Greetings from Pune, India!
Did I surprise you there? Were you expecting Peru? Healing the Children Northeast has a set of wonderful new opportunities to expand cleft lip and palate services across the Indian subcontinent. We are following in the footsteps of Dr. Dicksheet, led by his daughter, Supira Dixit. You can see an hour long film about his life by googling Flying on One Engine.
Where’s Pune? Well, it’s far away from New York, that is for sure. The time difference is almost opposite (10.5 hours) so the jet lag is bad in both directions. We flew to Dubai (about 12 hours) waited in the airport about 5 hours, took a flight to Mumbai for about 3 hours, and then a 4 hour bus ride…which took almost 6 hours. So yeah, it’s far.
Our team will be a total of 26 from Healing the Children, plus Dr. Larry Weinstein from New Jersey and 3 students. Dr. Weinstein has worked here at Sancheti Hospital for many years alongside Dr. Dicksheet, performing plastic surgery.
After about 3 hours of sleep laying down in an actual bed (oh heaven), we headed to the hospital for Screening Day. The chaos was minimal due to many years of previous plastic surgery “camps” as they call them here. Helen Buhler and I screened only the patients who were coming for cleft palate, cleft lip or other speech and hearing disorders, so we saw only a small fraction of the over 700 patients who passed through the screening process on Thursday. Thanks to Supria notifying the medical community that there would be speech therapy available on this trip, plus a good shot of serendipity, we were joined by two SLP students and a professor from The School of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology here in Pune. The students tirelessly translated and helped with patients all day. At the end, we were thanking them and they were thanking us, the mark of a good day and of a true exchange of ideas. We are invited to give an informal talk at the college on Monday, and they will be joining us here to see patients on Sunday as well!
By late afternoon, surgery was well under way for patients who needed only local anesthesia; in fact, the surgeons and nurses returned to the hotel quite late, to eat a delicious Indian dinner on the roof. The weather has been in the 80’s during the day, and in the 60’s at night, so the roof was a great place to relax and unwind before a proper night’s sleep at last.