It is not very easy to reach Panappuzha ooru, an extremely remote tribal colony located deep in the forests of Nilambur in Kerala. However, for Dr Ashwathi Soman, the public medical officer of Nilambur’s mobile dispensary, her commitment to work and service stands way above personal comfort.
Last week, she and team went on an arduous 10 km trek through the wilderness to provide medical aid to a tribal man who was suffering from constant bleeding on his right foot.
58-year-old Ravi is a member of the primitive and socially hostile tribe called Chola Naykar. Ravi’s right toe was severed, and because of the tribe’s hesitance to mingle with the mainstream society, the wound was severely infected and continually bleeding.
The information about the accident reached one of Nilambur’s nodal medical offices on June 18, following which Ashwathi reached out to forest officials in the region to inquire about accessing the tribal settlement and found that the only way to reach Ravi was to travel all the way to the settlement, while being equipped with enough medical paraphernalia to perform a surgery.
Wasting no further time, a 10-member team comprising two nursing staff from the Malappuram taluk hospital and a couple of forest officers and safety officials set out to Panappuzha ooru.
“We were accompanied by tribal watchers. We travelled half the way in a car and some of the rest by a jeep. About 10 km from our destination, we saw some huge trees blocking our path. We decided to trek the remaining distance. The natives used axes and ropes to remove huge logs from our way. We had to climb rocks, slippery slopes and steep hillsides to reach the settlement,” explained Ashwathi to Manorama, a local Malayalam daily.
Sadly, by the time Ashwathi and her team made it to the settlement, Ravi had lost quite a lot of blood owing to acute infection, and the only way to save him was to amputate the toe. Besides, Ravi has severe diabetes, and that further constrained the young doctor from performing surgery on the spot, and she had to make do with a tight bandage that would arrest any further loss of blood.
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However, the most challenging part for Ashwathi was to persuade the middle-aged Chola Nayakan to come down to their hospital for better medical care. She had to warn Ravi of the dire consequences that would befall him if his foot didn’t receive immediate medical attention. “I told him he would lose his toe today, a leg tomorrow and life the day after. Luckily, that scared him, and he got ready to accompany us downhill,” she added.
Had it not been for Dr Ashwathi’s commitment to her profession and unfaltering resilience in getting medical treatment to a member of a socially hostile tribal community, Ravi would have possibly lost his life.
Ravi’s toe has been successfully amputated, and he is currently recovering at the Malappuram taluk hospital.
We salute Dr Ashwathi and her team of white-clad angels, who put aside the comfort of their clinics and medical rooms and ventured into the wild to reach those in real need, irrespective of their temperament or geographical difficulties.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)