An English Medical Student on the Eye Train - Oliver Baker


Lifeline Express was kind enough to give me the opportunity to visit one of their trains in Sichuan province this summer (2011). I have lived in Hong Kong for 15 years but have never been into mainland China. I also speak very little mandarin and so travelled with a Chinese friend who could translate for me.


C:UserssamsungPicturesSichuan august 11DSCN1528.JPGWe met the train in Guang Yuan city, Sichuan province, towards the end of its 3 month visit.  Upon arrival we were greeted by the train captain Dong Shuzhen, who told us about the history of the train and showed us around. The train was incredibly functional as a mobile hospital and was equipped to allow patients a brief stay after their operation to recover. The standard of equipment in the consultation rooms and the two operating theatres was very impressiveEach included a machine costing up to one million yuan to speed up the cataract removals and also to introduce local doctors to the cutting edge of medical technology as part of their training.

The team itself on the train consisted of the captain, a chef and an engineer to run the train, accompanied by 2 nurses and 2 doctors from the prestigious Beijing Union hospital. One of the doctors was a Professor of Ophthalmology from the teaching hospital and acted as a senior consultant for the more complicated cataract removal patients. Both of the doctors were involved in on-going training for local doctors to complete the cataract operation. This ensures the train continues to benefit the region even after departing.  The two nurses acted as head nurses for a team from one of Guang Yuan's local hospitals and helped to train them in using the diagnostic equipment, as well as helping everything run smoothly. Although they were all extremely busy dealing with the patients, they were always ready to explain things and to answer my endless questions. It was also great to see how much they all enjoyed their work.


We were able to live with the staff on the train and to experience their daily lives (5:30 am wake ups were a shock). The staff were kind enough to show us some of the city and we visited some local restaurants. I was introduced to the extremely hot Sichuan style food via a hotpot full of chillies which I won't forget quickly!  We went also went out walking for at least an hour each evening to get to see some amazing countryside around the city. On top of this there were some great fun communal card games each evening either on the train or in a tea room.


C:UserssamsungPicturesSichuan august 11DSCN1781.JPGHaving spent a few days on the train Captain Dong took us to meet some local patients who had already benefitted from the eye train. All were kind enough to let us visit their homes. They were often very poor people, living simply but it was wonderful to see the difference this operation had made to them, some of whom had been blinded for a number of years due to their cataracts. It was obvious that the operation to restore their sight had been life changing. They were all particularly grateful that the treatment on the train was all free as they could never have afforded to pay for the operation. I know one of my great memories of the trip is the huge difference the eye train and the Charity has made to the lives of these poor people.


Folded Corner: Case Study PatientName: 	Chang Hung JungAge: 	76Work:	FarmerNotes:¥	Travelled 200 km to reach the train¥	Heard about the train from a local government representative handing out leaflets.¥	Also suffered from Vitiligo and had had his sight reduced to only being able to see shadows¥	Had his cataracts removed without complications within a 4 day process.C:UserssamsungPicturesSichuan august 11P7230231.JPG







C:UserssamsungPicturesSichuan august 11P7230214.JPGI was also hugely impressed by the way the train was publicised widely so that even the most isolated villages heard about it, even those hundreds of kilometers away. In the 3 months in Guang Yuang the doctors had operated on over 1200 patients, sometimes up to 40 patients in a day. The doctors told me that the infection rate on the train is negligible and that there are rarely complications, which is a huge achievement by the medical team.


It was a fantastic opportunity for me, as not only was I able to experience the amazing work of Lifeline Express in China but I could also follow the whole hospital process from  pre to post operation, which is an exceptionally scarce opportunity for most students.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of Chinese culture and will remember forever the kindness and welcome I received.   I hope when I am qualified as a doctor, that I too will be able to help to change people's lives as successfully as Lifeline Express.


C:UserssamsungPicturesSichuan august 11IMG_2391.JPG