Leprosy Mission Hospital Donation

Surgical Instruments Donation

by Prof David M Harris

My wife Ann and I travelled to the Leprosy Mission hospital in Purulia, West Bengal, India, in November 2017. We went to bless the patients and staff, but found we were in return abundantly blessed and humbled by their welcome. While there we asked Dr Famkina Darlong (Dr Fam) what was needed at the hospital. He gave us a list of surgical instruments, and upon return to England we searched for them.

Ann helping with the Ground Breaking of the new Purulia Outpatients Department, with Dr Panchanan and Dr Fam watching

These instruments will empower the surgeons in Purulia to transform the lives of their patients and give them new hope, and in some cases even save lives. I contacted a kind fellow by the name of Zak at Surtex Instruments in New Malden, Surrey. He explained that his company makes many of the instruments that were needed, and he requested a shipment of those available, at no charge! Specifically the instruments are: Nabatoff Varicose Vein Probes, Richardson Retractors, and DeBakey Forceps. True to his word, early in January the equipment arrived, and my wife Ann and I handed them over to the Chairman of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales (TLMEW), Peter Waddup (see photo). He committed they would arrive safely in Purulia

This generous offer, well over £800 in value, will be taken to Delhi in India, on the next part of its journey. From here they will be transported to Dr Ujjwal Hembrom at Purulia Hospital in West Bengal. On behalf of The Leprosy Mission, Dr Fam, Dr Ujjwal and the surgeons and patients of Purulia hospital, I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to Surtex for their help and generosity.

Ann Harris handing the donation of surgical instruments from Surtex to Peter Waddup, Chairman TLMEW

India is a country of 1.2 billion people, and the percentage of the population living below the international poverty line of £1 a day is an astounding 42%. The hospital that is receiving these instruments from Surtex, Purulia Leprosy Mission Hospital, is the oldest Leprosy Mission hospital in the world. It is located in the state of West Bengal in the eastern part of India. The largest city in West Bengal is Kolkata.

Purulia Hospital now treats around 30-40,000 people every year from West Bengal and neighbouring states. It provides a wide range of services including leprosy treatment and surgery to correct disabilities, ophthalmology, dermatology, orthopaedics and general surgical procedures.

TLMEW has been working in Purulia since 1888 when Wellesley Bailey founded the hospital. The famous artist and writer Eddie Askew and his wife Barbara served The Leprosy Mission in Purulia from 1952 to 1965, along with orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Paul Brand, whose pioneering tendon transfer techniques saw disabled leprosy-affected people able to use their hands and feet again. These techniques have now been used world-wide and Ann and I were present in theatre at some of these surgeries in 2017. It was thrilling to see the difference the surgeons make to these leprosy victims. When Dr Fam explained his need for the surgical instruments to achieve these tremendous life empowering changes to the patients in West Bengal, we both knew we had to obtain them. As such we are very grateful to Surtex Instruments for supplying this expensive equipment.

Dr Famkima and Dr Joydeepa

Dr Famkima and his wife, Dr Joydeepa, worked together running Purulia Hospital for the last 16 years. On call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the couple say they are grateful to God for keeping them fit and healthy and for His faithfulness in all they do.Dr Joy describes their workload as ‘phenomenal’ –
between 2014 and 2015 the number of patients treated at Purulia rose from 15,000 to 45,000, mainly in the outpatients department. Attracting committed junior doctors with a passion for working with the most marginalised people in society is always in their prayers.

Purulia is a small farming town, a six-hour train journey from the busy city of Kolkata. Ann and I took this journey on the ‘express’ train that averaged 50 km/h or 30 mph! There is little to attract newly-qualified doctors to the hospital when they know they could be working in better conditions for a higher salary in a big city.

“Faith is the only thing that keeps us going,” says Dr Joy. “There is frustration and stress every day but we see God’s hand in resolving problems. We take it one day at a time as we don’t know how many doctors will be with us from one month to the next.”

This donation of surgical instruments from Surtex Instruments is an example of the provisions the Lord has made to this work in Purulia.