Bengaluru doctor scales Himalayas, braves cold to save lives


Preeja Prasad    03 July 2018

City-based radiologist represented state at a camp held 14,000 feet above sea level. He was joined by over 20 doctors from across India

BENGALURU : A Bengaluru doctor travelled all the way to the Himalayas, along with a group of 20 to 25 doctors from across the country, for a one-week health camp in isolated areas that were shut off due to severe snowfall. Dr Umashankar, radiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, represented Karnataka at the camp, held between May 22 and June 5. The doctor travelled to Chandigarh from Bengaluru. "We went to Manali after that. Then, after an overnight stay, we took a 10-hour drive to Tabo Village via Keylong Road, which is one of the most dangerous in the world," he says.

The doctor had to treat 100 to 150 patients every day at areas such as Lahaul Valley, Spiti Valley and Chamba Valley. Most patients were suffering from gall bladder stones, liver diseases and uterus fibroids. "Sometimes, we had to treat patients till midnight because of the lack of proper health care facilities there and continuous power cuts," he says. "Immediately after we had arrived, an emergency case was reported where a woman was undergoing tubal pregnancy. If we had not reached on time, she probably wouldve lost her life," he recalls.

The surgical and screening camp, that were partly funded by the Himachal Pradesh government and Vellore Hospital, were held 14,000 feet above sea level. Hence, portable machines had to be used, making diagnosis more difficult. With no internet, phone network or television, contacting family back home was another challenge, he says.

As the communities will continue to face a shortage of health care facilities for the next eight months, due to roads being closed by the army, the residents will have to travel to Manali by helicopter for treatments. "Most of the patients were Tibetans, Nepalese, Bahadi and Buddhists. They spoke in Lahouli. So, at times, we needed a translator to communicate with them," he says. The doctor has been travelling to these camps for the last five years, and hopes to visit again next year.

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