, vegetarian food and chai tea makes the camp go round!!!
The trip also includes a visit to a local orphanage for children with disabilities. The local therapists are excited to use thermoplastic material and Velcro for their happy but physically challenged patients (many of whom have Cerebral Palsy). It is a wonderful day of sharing knowledge and skills. The therapist must work as speedily as possible and quickly discovers how fast a wrist splint can be made! Try 20+splints in 2 hours – yikes!
Gold Coast Hand Therapy therapists who return from the India experience are forever changed personally and professionally. They are humbled by the angels that work amongst us and alongside us. As they return to their well-resourced clinics and comfortable lives they experience a renewed sense of perspective regarding their own lives and clinical practice.