LETTER from BOLLOBHPUR
Sister Gillian Rose O.B.E. trains nurse midwives at Bollobhpur Hospital. She is partly funded by the Oxford Mission. These are excerpts from her latest journal-letter:
Monday June 14th, and the first day of the rainy season (monsoon). A grey, cloud- laden sky, frequent showers of rain, and a brisk breeze lifting the hot humidity of the last few weeks. Pleasant indeed, as I sit in the classroom invigilating the Hospital Final examinations...the sudden drop in temperature is making an ideal environment for the girls' examination, and they have not bothered to switch the fans on.
Last month, May, brought examinations for most of the other groups too, and with the intense heat and humidity, and almost constant absence of electricity supply, it was a gruelling time. Especially the poor oversized Lucky, who steamed like a Turkish bath through the two three-hour sessions!! Several of the 1st Year group did not manage a pass mark, and they re-sit the papers this week. Perhaps the temperature drop will help them to do better. In contrast my 2nd Year group have done excellently in their Midwifery examinations, eager to obtain their red-striped Third Year caps. They are a good keen group.
In my last letter I mentioned our new doctor, Dr. Manik Sarkar, who joined us on April 1st, and worked for three days before asking leave to go and fetch his wife and family, leaving us wondering whether it was all a dream! Praise God with us, it was neither a dream nor God's April Fool! but God's provision for Bollobhpur Hospital at this difficult time of its history. Dr. Manik's wife, Dr. Catherine, started her work on May 1st. She is a delightful person, a tiny dot of a woman, who obviously will soon be in need of maternity leave! But she is very much the doctor, knows her job well, and has a lovely bedside manner. Pray with us that this lovely Christian couple will settle down with us, adjust to life in a village, and provide the hospital with many years of service. Weare grateful indeed to our friends in the Methodist Church who are funding their appointment. Thank you very much.
But to recap...Our new group of girls, who started their Preliminary Training School in January, all passed their three-month examinations well, received their new uniforms and caps during a simple Sunday afternoon service, and made their Nightingale Nurses' Oath before God and the people assembled in church. They have now commenced ward duty and their first night duty, again a coveted event. Badly burned Lucky (yes, another Lucky!) did extremely well in her examination, and will obviously make a good nurse and midwife. Please keep her and them all in your prayers. Next month, July, another new group is due to arrive. How time flies by in the life of this little hospital.
Easter Sunday was a time of great blessing, following the Three Hours' devotion at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday. We are all in church, a handful of senior girls remaining to man the wards. By tradition, the trained Nursing Staff are off for the day, and the girls man the wards themselves, with me in the background if they need assistance! Those off duty help cook a tasty chicken curry for lunch, and in the evening they stage a delightful play and variety entertainment for their patients and attendants. Unfortunately the afternoon is marred by the arrival of a nasty case of poisoning just as the curtain was about to be raised, the patient being a Christian woman from a nearby village. Sad indeed, but the good news is that her life was saved, and she went on to make a full recovery, praise God; and after she had been attended to, the curtain finally went up, and we all enjoyed a delayed show.
Perhaps the loveliest item was a dance performed by our Home Sister Molly's two daughters - a 'boy and girl' dance, where the boy woos the girl through the dance sequence, as the girl goes, water-pot on hip, to fetch water from the river. Beautiful indeed. It is always a joy for me to watch the entertainments our so-talented girls arrange, sitting outside under a star-spangled sky in the warm darkness.
May 3rd to 5th brought a Seminar on Breast-Feeding arranged by Mary, our Senior Sister, who has special experience in this field. The Seminar benefited two senior sets of the girls, and Lakhi, and Pascolina, with the Community Workers from Ratanpur and Karpasdanga clinics joining in. This is a yearly event, and aims to enable not only all our students but all our staff to be able competently to help a woman establish full breast- feeding, so essential in a land like Bangladesh, where less than 20% of mothers are literate, birth weights are low, and living conditions unhygienic.
And another long-awaited good news! Our new Geriatric Ward is complete, and during our last Committee Meeting in May, Hemen, our Parish priest, cut the ribbon and officially opened the wing. Pray God's blessing remain on our elderly frail and sick, and on our girls as they care for them.
The wing comprises an eight-bedded women's ward, a six-bedded men's ward, and two two-bedded side wards, which can be used for isolation cases, or if the demand for rented rooms requires. Also there is a grilled-in open space for air and light, bathing and hair-washing, and three toilets with hand-rails to assist use. It is a light, airy and cheerful ward, with white walls and blue paint, and gives me great delight. We are grateful indeed to the Lord Patriarch James Barns Trust who so generously supplied the finance for this renovation work. Thank you so much indeed.
But let me take you around:
- Kumodini, in the first bed, bent double as she moves slowly on her stick, and who can no longer manage to live at home -
- Jutikha, next to her, rigid with some strange spastic complaint, and who can no longer do anything for herself -
- Jolly, in the third bed, aged, unmarried and alone, receiving loving care for the first time in her life -
- Butu, in the comer, with her sweet smile, who no longer knows who or where she is -
- Renu, slowly wasting away with terminal cancer, her skeleton-like husband Prankumar, who gave all his working years to the hospital in faithful service, in bed in the men's ward alongside
- Promod, an elderly educated man, now separated from his family, and crippled with chronic asthma and heart disease -
- Akhil, a living skeleton, suffering the results of a life of drug misuse -
- Akali, with his broken leg, now up on a stick again after two months in bed, and hopefully soon able to go home -
- Santosh, crippled with chronic asthma and heart disease, back again in his hospital bed after a short visit home -
- Daniel, with tuberculosis, slowly recovering under today's modem treatment - Praise God with us for being able to serve them, and bring laughter to their lives and smiles to their faces.
With the increase in number of frail and very sick patients, the call on oxygen has increased. And April and May brought two visits to Khulna and the purchase of two new oxygen cylinders, plus other medical equipment, to be able to meet the demand. An oxygen cylinder is a very costly item, but is refilled as necessary for a very small amount. We are grateful to have the Oxygen Company at Khulna, which is easily managed as a day trip, a drive of 3 ½ to 4 hours in our light hospital car.
And a trip to Khulna now means a visit to Rina and husband Dinesh. (You remember Rina, previously 'Hindu' Rina, who was baptised as a Christian during her training with us, and finally stood out against all her relatives and community to marry Dinesh, a Christian boy from Ratanpur village.) Rina and Dinesh have completed the year's Catechists' course, at Theological College at Dhaka, and are now posted at Khulna Moheswarpasa, where Dinesh is the Catechist for the small Christian community, and Rina runs the clinic. I am also adviser for the work at Khulna, and we plan to expand the village area work where Rina and Dinesh are stationed, and wind down the city clinic, which is now sadly underused and neglected, due to the growth of other projects in the area.
You will remember that Rina was married from the hospital two years ago in January: and Sunday May 23rd brought a similar festival day for us all, when the hospital staff and students joined together to give our Staff Midwife Nomina a beautiful memorable wedding day. Nomina, a complete orphan, brought up in a Seventh Day Adventist orphanage, and who came for training with us through our friend and dentist Dr. Buppy Roy, and who has worked with us faithfully for two years since qualifying, was married to a Christian boy from Bollobhpur village in a beautiful service conducted by the Revd. Hemen.
The afternoon before, the girls had smeared her with saffron and dressed her in the traditional yellow sari with red border and fed her with sweetmeats (and also eaten a lot themselves) - all basically Hindu tradition, which comes into all feasts and festivals. And on the wedding day, two women arrive first from the bridegroom's home bearing a suitcase laden with bridal clothing and ornaments, and everything needed to paint her nails and her face. When they have arranged her to their liking she is borne aloft to the church, where the groom is waiting, dressed too in new clothes provided by the bride's family (i.e. us).
And after the service the reception, and sweets to be put into their mouths, before everyone sits down to rice and vegetables, lentils and meat curry and yoghurt. More than 300 sat down to eat, but by God's good grace all ate and were filled, and sufficient remained for the girls' supper that evening! A memorable and happy day indeed, and we thank God for the privilege of being able to provide this joy for a girl who had no-one, but now has a family of her own. Please pray for Nomina and Nivash in their new married life together.
On a more sombre note, the future of the hospital suddenly is uncertain. The hospital licence, previously renewed year by year from our office in Dhaka, now has to be renewed through the local Civil Surgeon's office's recommendation. The Civil Surgeon has visited and been very negative about most things, including the Nurse Training Centre. Obviously, a small village hospital in a village area cannot fulfil all the necessary criteria, but then no Government hospital or private clinic fulfils them either. So whether it is the ritual 'greasing of palms' that will be required, we wait to see!! Please keep this need in your prayers.
In the church and parish, Pentecost Sunday was celebrated with great joy. Hemen was away visiting his terminally sick mother, so instead of the parish Communion Service, a time of prayer and praise. The morning was spent in birthday celebrations, a cake was cut and enjoyed by the elderly of the parish who spent the whole morning in church for meditation and prayer, and finally at midday a festive rice and meat curry meal together for all who were able to join in.
Trinity Sunday, and Hemen was back in the pulpit with beautifully prepared illustrated teaching on the Holy Trinity which held us all enthralled. We shall be sad to lose him to the Theological College in Dhaka where he is to be transferred in August.
On the home front, Lota and Jholiu are both heavy with calf again, and are a delight to behold - rainwashed glistening golden brown against the bright green of the grass and darker greens of the trees. We were happy to have a visit from Sandy and Carole of World Mission, Church of Scotland, last month, and it was a pleasure to show them around and to see them greet our cows like old friends! Mother Cat too, is in the family way once again, and daughter Mini has recently sent her two latest kittens for mousing duty at Nityanandapur clinic!
In the garden red spinach and lady's fingers are now supplying the girls' mess, after several months of golden pumpkins, and in the surrounding fields and across the river, green fields of jute and newly-planted banana gardens are racing towards the sky. My garden has suddenly burst into a myriad of coloured blooms, and the monkeys are swinging cheekily in the jackfruit trees, demanding their share of the succulent juicy fruit.
The days are longer now, and the light suddenly fades into darkness at 7 p.m. - no twilight in the tropics, just one quick switch over from day to night; and again from night to day at 5 a.m., when the sudden arrival of all my cats from their various night prowlings gets me out of bed to make tea and enjoy an hour's Quiet Time before taking the ward report at 7 a.m. .
With greetings from us all at Bollobhpur, and grateful thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers,