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Giridih, Bihar bonds with Charlottesville, Virginia

For over 10 years a group of doctors from the US have made regular visits to care for children here.

  Over the last decade - since 1989, in fact - doctors from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, USA have made five trips to Giridih in Bihar to especially attend on children with facial defects. Cleft palates and cleft lips caused by vitamin-B deficiency is fairly common among children here. The group of doctors forming the Virginia Children's Connection has grown to a strength of 18 from the original five.

Dr. Mushirul Hasan paying a moving tribute in an article titled 'Daktarlog come again' [Indian Express; Feb 23,2000] traces the origins of this enterprise of these little known friends of India: "Why Giridih? Simply because Dr. [John T.] Lettieri's in-laws had lived there for about 38 years as missionaries and saw a need." 

He teamed with a colleague Dr. John Persing and spent two weeks in 1989 there ...and they appear to have found a purpose in their profession. Thus began an enduring association.

The group is now led by Dr. Thomas J. Gampper, assistant professor  at the University. And many others have come together to help the group's good work: Nothwest Airlines, Merck, Roche, Rotary International, India League and local businesses in Virginia. 

Indian Rotary members greet the group at Calcutta and transport them  to Giridih. And then, the work begins.

Here is Prof.Walter Hauser's description of the doctors' pace of work:

"It is here at the Bagheria Hospital of Giridih that the Virginia Children's Connection team settled in for an intensive week of surgery earlier this year. The group of three plastic surgeons, three anesthesiologists, a pediatrician, two dentists, six nurses, a physical therapist, a medical student, and a photographer, most of whom are from the UVa Health Sciences Center, left Charlottesville on January 21. They reached Calcutta early on Sunday January 23, and proceeded by train and car to Giridih, which they reached that evening. They immediately began screening the 450 potential patients who had anticipated their arrival and began surgery early the next morning. Functioning on a twelve to fifteen hour daily schedule, by the time of their departure from Giridih they had completed 125 surgical procedures on ninety-seven patients."

All that seems to be worth it for them. Hasan quotes Dr. Gampper: "It's amazing to me. You can change a child's life in an hour." 

The people of Giridih are in love with the 'daktarlog'.

We owe it again to Mushirul Hasan for this touching vignette:
"Saddened at the prospect of their Mai-baap leaving, they assemble outside the crumbling boundary wall of the Bagheria Hospital with folded hands, their turbans placed on the ground. Soon, a noisy jeep, emitting smoke and contaminated diesel, emerges from the hospital gate on its trek to Dhanbad. For the rural poor the uppermost thought is whether the 'daktarlog' and 'daktarnis' would return next year to perform what they consider to be reconstructive miracles. It is a hope they have lived with for several years."

Related links:
Virginia Children's Connection web-page  [Pictures in this page were taken from this link]
Mushirul Hasan's article, 'Daktarlog Come Again'