Group Spends Week In India Struggling To Meet Medical Needs

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Equipped with digital stethoscopes and the desire to make a difference where they could, four Payson residents traveled to India for a week.

Randy Roberson, Ray and Theresa Kinsman flew. Dr. Alan Michels went via satellite uplink.

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Theresa Kinsman, right, listens to the heart and lungs of an Indian woman with a digital stethoscope. The stethoscope's infrared transmitters send the sounds via satellite to the laptop computer of Dr. Alan Michels in the United States, where he is able to diagnose the patient.

"It is easy to go in and do a few projects then leave," said Roberson.

"We were trying to provide more accountability and do some follow-up to our efforts last year."

When the tsunami hit the southeast coast of India countless people were displaced from their homes.

A nine-hour train ride relocated some of those people to 1,200 grass huts not far from Bhimavaram in the province of Andhra Pradesh.

"During the last monsoon season they were displaced once again with about four feet of water from heavy rains," Roberson said.

Most of the relocated people are day laborers. The more physically able make $5 a day, but when it rains so they can't work.

No money equals an empty stomach for the day.

Medical care is available to very few.

"Without any exaggeration, these are among the poorest of the poor on the face of the planet," Roberson said.

Medical problems are significant.

Through a collaborative telemedicine effort with Dr. Alan Michels and the donation by 3M Corporation of two new $2500 digital stethoscopes to Roberson's company HELP (Humanitarian Emergency Logistics and Preparedness), they and the Kinsmans were able to treat hundreds of patients in three mobile clinics. They worked through an interpreter.

Three heart and three lung sounds -- eight seconds each -- were taken from predetermined locations on each patient's body by Theresa Kinsman.

The stethoscope's infrared transmitters sent the sounds to the laptop computer.

The sounds were then transmitted via satellite to Dr. Alan Michels' stethoscope where he was attending a medical conference in Florida.

There was a 12-hour time difference yet he was able to diagnose patients with complex symptoms in the middle of the night from his hotel room.

"I can help people anywhere in the world with this technology," Michels said. "Local doctors, interpreters, even the village medicine man could help facilitate the exams."

Many of the ailments afflicting the people they visited in India were a direct result of poverty.

"Women there are really the work horses," said Ray Kinsman. "You'll see women with five gallon jars on their heads filled with water. They walk like this for miles. So, by the time they are 40 they have chronic neck and spine problems."

The Apothecary Shop in Payson donated thousands of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals for this mission.

The medicine went toward the treatment of everything from lung infections to the pain of arthritis.

Almost everyone they met had chronic pain. They have no aspirin.

Tooth decay, Elephantitis, scabies and AIDS are common.

"Where President Bush was, like they showed on TV, was in the city with hotels," said Ray Kinsman. "The place we were at was not a place where tourists would go at all."

An open sewer ran down one street. People bathed in the same canal they washed their clothes in and took cooking water from.

All four struggled emotionally with the needs they were able to meet versus the fact that there is always more needed.

"People told me that I wasn't prepared for what I would see. It was an awful lot to take in. I'm still digesting it," Theresa Kinsman said. She is 71. Her husband, Ray, is 81.

"We really hope we made a difference," Ray said.

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