December 5, 2007
Today we started out with an orientation meeting in the hotel lobby with more cautions with regard to the immunization process and our own intestinal health. While I am optimistic about the immunizations, my intestinal health may be another matter. We were told to bring our own toilet paper as well as avoiding anything that is not bottles or is steaming hot. Tomorrow we start by visiting the World Health Organization headquarters in Delhi and then fly to Dhaka. Tomorrow night will be in a hotel but from then on we will be staying at the home of a Rotary member in Bangladesh. There will be 2.4 million immunizations using the oral Sabin vaccine in this effort with the participation of 4,000 local Rotary members from 52 clubs. Our group will be doing some of the immunizations which require us to get the drops into the child's mouth.After our orientation meeting this morning we were bussed to the Escorts Heart Institute that has Rotary support and met with doctors and patients. For children the most common operation is closing a hole between the two sides of the heart which costs about $1,600. A man from the Netherlands was there who funds one operation a month from his own funds. Rotary provides support through the "Gift of Life" project. It is amazing how many Rotary clubs there are in India and Bangladesh and how active they are in this and the polio immunization program.In the afternoon we went to St. Stephens Hospital, the oldest in India, and visited the polio ward, talks to patients and doctors. It is heart wrenching to see these deformed children knowing that the disease is preventable. The hospital performs surgery to correct some of the deformity and provides braces and training for dealing with the disease. Again, Rotary provides support and most of the costs are not borne by the patients many of whom cannot afford the trip to Delhi for treatment. The program is being extended to outlying hospitals. In Bangladesh polio has been eradicated but has come back due to transmission from Nigeria through Pakistan and India. I suppose that the organizers scheduled this hospital visit so that we could see what happens if immunizations are not carried out. An interesting tidbit is that many children have chronic diarrhea which since the vaccine contains live virus and sanitation is poor, the immunized can actually provide immunizations to those they come in contact with that have not been officially immunized.