Temporary medical care in the mountain villages
16. December 2016

With flip flops in the operating room

Surgery nurse Sandra Stauber worked in a clinic in India for ten days

The term plastic surgery spontaneously lets you think of wrinkle-free faces and other ideals of beauty. But Sandra Stauber’s mission in India was about much more: quality of life and vitality. For ten days the 43-year-old nurse from Straubing worked on behalf of the organization “Interplast” in a clinic in the city of Vikasnagar and has thus fulfilled a long-standing dream. Back home, she says: “We do not know how blessed we are here.“

Actually, Sandra Stauber works as a surgical nurse in the St. Elisabeth Hospital. For a long time she played with the idea to use her knowledge abroad once. Through private contacts, she finally came to “Interplast”, an association that performs free plastic surgery in developing countries. “I submitted an application and it worked out pretty fast,” she says laughing. At the end of October, she set off for northern India together with a plastic surgeon from Schliersee and an anesthesiologist from Delmenhorst.

“The welcoming there was incredibly warm,” says Sandra Stauber as she flips through a photo album. She points to a picture that shows her with a flower necklace and a red dot on her forehead. “I had arrived in another world, full of colors, smells and stench.” The hygienic standards and medical care were in no way comparable to German conditions. “We take everything for granted. But that’s not the case.”

On-site, the Georg Michael Praetorius Foundation took care of the medical team from Germany. “We lived in an ashram with our own driver and cook. The accommodation was clean and well organized. “Every morning we left to Kalindi Hospital”, where a twelve-hour day waited for the doctors and Sandra Stauber. Within ten days, they examined and screened 55 patients, 26 of whom were finally operated.

The spectrum ranged from deformations over burn injuries to results of acid attacks. The doctors from Germany had brought some of the surgical instruments in order to be able to operate professionally. “The equipment of the operating room was as expected very simple”, describes Sandra Stauber. On photos, she can be seen in a perforated smock and flip flops – “these were my surgical shoes”. The lamps are provisional wrapped with tape and also the rest of the equipment does not look very trustworthy. Iformation sheets are signed with a fingerprint.

However, the 43-year-old says she was absolutely fulfilled during her time in India. “I had a lot of freedom at work. And most importantly, we’ve been able to help many people to live a reasonably normal life again.”

Two cases really touched her: On the one hand, the 14-year-old Tarun, for whom Sandra Stauber has now taken over a sponsorship. At the age of one year he survived a train accident, but his foot had to be amputated. By now his forefoot had become very inflamed. In this condition the boy stood alone, limping on a wooden stick, in the ambulance of the Kalindi Hospital. In a ten-hour operation, a flap of skin from Tarun’s back was removed to cover the dermal defect on the foot. Previously, the inflamed parts had been removed. Now the boy can live without pain again.

And then there was the 17-year-old Seema, who has been suffering from Pierre-Robin syndrome since her birth. This results in a missing lower jaw. “When we were about to start, suddenly there was a power outage. After the power was back, a device that the surgeon had brought from Germany didn’t work” said Sandra Stauber. In no case did the helpers want to cancel the operation, so they improvised. “After all, everything went well.” Seema has been wearing a kind of screw implant for a while, which makes sure that the bone in the lower jaw replicates itself.

“Although I was only away for ten days, the readjustment was difficult after my return home. The abundance in which we live was really obvious then, “concludes Sandra Stauber. Her husband and children are proud of her and support her plans to leave for India in April. This time the destination will be close to Delhi. “And then I’ll take my own surgical shoes with me.”

– Author: Karola Decker, Straubiner Tagblatt, December 2016 (Translation by GMP Foundation)