By Rajiv Pradhan, past governor of District 3132 and primary project contact for the medical mission to Nigeria
The medical mission to Nigeria was a life-changing experience for the Indian doctors who took part and for the children who underwent polio-corrective surgeries.
The orthopedic surgeons, all with experience in these types of surgeries, came from all corners of India. Many more surgeons and anesthesiologists wanted to join than we had room for on the team.
The Nigerian doctors at both the Federal Medical Centre in Keffi and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada came alongside our team and formed a true partnership. They rose early to be ready to start surgery at 8:30 a.m., and continued through to 5:30 p.m., even though their normal ending time was 2 p.m. They even agreed to work on their off day, Saturday, eagerly observing as our team operated.
“Well done, sir,” they would say with a smile to our doctors at the completion of every surgery. That was perhaps not only our greatest reward, but reflected how deeply Nigeria wants to get rid of polio in their country.
The tears of joy, gratitude, and blessings from the parents gave us a daily dose of energy. Traveling an hour and a half each way from out hotel to the hospitals, and then working 8-9 hour days was well worth the price to see the smiles on the faces of the parents.
When I asked the ward nurses to tell the parents of the children how important it was for them to spread the word about immunizations in their community, they readily obliged, and did so diligently.
The support, financially and otherwise, from Nigerian districts 9125, 9110, 9140 led by GD Flex and Project Chair Saliu Ahmad was outstanding. District 3630 in Korea and District 3140 in India also contributed valuable financial support that combined with a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant.
Nigeria’s minister of health, Prof. C.O. Onyebuchi Chukwu, became personally involved in our mission, accepting an invitation to conduct a surgery with our team. “Next year we should be able to stop the spread of wild polio virus,” he told the waiting media, and suggested that the Nigerian doctors might join the Indian team to conduct similar camps in other countries.
We were also grateful for the support of three past RI presidents, Rajendra K. Saboo, who lead the mission and participated with hands-on service, Jonathan Majiyagbe, who joined us in Abuja, and Kalyan Banerjee, who came alongside our team for three days, encouraging us and uplifting our spirits.
The children will require post-operative care. Some will also need callipers to stand up and achieve mobility. For now, the callipers will come from Lagos or Kano. Our mission chair Dr. Deepak Purohit and I, guided by Saboo and fully supported by Nigeria District 9125, are planning to set up a facility for making callipers and prosthetic limbs in Abuja, with training for personnel, to make it a comprehensive center.
For the entire team, the experience was incredible. We saw the triumph of Rotary service extending beyond borders.