GLIMPSES OF MEDICAL WORK AT CHRISTIAN HOSPITAL SERKAWN
The Lord has done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Medical work at Christian Hospital Serkawn had a humble beginning. In 1919, with the arrival of Miss E.O. Dicks (Pi Dawki) seconded by the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS), London who started a dispensary, in the bungalow she occupied. Soon a need was felt to have a separate building. Rev. W.J.L. Wenger supervised the construction of the first building with timbers and C.I. sheets roofing.
The building was ready for occupancy on 10th February, 1923. Initially the Hospital was meant for women and children with a capacity of 30 beds. There was hardly any other healthcare centre around Lunglei or for that matter in the whole of Southern Mizoram. The centre turned out to be a busy centre. Patients came from far-flung interior, roads being mule-tracks only and some patients were brought in bamboo-stretchers by volunteers.
In the intervening years, doctors and nurses from the nearest BMS Hospital at Chandraghuna, Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal before the partition) came to cater for the needs for surgical treatment as well as gynae and obstetrics etc. In those days, temporary hutments were made close to the Hospital as the patients and their families attended the clinic as long as the services of the doctors and nurses were available to them. Bereft of a resident doctor, the Hospital and its administration were the responsibilities of the BMS Missionary nurses who, ably looked after the basic healthcare of the community. Below is a tabulation of the workers and their tenure:-
|Miss E.O. Dicks||Pi Dawki||1919-1923|
|Miss E.M. Oliver||Pi Zoduhi||1922-1954|
|Miss I.M. Good||Pi Zomuani||1928-1945|
|Miss M.W. Shearer||Pi Zohnemi||1945-‘50,1961-’65|
|Miss Davies||Pi Pawihi||1945-1946|
|Miss E,M, Maltby||Pi Zohnuni||1952-1968|
|Miss K.A. Cox||Pi Sangi||1954-1965|
|Miss J.T. Smith||Pi Zomawii||1972-1977|
The felt need of a resident doctor was so great when fortunately in 1957 the BMS deputed Dr. H.G. Stockley (Dr Zomuana) and his wife who was also experienced with health-care, came to be the first resident doctor to serve the community at Serkawn. They were sent as BMS Missionaries to mainland China but political turmoil saw a direction of their services were recalled in Mizoram. The main speciality of Dr. Stockley was in eye for which he made acquired a good reputation amongst the public. He and his wife with their engaging personalities endeared themselves extremely well with community. He was undoubtedly a well-loved doctor. He was for many years ably assisted by the late Sister Romawii whose service was requisitioned from the Jorhat Christian Hospital, Assam where she did her training in GNM. The workload of health-care was strenuous with patients drawn from even distant areas of Mizoram. Sadly, Dr. Stockley had to leave the Hospital in 1963 as the Central government pronounced a new policy not to entertain foreigners any further in Mizoram declaring the areas politically sensitive.
To help sustain the life of the institution, the Medical Board decided to start a training school for Nursing and this very important component was started in 1952, with a course in Auxiliary Nurse Mid-wifery (ANM), a brainchild of Miss E.M. Maltby (Pi Zohnuni), who was then the Nursing Superintendent. Over the years quite a good number of students have been trained in ANM whose services are in constant demand by the Hospital as well as by the State government. The benefit of training students in ANM is also a boon to the Hospital in meeting staff requirements. Graduates successfully passing through the portals of the School proved themselves well in life. The ANM School is now upgraded to Train students in General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) in accordance with the policy of the Indian Nursing Council, New Delhi. The School has been to eminence amongst sister schools that have came up in recent years.
India gained independence from the British Raj in 1947 and with that a change of guards in the administration. New policies were framed and enforced. The parent BMS could no longer depute missionaries to help run the Hospital. The missionaries were compiled to wind up their stay in Mizoram. In good time, Dr C. Silvera was sponsored by the Baptist Church of Mizoram for his medical study at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, a premier institute in India of its kind. After he successfully completed his study, he joined the Hospital to become the first national Medical Superintendent on 15th September 1964. A very talented doctor he was good with his hands, a skilled surgeon, one of the first operations he performed – thyroidectomy – was on his own father!. For number of years he held the rein smoothly and efficiently.
The antiquated building of the Hospital became dilapidated, rough shod by the scourge of time and vigours of none-too friendly monsoon required a new one to replace it. With the initiative of Dr. C. Silvera, a plan and estimate of the proposed new building was prepared by Rev.Dr. Zairema and suitable funding agencies explored. Under the aegis of Mr.B.P.Chaliha, the then Chief Minister of undivided Assam, an initial grant-in-aid of Rs 1,00,000/- was made and released for the Hospital. The foundation stone of the new building was laid on 23rd March, 1972 by Mr. M.K. Bezbaruah IAS, Sub-Divisional Officer, Lunglei with additional financial support of Rs 80,000/- from the BMS. Besides the financial support, number of public from the surrounding villages contributed their hands for this daunting task. The total amount on completion of the main building came to Rs 36,00,000/-. Thankfully, the Government of Assam donated a new jeep and a truck that facilitated a mobile clinic that met the need of the outlying villages.
Mizoram passed through troubled waters due to insurgency that by 1966 till the peace-accord was signed in 1986 between the Government of India and the Mizo National Front (MNF). Some of the disgruntled elements of the Mizos fought against the Government of India for independent sovereignty, a consequence of the unsatisfactory development carried out by the Assam Government. The situation jeopardized medical work to a great extent financially, supply of medicines and movement of the workers.
Dr C. Silvera expressed his desire to pursue further study in 1972. The BCM Medical Board decided in his favour and under the sponsorship of the BMS, he studied in Australia. Dr (Miss) Faith Rangad joined the Hospital for a period of two years from February 1973 to August 1974 as a fulfillment of her bond service to CMC, Vellore during Dr. C. Silvera’s tenure of study. Having served one and half years, Dr Faith Rangad was selected for further studies and she had to leave the Hospital. Meanwhile, the Baptist Church of Mizoram sponsored Dr.Sangzuala Pachuau for his medical study at Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh. Moreover, at this juncture he had yet to complete his study. The Hospital was without a resident doctor for some months and the situation threw the Medical Board into a dilemma. This was probably the darkest moment in the history of the Hospital as Mizoram itself passed through unsettled political life. Financial resources of the Hospital were at its worst and the morale of the workers was very low. The Medical Board was in quandary as to whether to continue medical work somehow or to close the Hospital for a time.
To avert this very critical situation, the Medical Board frantically searched for suitable doctors to man the crippled administration. A delegation comprising of Rev K.T. Chungnunga, General Secretary of the Baptist Church of Mizoram, Mr.R.T.Bawia and Mr. Z.D. Pasena was sent to the Council of Baptist Churches of North East India (CBCNEI) Guwahati, Assam in 1974 to negotiate for help. The services of Dr Lal Lawma, Surgical specialist and his wife Dr Lalsangliani were requisitioned with initial understanding to have them on loan service for two years. Eventually it turned out that since there were no doctors to relieve them after their two-year stint, with the blessings of the CBCNEI, they stayed on till retirement in 1999.
Dr Lal Lawma and his wife joined the Hospital in November 1974. They found the Hospital in a deplorable state of affairs with just Rs 3,000/- in hand and a back-log of unpaid bills amounting to Rs 80,000/-. The situation required short of a Herculean task to recover. The first thing was to revive the morale of the workers as their salaries had been unpaid for months. With the fervent prayer support of the faithful Church members and extreme hard work, recovery of the sick Hospital was soon in the offing. Adding to the burden of work was the Motherless babies Association looking after orphans. The insurgency and paucity of funds, had compelled a closure of home. Mrs. Thangchhumi (Mother Theresa of Mizoram) had carried on the noble service by the Association for years. All liabilities and insignificant assets were handed over to the Church in1967. The Hospital bore the brunt of responsibilities from the start. Funds meant for building construction was utilized for administrative expenses, which meant construction stood still, the coffer of the Hospital empty with no income generation, a very bleak situation it was. Indeed where would help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He that keeps you will not slumber nor sleep and He is our keeper.
In 1972, Mizoram was given the status of Union Territory an appeasement policy of the Government of India, hoping to end the insurgency. The new benevolent Mizoram government became one of the sources of financial support for the Hospital construction. With the BMS and public contribution the Hospital’s new building was completed and occupied in 1979.
By fits and starts, recovery was painfully slow but steady with hands on work on reconstruction. The old Nurses hostel building was far beyond repair and it had to be rebuilt. The Out-patient section of the building was in dire need of reconstruction, the Hospital kitchen was deplorable. Water supply was tapped from a nearby draw-point. Water had to be carried on shoulders and head. The water was insufficient to meet the daily requirement. So. water reservoirs had to be constructed. Equipments such as X-ray machine, laboratories, laundry machines and more sophisticated modern technology such as Gastroscope, Sigmoidoscope, Ultrasound, and laparoscope were not yet installed. Diagnoses were mostly from clinical acumen. Medical supplies ran short for want of funds. Everything to God in prayers and exploring all possible avenues for resources to cope with the rising immediate needs.
The good Lord, the pace-setter in His abundance yet again began to supply our requirements. A new X-ray machine 300mA was purchased with funds made available by the SIMEVI, Holland through Emmanuel Hospital Association, New Delhi. The old faithful steam sterilizer which had run for years without any functional gauze-meters (operated with guess-meter!) was replaced with a new one with support from the American Baptist Conservative Society, in connection with the Church’s partnership in mission work in Maharashtra. Dr.Lal Lawma through the information gained from the Medical Superintendent, Mahalpur Christian Hospital contacted EZE, Germany and the BMS for financial support to reconstruct the Out-patient building. Out from the blue came the much-needed help – 80% from the EZE, Germany and 20% from the BMS was made available to meet construction outlay and estimate. With these aids, the Hospital was blessed with a new OPD building in 1988. Thanks also to the devaluation of rupees, the total amount of financial assistance came to Rs 18,60,000/-. Appropriation from this financial help, sparingly and mindfully utilized, helped to construct water reservoir, purchase industrial laundry equipments, and reconstruct the Hospital kitchen and part of the Nurses’ Hostel (completed with grant received from the Mizoram government). What was once a 30-bedded Hospital was raised to bed strength of 100 within a span of 10 years. The sick Hospital was now set on a sure footing with improvement in income generation and AMAZING GRACE. Within 8 years, the budget was balanced in spite of the fact that so many patients were treated on charity. It is the Lord’s doing and marvelous in our eyes.
For few years, the Hospital was running short staffed because of financial constraints and the increase in bed strength. Often said amongst the staff was that they had three pillars amongst the workers, Mr.K Kapkima, the Business Manager, Mr.Z.D.Pasena, the Pharmacist and Sister Romawii. The three of them stood firm even during the worst years steadfastly supported by other colleagues whose names cannot all be mentioned here. Gradually here was all-round improvement in staffing. The last of the BMS missionary, Miss J.T.Smith (Pi Zomawii) left Mizoram in 1977 and Miss C.L. Kimi took over the Nursing administration. Miss R. Zirthangi, sponsored by the Church for B.Sc (Nursing) after completion at CMC Vellore, joined the Hospital on June 1, 1976 till she left for Mission field in Nepal in 1999. Miss Hmingthanmawii Pachuau sponsored for B.Sc (Nursing) at Bangalore after completion, joined the Hospital in 1990 to take over as Nursing Superintendent from Mrs. Zirthangi. Miss C. Darthuami and Miss Vanthangpuii were appointed as Tutors in the Nursing School in 1984 after they were sponsored for training in Community Health at CMC Vellore. Miss C. Darthuami left for Mission field elsewhere and Vanthangpuii stayed on. Miss Vanlalthlengliani sponsored by the Church for B.Sc (Nursing) joined the Hospital in 1994 as Tutor and further trained at CMCM Vellore for M.Sc (Nursing). With the appointment of Mrs. Hrangthangpuii and Mrs. Lalchangliani Sailo as Tutors, the Nursing School is on a good pedestal.
As for doctors, on February 21, 1976 Dr. Sangzuala Pachuau joined the Hospital after completion of his studies. He left on October 21, 1982. Dr. L.H. Lalrammawia volunteered his service to join the Hospital in 1983 after a short stint in the State service. Dr. K. Vanlallawma sponsored by the Church at Assam Medical College for study, joined in 1985. Dr R. Lalramzauva volunteered his service to join in 1990. Dr L.H. Lalrammawia was deputed for Diploma in Gynae & Obstetrics at CMC Ludhiana while Dr K. Vanlallawma and Dr R. Lalramzauva were trained in CAMS (Christian Academy of Medical Sciences) under the aegis of CMAI (Christian Medical Association of India). Dr B. Laldinliana joined as a volunteer in 1990 and further trained for M.S. (Surgery) supported by the Church. Dr (Miss) B. Lalrinzauvi, Dr (Mrs.) Lalzarmawii and Dr H.S. Lalchungnunga joined as volunteers in 1999, 2001 and 2002 respectively. Dr Lal Lawma retired on superannuation in 1999 and Dr (Mrs.) Lalsangliani retired on voluntary retirement in 1999. Dr L.H. Lalrammawia took over the post of Medical Superintendent in 1999 for a period of 3 years when in 2002 Dr K.Vanlallawma succeeded him for the same post.
For administrative convenience, Mr. K. Vanlalrema sponsored by the Church of Mizoram for Diploma in Hospital Administration at St John’s Medical College, Bangalore joined in 1992 as Business Manager. The Baptist Church Orphanage, after it was taken over from the Motherless Babies Association, initially had 8 children increased the enrolment to 25 children and is well managed and looked after by dedicated house-mothers. It is held in high esteem for the care provided.
The much-awaited Gospel Centenary of the Good News reaching Mizoram came in 1994. For so many years, we could not entertain friends from overseas because of stringent government policy. For this occasion, the Government of India relaxed the restriction and friends from overseas like USA, UK, Australia joined us in the celebration of the joyous event. Amongst the visitors, Rev.Derek J.Keenan and family, long time friends of the Hospital, brought their love-gift-Gastroscope and Sigmoidoscope equipments of enormous asset to the Hospital. Dr C. Silvera, in his new responsibility as Union Minister of State, Health & Family Welfare, purchased for us Ultrasound equipment and a Laparoscope, real boon to the Hospital. Mt. Gambier Baptist Church, Australia collected various redundant hospital materials. With all expenses paid for the ship-container, freight charges and movement within Australia, the materials reached the Hospital intact, were received as love-gift from the Mt. Gambier Baptist Church. Individual donations were also received as $ 10,000/- for reconstruction of the Orphanage building from Mr & Mrs. Melville Edwards, 57 Board Street, Doncaster, VIC 3108 Australia, $ 50,000/- by Bob & Heather Neilson for the purchase of Boyle’s anesthetic machine, Dr Helen Wishart, Scotland frequently sent her contributions to the Baptist Church of Mizoram for the Orphanage. Mr J. Buana during his lifetime gave substantial contribution towards the building construction.
Being in the mundane world, one is tempted to mention a memorial comment made by one of the three VVIPs who came to visits the Hospital one Sunday in 1976. Before demolition of the old building – ‘Credit is not in having excellent concrete building but the humane treatment of patients in need count most’ – was the comment by Mr Chhiber, the then Lt. Governor of Mizoram. The three VVIPs came in connection with a patient admitted at the height of insurgency, tortured by the Indian security forces. His name Lianmawia. The incidence took place at Lungchem village. The Indian security forces knew that underground MNF (Mizo National Front) Front, outlawed political party then, volunteers camped in the said village but before the village was cordoned off the volunteers slipped through, leaving behind the innocent villagers. In their anger, the Security forces razed the village, pounced upon the innocent villagers, singled out Lianmawia. His buttocks beaten to pulp, restrained him with his hands tied at the back around a banana tree, dry leaves heaped around and then set fire. Miraculously he could extricate himself, ran for safer place, security forces made a hot chase with sniffer dogs, the latter lost smell, as he was able to cross a river somehow. Days after he was brought on a bamboo stretcher to the Hospital, his wounds covered with banana leaves. Infections set into the decayed tissues, both the lower limbs were veritable bagful of maggots infesting and thriving on the dead tissues. Fellow patients could not stand the horrible putrid smell and failed to enjoy their food. Beneath the skin, one was able to explore the wounds from the battered buttocks right down the knees. Thoroughly the wounds were decamped off the maggots, which were plentiful, and the dead tissues removed. Surgical dressings done with care, eventually healing process started steadily. At this juncture the three VVIPs – Lt. Governor, Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Mizoram * came to see the patient for themselves, to enquire the incidence as well. Lianmawia recovered fully and has been gainfully rehabilitated by the Government who appointed him as a peon in the Public Health Department. He got married and is blessed with children. It was purely the hands of God – that blessed him to recovery. This is just one incidence among many in the life of the institution.
In retrospect, the triumphant moments were, times when the coffer was empty, the necessity to run on a shoe-string budget and on bended knees, we bowed for His mercy and blessings to come forth. Great was, and is His faithfulness; even in the darkest hour He carried us and His abundance never let us down to act in His living presence.