Henry Mayo team works at Dalai Lama’s Hospital in India

A group of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital doctors, nurses and their families met the Dalai Lama during their trip to a remote part of India to work for the Ladakh Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Centre. Courtesy of Henry Mayo

A group of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital doctors, nurses and their families traveled to a remote part of India to work for a hospital founded by the Dalai Lama.

The team of about 20 people traveled to the Ladakh-Leh region in the Himalayas, on the border of China, where they spent nearly a week working at the Ladakh Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Centre.

“It was a very good trip,” said Dr. Chand Khanna, a Henry Mayo pulmonologist who organized the trip.  “We worked for about four days and had the team in five different rooms… They would bring us patients based on their symptoms.”

Dr. Khanna estimates that the team of specialists, doctors and nurses saw more than 2,000 patients during their time at the hospital, many of whom were Tibetan refugees.

“Some people traveled from over 200 miles away over mountain roads, overnight and on buses,” said Dr. Rajinder Kaushal, a Henry Mayo gastroenterologist who went on the trip.  “It was a very gratifying and humbling experience.”

Dr. Khanna decided to organize the trip after meeting with a Buddhist monk, named Mr. Chogyla, who was visiting the United States from India.

“He met me and wanted to see our cardiac unit here,” Dr. Khanna said.  “They have a hospital called Ladakh Heart Foundation and they don’t have a whole lot of equipment and a whole lot of doctors but they have a lot of patients … A lot of the kids have some kind of cardiac issues because of the high altitude.”

The team of doctors experienced the effects of the high elevation themselves when they were forced to rest for one and half days to acclimate their bodies to working at 11,500 feet.

“We didn’t realize it would make a difference so we had to take medication to get used to that place,” Dr. Khanna said.

However, after adjusting the altitude, the doctors and nurses began their work and did not stop for the rest of their time at the hospital.

During their stay, the team donated medical items from Henry Mayo to the Ladakh Heart Foundation that included a portable EKG machine, a spirometer to examine the lungs and cleaning supplies.

Dr. Kaushal also focused his time on infection control after doctors used endoscopes, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, for procedures to examine a person’s digestive track.

“Their cleaning was not as good as it should be.  They don’t get all disposal brushes and other cleaning equipment they use over here,” Dr. Kaushal said.  “My main emphasis, in addition to seeing patients and doing procedures, was to teach them disinfection of the scopes because that’s one way to spread infection from patient to patient.”

The Henry Mayo team was also surprised by a visit from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the end of their stay.

“We didn’t realize that there was something most surprising waiting for us,” Dr. Khanna said.  “The next morning at 7 a.m. we met His Holiness and he talked to us.  He blessed the group and talked to us.”

Dr. Khanna, who was personally blessed by the Dalai Lama, said His Holiness also thanked the doctors for serving everyone, regardless of nationalities and borders.

Before traveling to India, Dr. Khanna had gone on three previous medical missions trips to Vietnam, the Philippines and Ethiopia; however, this trip was one of the biggest he has been on yet.

“We’ve done these before but this was really amazing, the group was the biggest,” he said of the group’s 11 doctors and numerous nurses.  “This one was the best because of the number of patients we were able to see and the number of doctors that presented a lot of specialties.”

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