Not many in the flood-ravaged Kumarkhand block of Madhepura can afford a smile these days. In the midst of turbulent Kosi stream, there are only wails and moans. But on Monday, Bibi Rukshana and Sunita Devi could afford to smile in a long time. For a moment, they seemed to have forgotten all the flood-induced miseries.
Reason: Their newborns had been pulled out from the jaws of death, thanks to a team of doctors from Mumbai-based Aas - Centre for Human Hope. "Look, the baby is now feeding by herself. He was not even opening his eyes a day ago," said an excited Dr (Mrs) Santosh Goel, pointing towards the child sleeping by the side of an overwhelmed Rukshana.
Sunita sat close by with her 28-day old child in her lap. "He is also making movements now," she said with excitement, trying to draw the attention of Dr (Mrs) Santosha. The undernourished infant had been suffering from meningitis in the village surrounded by water, filth and mosquitoes.
"His situation was alarming. We just gave a couple of injections to the child and asked the mother to board the boat. . I was myself unsure if the child would survive, but the Almighty has saved him," said Dr Santosh, whose passion for work defied her age. Within a day, both responded to medication.
The 16-member team came all the way from Mumbai and sailed into the interiors of Madhepura on Army rescue boats to provide desperately needed medicare to the people where they needed them the most. "We tried to approach the Administration, but we realized we would end up wasting time. Instead, we approached the Army," said Dr Paresh Choksi, another senior member of the team.
In the last three days, the Aas team visited several far-flung and marooned villages of Madhepura, where government doctors are yet to reach, to take medicare to the doorsteps of the hapless. It takes them nine to ten hours - starting off at 7 am and returning at 5 pm or 6 pm.
"There is growing indication of outbreak of diarrhoea in most villages, including in Parsai, Bhatni, Tengraha, Siklyani, Rauta, Gopalpur Belhi and Patraha villages. A majority suffers from fever. There are several others with ulcers and abdomen pain. We have also performed quite a few surgeries, as we carry autoclave drums to keep sterilized equipment," said Dr Nageen Nirmal.
Quite a few surgeries were performed at the Singheshwar Army camp in Madhepura. "It would not have been possible for us to treat nearly 700 patients and distribute medicines had it not been for the Army people. None of us know swimming. But they took excellent care to help us serve more and more," said Dr Santosh, who came also with her son and daughter, both of whom are studying medicine in Australia.
On Tuesday, the team left for Mumbai, as unsung as they had arrived, and after paying Rs 12,000 as room rent in a hotel. "We don't want to talk about it. You are the first to catch me at the camp itself. I had been to Latur and Orissa as well. It just gives me satisfaction. The moment I read about the floods, I decided to move. All the doctors in the team came voluntarily, leaving their practice. But the administration could do more, if there were a coordinated effort to receive and place volunteers come from all over the country to help," she said.