Hemalkasa, Exemplary Rural Healthcare & Life Journey of Dr Amte

Day 1: Travel and settling in

My sister and I reached our 5 AM flight on time thanks to the graciousness of my Uncle and Aunt. We walked out to the pickup area, and realized we had no way to contact our driver to Hemalkasa because our cell phone had no credit on it. Relieved to know our trip was off to an auspicious start, I started a search of the airport premises looking for a pay phone of sorts. My sister on the other hand, serendipitously met somebody she knew: Chanda Tai, a nurse from America my sister had previously worked with at Hemalkasa. Chanda Tai took us to her driver who got us in contact with our driver. On the close to 300 mile drive, our driver stopped twice to load the jeep with supplies and pick up four patients; which just goes to show, nothing is wasted at Hemalkasa, not even a ride from the airport.

Hemalkasa was a lot like I remember it. There were some tweaks: four new leopards, WI-FI, a new guesthouse, Bruno the dog. As a whole though, the complex looked a lot like it did in 2005. On the journey, my sister had given me a little spiel on how things are done in Hemalkasa. Plus this wasn’t my first rodeo in India. So I knew what to expect regarding what life was going to be like. We put our stuff down in our room, and ventured over to the clinic to drop off the supplies we had brought with us and watch Dr. Dighant and Dr. Anagha Amte in action.

For those of us brought up in the health care system of America, the clinic at Hemalkasa may come as a shock. In order to gain the trust of the patients, the doctors dress as casually as possible. Despite the utmost attempts at sterility, the clinic does not seem as such (things like this are relative: many Americans require the super-sterile conditions in a hospital because a great deal of us are brought up in super-sterile environments). And with the sheer number of patients in the waiting room, one just has to understand that the doctors are trying their hardest to fit everybody they can into their day. Regardless of daunting task ahead of them, the doctors give every patient in front of them their due. Nobody is barred from tests or medicine. Nobody is pushed through quickly in an attempt to get through as many patients as possible.

My sister and I sat in a corner of the clinic for the afternoon; talking between each other trying to decipher the combination of Marathi and English medical acronyms. The doctors took time out to show us interesting cases, or specific signs and symptoms that led them to their diagnosis. When the clinic finally closed, Anagha and Dighant took us on a tour of the hospital and a bike ride of the surrounding forest and river. I personally am not known for my loquacious nature, so I mostly listened to the three doctors (my sister, Anagha, and Dighant) talk doctor speak and enjoyed just being out in nature. Aside from the road, much of the area surrounding Hemalkasa remains undeveloped, and it was a welcome escape from my normal San Diego routine.

Bedroom at Hemalkasa: The hat was made by students from the school

Bruno was tired

Drs. Dighant (seated in white on the left) and Anagha (seating in red on the right) at work in the clinic

Patients in the waiting room.

Boy smiles at the camera. He was admitted for plastic surgery to treat his burn scars and fused skin between his arm and abdomen.

The first termite mound I have seen in the wild

The confluence of three rivers: the Indravati, the Pearl Kota, and the Pamul Gautami

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