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India 2018 – Preparing for a Big Day

Sunday is set-up day at the Sewa Sadan Eye Hospital in Bhopal. Surgical nurses unload supplies and arrange instruments. Surgeons screen patients. Behind a white curtain in a crowded waiting area, urologist Brandon Pomeroy, MD, interviews a patient with translation help from Nyana Sabharwal. He reviews the patient’s information and smiles.


“We’ll fix him up,” says Brandon.


Nyana shares this with the patient in Hindi. He beams and nods his head.

Nyana Sabharwal and Brandon Pomeroy, MD, consult with a patient.


Many of these patients have endured their ailments for years—sometimes as long as a decade. Anesthesiologist Pratibha Khare, MD, who helped launch the Medical Missions Foundation’s first trip to Bhopal in 2016, takes me to one of the operating rooms. Right now, it’s empty. But on Monday, Tammy Neblock-Beirne, MD, India Mission Medical Director, will perform 11 surgeries, mostly hernia and gallbladder operations.


“Those are expensive surgeries, so people don’t get them,” says Pratibha. “When you can’t afford food, you can’t afford surgery.”


In the afternoon, hospital staff and volunteers engage in a Hindu ceremony, offering prayers to holy deities. The smell of incense encircles the room. People clap and sing, taking turns to hoist a silver tray holding flickering candles. The blessings are for the team, the hospital, the patients, the work.


Tomorrow is a big day. Thirty-two surgeries are scheduled. The recovery room is quiet, but Kay Johnston, RN, makes a pronouncement.


“Tomorrow,” she says, “this will be like Grand Central.”