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The Student's Perspective: Duncan Hospital, India

  • EMMS International helps its partners through supporting medical students to participate in electives in resource poor communities. Here, Ben Shepherd tells us about his time at Duncan Hospital, India.

Published 08 Jan 2015
I wanted to undertake my elective in a mission hospital in order to gain experience from Christian doctors working within a low-resource setting to share the love of Christ.  My wife accompanied me and taught in a school within the hospital compound.  Together, we wanted to learn from the lives of the Christians there and think through how they used their skills to reach out to people in the name of Jesus.
Duncan Hospital is a Christian mission hospital run by the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA), situated on the Indian side of the Indian-Nepal border in the state of Bihar. Patients who come to the hospital are mostly from rural areas on either side of the border. 
On the Monday of my last week, I accompanied one of the doctors up to the medical ward for a party. A large group of nurses, doctors and family members encircled a beautiful woman sitting cross-legged in one of the beds. There were cakes eaten, songs sung and prayers of thanksgiving prayed. 
The reason behind this scene of joy was that this beautiful lady was leaving the hospital today. 
One month earlier she had arrived following the ingestion of an ‘Organophosphate’ (OP) with the intention of ending her life. OP is a common fertiliser that is readily available in the rural communities surrounding Duncan and poisoning by OP is, tragically, one of the most common reasons for admission to Duncan Hospital.   The woman had spent 3 weeks requiring mechanical ventilation in the ICU. This was followed by many days of apparent psychosis and persisting weakness.
Throughout this time, the staff in the intensive care unit had been regularly praying for her recovery and encouraging other people to pray for her. They had formed a good relationship with her son, who had been very faithful in visiting. 
At around 1 week into admission, her family wanted to take her home to die. They are very poor and couldn’t afford any more ICU care. The doctors in charge of her care convinced the family of the need for more time to recover and informed them that the hospital would pay for all future costs. The hospital cannot afford to provide charity care regularly but seeks to intervene in situations where the staff are convinced both of the family’s inability to afford care and that the patient has a good chance of a positive outcome if care could be given.
This woman’s story encapsulates so much of what I found at Duncan Hospital. A committed team of people working hard to bring hope and a greater sense of human dignity to people in the midst of terrible circumstances and a culture where human life (especially female life) is not valued as highly as staff think it should be. In doing this, they are imitating the self-sacrificial love of their Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Find out more about the Student Elective Bursary programme.