18Nov’11- Back from Yushu- Mobile Clinic Update

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Tashi Delek All!  [Tibetan Greeting]

 I’ve been back for a couple of weeks now. Thanks to Frank for sending some updates when I could get them out to you.

[To refresh your memories on the Mobile Clinic Project, don’t forget, you can go to “The Problem” & “A Solution” pages of this website, & of course, our previous blog entries & photos].

It was a tough trip, I honestly didn’t expect it to be. When I first started fundraising for this Project in January 2010, people hardly knew of Qinghai, the province in China, for which I was fundraising, let alone Yushu [Tibetan: Jyekundo], a predominantly Tibetan prefecture in Qinghai.

On the 14th of April 2010, Yushu suffered a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, which claimed over 2,600 lives and left over 12,000 injured.  Suddenly, Yushu was the centre of world attention- everyone knew where I was fundraising for; and it made the Mobile Clinic even more urgent.

I figured I would have no trouble with the altitude (up to 3900m), and the cold (it can’t be worse than the mountain we climbed last year!), and these didn’t really affect me, but what I didn’t expect, was to be having trouble with the thick dust from the non-stop construction and rebuilding of the entire town.

I also didn’t expect the rebuilding to be at such an early stage (my perspective only), but they had to wait an appropriate amount of time to allow for the many aftershocks, and construction can only be done 5 months a year because of the inclement weather and altitude. A lot of the workers come from other provinces in China and they can’t withstand the high altitude for more than a few months at a time. The snow season also started as we left Yushu.

I stayed with my friend Maggie, (who travelled with me to Yushu), in an orphanage school, thanks to the help and good relations (guanxi) of some friends. Before the earthquake, students numbered just over 200; after the earthquake, there were around 160 new orphans to the school. We were told schools and hospitals were the priority, so they have to be rebuilt first. This one was still in temporary buildings (like the demountables we sometimes see in Australian schools as add-on classrooms).

One night, Maggie and I were suited up in our down jackets etc, walking to the toilet, about 20 metres from our room. When I put my head-lamp on, I thought it was snow falling into the shine of my torch, but soon realised it was raining dust! This quickly entered my lungs and caused inflammation from all the coughing….. and then the whole deal. I couldn’t escape it, even at night I slept with a mask on. At some points, I felt worse than I did on the mountain last year.

(Frank is happy to stand corrected in his previous update on my behalf- there was by no means any air conditioning in our rooms!).

I wore the mask day and night, so much so that people on the grasslands thought I was the doctor!

After a 10 minute motorbike ride to the nearest shower, I had to pluck poor Maggie away from it, as the principal of the school insisted we didn’t shower while in Yushu- if we caught a cold, “we wouldn’t recover (at this altitude)”. I was sure glad we heeded his advice when my cough wouldn’t subside! I’ll tell you a secret- the first time I lived in rural Qinghai, I didn’t shower for a month because it was so freezing cold and the only shower was so far into town. It’s a well-documented fact that Maggie struggled for 4 days!

 

How your donations were spent- Mobile Clinic Update

Well, there’s a mixed bag of news, but it’s positive news overall! The Mobile Clinic donated by YOU has, via LOVEQTRA (Love Qinghai Tibet Rescue & Aid), enabled much-needed medical services to be available to impoverished and remote nomads in the harsh, inaccessible grasslands of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Last Five Months……. 

Since registration in May, our Mobile Clinic has enabled a total of 5,500 people to be received and treated. The Clinic circulated designated routes around the grasslands and pastoral areas, covering 3,500km in Yushu.

This was the schedule on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, teams of LOVEQTRA volunteers carried out family visits, bringing much-needed supplies- blankets, clothes etc. to those families in need or that couldn’t physically make the designated meeting points.

More than 3 months were devoted to Jiegu Township, the centre of the earthquake zone.

LOVEQTRA received 11 voluntary short-term medical teams, with a total of 28 doctors and nurses from Malaysia, Australia, U.K., Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other provinces in China. These visits included the training and upskilling of local doctors and nurses in ultrasound and other techniques, dental clinics, Hepatitis B prevention, to name a few.

Common conditions treated included pneumonia, hernia, tetanus, birth-related complication, loss of blood due to accidents, hepatic and pulmonary hydatidosis (infestation of worms to the liver or lung, from prolonged consumption of uncooked meat. Boiling point is lower than at sea level, so meats are not cooked properly.)

The Mobile Clinic Project employs 7 long-term staff (doctors, nurses and assisting staff).

The beauty of the Mobile Clinic is that it not only allows LOVEQTRA to take doctors’ services, medicine and supplies to the inaccessible, it can generate electricity, enabling the use of medical machines in examinations. It also carries oxygen, for emergencies and during patient transport to the city hospitals in more serious cases (a 12 hour drive).

The report given to me by staff, informs us that LOVEQTRA assisted and continues to assist West China Children’s Rescue Foundation in checking, transferring and treating children with deformities. It has also cooperated with Qinghai University in checking and treating rheumatoid arthritis among ethnic minorities in Qinghai.

What we saw in October…….

When we arrived in Yushu, I was happy to see a very cohesive bunch of volunteers from all around China. Their headquarters is the ‘LOVEQTRA Base Camp’, a cluster of tents and simple structures. They have organised themselves into teams and were rostered on for different tasks every day, as per the above schedule; a different team would be rostered on each day to cook for the entire group, and boy can they all cook!

The not-so-good news is that the Mobile Clinic was experiencing mechanical problems. According to the Base Camp Manager, it was to do with the fuel and air mix, since the air is so thin at this altitude. The Mobile Clinic still runs, but because the harsh winter is upon them, they don’t want to push it, and have it totally break down. LOVEQTRA is in discussions and negotiations with the manufacturer. The company is in another province (of a much lower altitude); as Qinghai does not have the manufacturers capable of this sort of project.

The consequence of that is that they are not experts in the mechanics at altitude, and this is a first for everybody concerned; as LOVEQTRA founder, Philip Poh, put it- this was the first fully equipped and staffed Mobile Clinic in Qinghai. I have yet to receive more information about the mechanical aspects of the problem.

We followed different teams around for 3 days, and what we witnessed was something special- the bringing together of services and those who need it. Because the snow hasn’t set in yet, we were able to go in normal vans, but obviously not with all the medical equipment. We stopped at designated routes on the grasslands, where nomads would come, having heard through word of mouth about the Mobile Clinic and the location of the stops. Of course, this has been happening since the earthquake, so people know about it and its faithful timetable.

Going Forward…….

 As mentioned above, the Mobile Clinic Project employs 7 long-term staff (doctors, nurses and assisting staff). Our funds raised also goes towards this for the first year. After that, LOVEQTRA, through their ongoing fundraising efforts, will ensure the longevity of the Project. The aim is to grow it to a fleet of ambulances. There was already a second donated Clinic (the red one beside ours in the photos).

LOVEQTRA and I continue to appeal for volunteer doctors (GPs or specialists), nurses, and medical assistants willing to volunteer for 1 week or more, to give the current doctors a break.                                 One of the doctors  came out of retirement to serve here full-time, despite his own health problems. Another young doctor gave up a promising, well-paid career to give his fellow compatriots the precious gift of health. It’s enough to make you cry.

Our Second Mobile Clinic…….

Regarding our second batch of funds, I am monitoring closely the effectiveness of the first Mobile Clinic before releasing the money to purchase the second. I was very pleased with the services around the Mobile Clinic, and that they continued, despite the Vehicle being parked at Base Camp. I would hope for one or more professional opinion/s regarding the mechanical problem and how it can be rectified.

As always, I will keep you posted!

Thanks to…….

** This blog entry wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t express my respect and gratitude to the staff and volunteers whom we met and took us on their rounds with them, which was a privilege. They even came to the orphanage school and treated my cough, which got worse during the 4 days. I was quite embarrassed and they even refused to take my money for medicine, saying that it’s nothing compared the gift of a Mobile Clinic! I was very moved.

** I want to thank our three friends (angels really), who didn’t have to, but arranged transport, accommodation and everything else in between so that Maggie and I could have a smooth trip.

** The principal of the orphanage school let us stay there and put us up for another night when our flight was snowed in.  I should also thank Maggie for traveling with me, suffering the effects of altitude, and sharing this experience with me.

** I also owe heaps to my Mom– who helped me translate the LOVEQTRA reports into English, so I could get this info out to you, the Donors. Thanks Ma!

** Of course I want to thanks you guys, who donated the Mobile Clinic. A feel-good moment indeed!

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One Response

  1. Thanks for sharing the pictures and journal entries with us!

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