Providing Relief to the Physically Challenged !

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
But our worst crime is abandoning the
children, neglecting the fountain of life,
Many of the things we need can wait, The child
Right now is the time his bones are being
formed, his blood is being made and his senses
are being developed….
To him we cannot answer 'Tomorrow'
His name is 'Today'………

In 1985 Rotary International embarked on a very ambitious program to eradicate the dreadful disease of Polio from the face of the earth by the year 2005. PolioPlus program has actually brought Rotary on the center-stage in recent years and greatly enhanced its public image, particularly in India. As an offshoot of this program of the eradication efforts and to take care of children already affected by Polio, Rotary embarked upon a new project titled ' Polio Corrective Surgery & Rehabilitation Camps' in the year 2002 under the dynamic leadership of PRIP Rajendra K. Saboo and TRF Trustee Kalyan Banerjee. Since then, Rotarians have been dedicatedly helping to provide corrective surgery and rehabilitation to children who have been crippled by polio in different places of the country.

The protective polio vaccinations that most of us take for granted were unavailable or denied to these unfortunate children for one reason or the other. Many of them can only sit or crawl on the ground, and some fight starvation by begging or being exploited. It is difficult to believe that in this 21st century with all its affluence and expertise, such a situation should be allowed to continue and yet it does.

These ostracised and economically neglected children face a bleak childhood and an even worse adulthood - without any hope of employment or marriage in an underdeveloped economy with no social safety net and few medical or financial resources. Corrective surgery is a kind of surgery which enables these crippled and ostracized children to experience life as contributing members of their community rather than experience life as a perpetual burden. It aims to improve the function of the affected limbs by overcoming the effects of muscle paralysis, e.g tendon transfers, correcting deformities, restoring joint mobility, stabilising frail and unstable joints, relieving pain, restoring limb length discrepancy etc.

Polio Corrective Surgery cannot correct the nervous system damage that causes polio's muscle weakness as such. However, it can improve limbs that have stiffened into a non-useful position or that have become too loose to bear weight, or whose muscle control is unbalanced. This treatment enables patients to stand, walk and become self-supporting with the aid of properly fitted devices like calipers and special boots or, in a few cases, to have their limbs mobile enough to be able to sit in a wheelchair.

After surgery, the limbs are cast into the proper position for healing. Local doctors and nurses are given training and written instructions on when and how to change and remove the casts and what kind of rehabilitation and devices each child will need afterward.

A matching grant from The Rotary Foundation and RID 5170, California, US, is funding these surgery camps in strategic and Polio endemic areas of UP and Bihar.

This Grant has made it possible to restore mobility to nearly 2,000 young children between the ages of 5 and 15 in India, who have been crippled by Polio. During these camps, Rotary members ensure pre-surgical screening, quality surgical intervention, post operative care and physiotherapy and provide appliances free of charge. They approach this project with care and concern as it is being conducted under the banner of Rotary. The image of Rotary and of all the Rotarians, the benefit accruing to the patients and to the polio eradication program all depends on the successful and effective conduct of these camps and the extent of follow-up Rotary does, says PDG Raman Bhatia,Member, India National PolioPlus Committee and the driving force behind the successful implementation of this project in India. Most of the beneficiaries are from the economically weaker sections of the society with a low level of literacy rate and unless they are given full attention they will not be able to derive optimum benefit from this project.

It was a conscientious decision by INPPC to undertake Polio Corrective Surgery Camps in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as a first step. 22 such camps have been successfully organized in different towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar so far. Many more such camps could be in the offing. Thanks to the personal contribution of several leading Rotarian Orthopaedic Surgeons who have travelled long distances to spare their valuable time and expertise for these camps. They responded so spontaneously and extended this yeomen service to the polio afflicted children of India's most endemic areas and that too free of cost, often neglecting their own private practices and leaving their homes for nearly a week for each camp..

Working from dawn to dusk, local Rotarians joined as volunteers everywhere and worked enthusiastically and dedicatedly. They would go to the wards early in the morning, prepare the patients, wash the limbs for the surgery, and even help in the plaster! All together … operations were performed in a short span of time. Patients were given well fitting calipers where necessary.

Parents of the afflicted patients were very happy and expressed gratitude, because their child otherwise would never have walked on his or her own feet. The eyes of the parents more than expressed their gratitude and they became goodwill ambassadors on their own, spreading the message of the need for regular and the Immunisation , ill effects of Polio etc. in their respective areas. The project was in fact not only a highlight of the PolioPlus Program during 2002/2003 but also served as an effective social mobilization & awareness initiative.

As these camps are part of the social mobilization efforts of the PolioPlus Program, Rotary distributes pamphlets, displays posters, puts up hoardings and banners at strategic locations in the town or city - Promoting the camp. Then a good Nursing Home/Hospital with a well-equipped Operation Theatre is identified to accommodate atleast 30 to 40 post surgery cases. Prior to that, complete records of each patient are meticulously maintained with the assistance from the State or District Administration and respective organizing Rotary Clubs . 15 days prior to these camps, Rotary publicises them by various means to inform people about the exact location, the dates and names of the expert surgeons participating. Rotary also adopts the interpersonal communication strategy as an effective communication tool to convince parents of polio afflicted children.

After several months of participation in polio corrective surgery projects in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar through several Rotary Matching Grants, it became evident that Rotary in India needs a much larger support in order to take care of thousands, instead of hundreds, of children. In Uttar Pradesh alone, there are presently over 60,000 children in need of corrective surgery and rehabilitation.

What we seek now is a solution for the crippling effects of this disease. Every Polio afflicted child in our country must be extended this benefit of rehabilitation through Polio Corrective Surgery and Rehabilitation Camps so that he or she can live a life of dignity and be able to go to school & grow upto to be an asset to the Society; observes NCM PDG Raman Bhatia.


Actual Photos