Ben and Kelly two nurses working at the local hospital. img_0598_0 dsc00864 SONY DSC DSC09526 IMG_0727.jpg

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When air becomes breath

Posted by: Philip Alex | Posted on: May 18th, 2017 | 0 Comments


Oxygen is essential for all hospitals. Ours is no different. The logistics of procuring oxgygen in Manali are overwhelming, and procuring it regularly is a formidable challenge. Our hospital has fifty five beds, of which four are intensive care beds with three ventilators. Ventilators are a sluice gate for oxygen, rapidly exhausting cylinders. The nearest filling station for oxygen is in Mandi, three hours away by road. In early 2004 we required  two cylinders a day. We are presently using twenty cylinders every three days. The logistics of transporting empty cylinders down by truck, filling  them and having them on hand for all emergencies is an onerous task. At first we used to send our cylinders inside a Sumo with the back seats removed to make space. That was not safe, since the driver is in the same cab with the jostling cylinders. So we bought a pick up truck. The truck marked “medical oxygen” used to make its pilgrimage every third day down the mountain roads to the filling station. This was not without danger. Once the truck had a narrow escape, collided en route with another vehicle and spewed the oxygen cylinders all over the mountainside. Thankfully the cylinders were empty and no one was injured.

One of our employees, Mr. Ramdev,  who had come to our hospital as a destitute patient over fifteen years ago has been the chief co ordinator of this exercise. Originally from Nepal, without any known support or family, he wandered into our hospital as a patient. While admitted, he was instrumental in catching a thief and was thereby inducted into the staff as a watchman. The income he earned did not slake his search for a reason to exist, and he turned to alcohol, which became a trap. He wandered down the road to complete inebriation and faced the day when we had to confront him with termination of service. Desperate, and with no human help at hand or family to turn to, he asked us for help. We arranged to send him to a Christian rehabilitation centre in Lucknow for six months.

He returned a changed man. Returning to his job, he assumed complete responsibility for the supply of oxygen, keeping tabs on the number of cylinders that were available and ensuring that we always had filled cylinders at hand. We have never run out of oxygen, thanks to his faithfulness. He established contact with one of his close relatives in Nepal, and visited them immediately after the earthquake there. He has become a support to his close ones in Nepal by taking them blankets and money. He is now always nattily turned out, and has never looked at alcohol again. He is acutely aware of the transformation God has brought about in his life, not only by saving him from alcohol, but being instrumental in providing help to his family.

Installing an oxygen plant in Manali has been a year long project. This last week, the plant is finally up and running. The plant produces oxygen by extracting all other components from air. The pick up truck does not have to run that mountain road much anymore, and will only need to go  occasionally for back up cylinders. Later, we can install our own filling station. This plant is now hissing and humming happily in campus. It sends messages of its well-being periodically to the phones of  concerned personnel informing them of any errors or blips in its function. Prominent among the list of those who get messages is – you guessed it,   Ramdev, our living testimony that air does become breath.

We obtained permission from Mr. Ramdev to share his story on the website to serve as a source of encouragement to others.

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