The Wonderful Paramedics at the Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Center

The Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Center (KEHRC) in Dhenkanal, Orissa is a thriving, high-quality eye care center. The hospital offers services that range from refractometry and keratometry, to the fitting of contact lenses, all which can be found in the OPD. In addition to this, in the Operation Theater, world-class cataract surgeries are performed. And lastly, the hospital plans and completes outreach camps in rural villages to provide eye care and screen patients for cataracts. The excellent paramedic staff is the backbone of the hospital, and they help KEHRC run at top speed daily. The paramedics are all local women who have been trained and educated in eye care by the hospital. These women take on many different roles from registering patients, measuring visual acuity, pre-operation and post-operation care, to assisting the surgeons in cataract surgery and essentially running the outreach camps. Not only are they critical to the success of the hospital, but they are one of the best parts about being a Global Impact Fellow at the KEHRC. Full of joy, laughter, and curiosity, the wonderful paramedic staff makes one feel at home at the KEHRC. The following paramedics were kind enough to share their stories.

Ashanti Behera

1Ashanti is from the village of Gondia in the Dhenkanal district. She has three sisters and one brother. Two of her sisters live in the town of Dhenkanal, so she is able to see them regularly, while the other sister still resides in Gondia village. She says that she misses her family when she is not with them, but she realizes that leaving her family is necessary if she wants to work and pursue greater education. Ashanti has now worked at the KEHRC for 6 years, so she is one of the higher level paramedics on staff. The director of the hospital, Sarangadhar Samal, is her uncle. When Ashanti heard that he was opening a hospital, she immediately applied for a position. She says that she always had wanted to do service work, especially hospital work. Practicing optometry ended up being perfect for her, particularly because she suffers from allergies. She believes that her allergies would have prevented her from working in other medical positions as there is more exposure to allergens, especially in general hospitals. Ashanti says that she loves everything about the hospital and especially appreciates all she has learned about refractometry. She is especially eager to learn more. Soon she will be starting school in Bhubaneswar to gain a four year degree in optometry. She also hopes to learn more at the KEHRC and would like to continue working at the hospital for years to come.

Sarita Behera

2Sarita is from the village of Jineilo in Orissa. She has one brother and two sisters who she misses a lot. Once a month, she has three days of leave from the hospital, and she uses that time to visit her family. She got a job at the KEHRC after coming with her aunt to get her eyes checked. Sarita’s cousin, Sasmita, was already a paramedic here. When Sarita shared her interest in working at the KEHRC with Sasmita, her cousin asked the manager to schedule an interview for Sarita. She has now worked 26 months at the KEHRC, and Sarita says that she enjoys working at the hospital. She thinks that the most important skills she has learned are those used when she assists in the Operation Theater (OT) -- this is also her favorite part about working in the hospital. She also says that she enjoys putting anesthesia in eyes. She says she likes having a sense of responsibility, as you need to get it right or the patients could be in a lot of pain during the surgery. She says that her least favorite part of the job is presiding over the ward, which involves leading patients around, making sure they do not open their dressings, etc. If she had not found a job at the KEHRC, Sarita says that she would probably be giving tuitions (private teaching). She also knows how to make incense, so she says that she would probably be making and selling it. Although she has no immediate plans for the future, Sarita would like to take some computer courses. Also, her father passed away before she started working at the KEHRC, so she feels that she will be needed at home more in the future to take care of her family.

3Sasmita Satapathy

Sasmita is from the rural village of Mabakassipur, Orissa. She has three sisters and one brother. Sasmita has been working at the KEHRC for four years and is used to being away from home. Four years ago, she saw an advertisement for interviewing at the KEHRC. She applied, was interviewed and successfully became part of the paramedic staff. She says that she likes working at the hospital and finds joy in everything she does, except for working in the ward. She thinks that the skills she has learned for working in the OT are the most important skills she has acquired at the KEHRC. Jokingly, she says if she were not working at the KEHRC she would probably be sleeping at home. However, aside from this, she would be a private teacher. Two of her sisters are private teachers, so she probably would have followed in their footsteps. At this time, she has no specific plans for the future. She likes working at the KEHRC too much to consider anything else at the moment. The photo shows Sasmita with Alex Woodcock, who is the author of this profile piece about the paramedics.

4Namita Nayak

Namita, one of the funniest and most rambunctious paramedics at KEHRC, is form Hindol Road, Orissa. She has one brother and three sisters. She misses her family greatly and loves her monthly visit to them. She says that she and her sisters go to the market and get lots of sweets. After visiting the KEHRC two years ago to get her sister’s eyes checked, Namita interviewed for a position as a paramedic. Now she enjoys everything about her work, except ward duty. She has especially learned a lot from her long hours assisting the doctors in the OT. A very funny woman, Namita says that the biggest difficulty about working in the hospital is the “stairs.” She says she has “knives in her knees,” after walking up and down the stairs every day. If she had not received a job at the KEHRC, she would probably be sewing at home, where she owns a sewing machine. While she loves working at the hospital now, Namita says in the future she would like to find a job outside of Orissa to see more of the world. The photo shows Namita with Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow Uttara Partap; as one of the funniest paramedics, Namita decided to lift Uttara for the photograph pose.

 

5Liliprava Khuntia

Liliprava is considered a paramedic trainee since she has only worked for the KEHRC for 1 year. She is from the rural village of Kamakhyanagar, Orissa. Although she has a small family, with only one brother, she misses her family dearly, as she is not used to being away from them for so long. She dreams of living happily with her family “forever,” however, she must support herself, which she can do working at the KEHRC. Although everything is still quite new to her, she says that she enjoys everything about her work at the KEHRC—everything except for ward duty. For right now, she doesn’t have any immediate plans for the future, but would just like to enjoy herself here and learn more.

 

 

 

6Pravati Sahoo

Known to everyone at the KEHRC as “Pinkie,” Parvati is from the village Jharabandha in Orissa. Parvati has three sisters and one brother, who she misses very much when she is at the hospital. Parvati has worked at the KEHRC for 2 years. She and Namita were friends in college. After Namita started working at the KEHRC, she told Parvati that she should apply. Parvati applied, and six months later became a paramedic at the hospital. Pravati enjoys her work at the hospital, and assisting in the OT is her favorite part. She also says that the work she does in the OT is probably the most important skill she has learned while working at the KEHRC. Like her friend Namita, she does not like walking up and down the stairs each day. If she had not received a job at the KEHRC, she would probably still be living at home. There, she would be teaching sewing to kids at the local school. Although she is happy working at the KEHRC now, she would like to someday work outside of Orissa and see different parts of India.

 

 

These profiles were written by Alexandra Woodcock, Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow