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Rokpa Canada Clinic in Tibet
For 6 years Rokpa Canada has brought medical care to poor Tibetans. And in many years we have seen patients who would have died without our care. This year was no exception.
Perhaps the most dramatic intervention occurred in the case of a teenage girl. She had suffered frostbite several months earlier, but the family had never seen a doctor for this problem, as they hadn't the money. As a result, most of her toes had become gangrenous, and when she removed her shoes, both the sight of her black toes and the smell of dead tissue emanating from her feet were startling. Without surgical treatment gangrene would have slowly spread up her legs.
Rokpa doctors, the girl and her uncle, went to the clinic of Dr. Urgyen Tsering, a local surgeon who operates his own clinic, and to whom the Rokpa doctors in previous years had referred other surgical patients. Dr. Tsering has also been assisted by Rokpa in the past, learning advanced surgical techniques as well as improving his English during a stay in Edinburgh.
Dr. Tsering agreed to perform the necessary surgery and provide the medicines needed, for a cost of $660. The Rokpa clinic team provided the funds, out of their own pockets, to be able to assist the girl.
During one of the last days of the clinic, there was an unexpected visit by the girl's uncle. He had come with a large Tibetan tankha (religious scroll painting set in a brocade "frame"). This was brought as a gift for the doctors who had "saved the life of his niece." The uncle related that, when they had come to the clinic, the girl was apprehensive, thinking that she was going to die. Now, days after the surgery, she was up and walking, and she was smiling every day.
On another occasion, Rokpa doctors spent a night visiting first the brother of a student at the Rokpa school, who was in hospital with a severe abdominal problem, and then visiting the home of an 8 year old Tibetan girl who had been badly burned by gasoline which her mother was using to help start a yak dung fire in the stove of the home. The girl's family was provided with pain relieving medications, clean cloth to wrap the burns, and information about hydration and hygiene to assist in the girl's recovery. The brother of the Rokpa student underwent an appendectomy (he had a ruptured appendix, as it turned out), after the Rokpa doctors donated the $340 required by the surgeons at the People's Hospital prior to performing the surgery.
It is not every day that the clinic doctors literally save a life, but it does happen. In addition, as stated by Akong Rinpoche, President of Rokpa International, the fact that doctors from half a world away are willing to come to Yushu each year, and provide diagnosis and treatment for the poor, gives hope to the residents of the Yushu area that, poor and remote as they are, they are not forgotten by the rest of the world.
This September Rokpa Canada brought a team of doctors to Yushu to provide a free medical clinic for the poor. Yushu is the centre of the Yushu Autonomous Tibetan Prefecture, in Qinghai Province. It is situated in a valley at an elevation of 3,700 metres, and has a population of 25,000, although the patients who attend the clinic come from hours, and at times, days away from Yushu town.
Approximately 1,000 patients were treated this year. As in previous years, the most common reasons for visiting the clinic were pain from arthritis, lung, and stomach problems. We encountered many patients with dangerously high blood pressure levels. We also saw advanced medical conditions which had never been treated, due to the fact that money paid in advance is always required for any visit to a doctor or a hospital.
As always, the Rokpa doctors at the clinic paid for all of their expenses. All the medicines provided to patients were donated by Canadian pharmaceutical firms, as a result of solicitations by the Rokpa Canada and individual doctor volunteers.
Each year, the evidence of poverty seems to grow in the Yushu area. We leave our affluent personal surroundings of the West for just a few weeks a year, and return from Yushu with gratitude that we have the opportunity to be of a bit of assistance to others, and a sense of perspective of our good fortune to live and work, in Canada, in a country with universal access to medical care, regardless of ability to pay, and our comfortable circumstances. Even though the Rokpa clinic uses donated medications and doctors pay their own expenses, your donation will enable Rokpa Canada to continue its other projects.
Rokpa Canada is very grateful to the pharmaceutical and equipment firms and their representatives who donated medications and equipment used at the Yushu clinic:
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