The LifeLine Express – “Hospital on Wheels”
9 am in Dumka. People begin to arrive and form the "Indian Line" at the city's train station. Although LifeLine Express has already arrived a few days ago to prepare the next 25 days that will be in the city, people are already getting impatient. Everyone wants the same! The opportunity to have the cataracts operated for free. Something they thought would be impossible until the arrival of the "Hospital on Wheels" to the region.
On 16 July 1991 the first hospital train opened. We are talking about Lifeline Express. The LifeLine Express is a hospital train, the "hospital on wheels", which goes to the most remote areas of India, allowing free medical intervention for groups of needy people in areas of difficult access which are without any form of health services . The convoy of six cars are equipped with medical equipment of the latest generation and offers free medical care. It has two operating rooms, dorms and common areas for volunteers who are on the train, a kitchen and offices.
Every two months, with financial support from sponsors (who decide with the help of the LifeLine Express team where to go) the "hospital on wheels" settles for 25 days in a locality to offer medical support. The days are divided into 5 specialties: Eyes, ears, orthopedics, plastic surgery and breast cancers. The most filled week is the week of the eyes where the volunteer doctors, usually 4, divide between the two operating blocks and perform operations for the cataracts. They can do between 80 and 200 operations per day in certain locations. Most people seek out the cataract operation because most villages have eye problems. Most are elderly people. Young people go to cities in search of a better life.
In the 25 days that are installed there are 20 workers to help throughout the logistics of the project, doctors, nurses, cooks, etc.
Among them is the Project Manager, Anil Darse, who for him "this project is extremely important! We are going to areas where there are no specialized doctors and where there are no health conditions. That is why we are here in Dumka. " For him it is a pride to be part of such a project and a unique project in the world! The person who recently joined the team is Dr. Veronica Pinto who has worked part-time 10 days a month since August 2018. She is a professor at Mumbai Hospital and because of her experience in the 40-year-old operating theater she thinks that she can give her help on LifeLine Express. Most do not have many experiences in the hospital and many people did not want to stay so far from home so "I'm happy to be able to help." She is in charge of managing the train medications. "Whenever I can, I'll help the project. It's my way of helping those in need." "It's important because people do not have faith to have treatment in their villages, they lose hope. They come back to have hope with the train. Nobody's going, we're going! ".
Even though it was not usual to repeat the doctors for everyone to have a chance to help, the doctors in Dumka would like to get back to work on the train and help with the LifeLine Express project. Dr Manoj Bhivate, 32 years old, from Mumbai, is in the project simply to help and not to make money.
"It makes me feel good to help these people and India. I can take 5 or 6 days of work for help. It is my first time here but I am sure that I will re-collaborate with LifeLine." The same goes for his colleague, Dr Abhijeet Misal, 30 years old from Pune. "It's also my first time, this train helps people and I like to help good causes like this! I will definitely come back; I hope to return to the next project in two or three months."
Meanwhile in Dumka every day dozens and dozens of people are coming in to check up and wait for the doctor's decision to find out if they need to operate or not. Whoever's in the queue for surgery for the second time is Vimali Mandal, 67. After being operated on successfully, she is happy because "I have had problems for many years and I came to try to be operated again because I was not well again. I'm glad I did well because I was a little scared. The conditions are very good and the fact of not paying immense help. I did not have the money to go to normal hospital. "
Suboodh Jha, 72 years old, one of the last patients to be operated on, was already getting impatient with the operation. "For fear of not having an opportunity to be operated on. Not afraid of the operation." He had been waiting for two days, he thought he was not going to be operated and by late afternoon, at night, he was operated in an operation that took about 15 minutes. He was still half-dozing but happy! "I'll finally see well. I can not remember the last time I could see well. I still have one eye but I'm already happy and very grateful to the LifeLine Express. "
After 5 days just caring for patients with vision problems it is time to prepare the next few days that also expect a hundred of people. This time it will be time to heal the ears. After 20 days parked in the Dumka Junction the train will stop for two months but everyone on the project will be eager to start again to help the most forgotten people of India and ready to take the hospital train on wheels to the more remote regions.