Saturday, 15 January 2011
A little about the Polio Immunisation Awareness Rally as just part of the organised Rotary Indian Tour with District 9940 in January 2011 written by George Beaton of Takaro [Palmerston North] Club
We had an early start this morning and had to be ready for the bus at 8.15am as it was a fair distance across town to the school we were visiting, we had to allow for the traffic.
On arrival there were hundreds of school children lined up in their uniforms and banners all wearing the same yellow waistcoats as we were. We also had our black polo shirts on with NZ across the back and a huge silver fern across the chest. Also a Rotary cap - so we looked pretty impressive as a group, all 32 of us. There were a couple of elephants all rigged up, a camel and two young men on very long stilts with drums. We were given a briefing about what was going to happen, and of course had to learn the slogan to chant. It was a bit long but finished with "...END POLIO NOW!" Then at 10.30am after many speeches (Rotarians love making speeches) and balloon releasing we headed off around the local streets. What a commotion we stirred up with loud speaker blaring. Every so often we stopped, music was played and everybody was supposed to dance Bollywood fashion, everybody came out of their houses or looked down from their balconies, the local kids became very excited and wanted to do high fives and be photographed. We marched in chaotic slow fashion for just on two hours and miraculously ended up back at the school. The whole affair was exciting and also exhausting with the noise and you know it is difficult to smile continuously for 2 hours. We laughed later about what is must be like for celebraties etc doing the public walk about!
Then it was straight on the bus and around to St Stephens Hospital which works closely with Delhi Midtown. Here at this huge 800 bed Christian private funded hospital there is a special 8 bed ward for children affected by Polio. We meet the orthopaedic surgeon who heads the team working with these people and he gave a Power Point Presentation of cases he has been dealing with. Many with graphic photos of before and after comparisons. Basically these young people can have their deformities corrected by surgery but are still paralysed by this cruel disease and still have a certain degree of disability following all their treatment. So instead of having to crawl around on the floor as many of them did, they are up on their feet and use callipers and crutches to get around. Their dignity is restored and they can lead a comparably normal life.
Lunch was then served, Indian (mild they assured us) and butterscotch ice cream for dessert. We were then taken into the ward and introduced to the young people, the youngest was ten, either waiting for surgery or recovering from surgery, each patient’s complex tragic story was told to us. The surgeon has a passion for what he does. The young people and their parents’ present showed admiration and gratitude for the work he and his team do. These people do not have to pay; they have no way of paying.
It was emotional and harrowing to see how polio can and still effects young people in India.