Paved roads ended about half a mile back. The bridge we crossed was being used to dry mustard seeds and by pedestrians, instead of by vehicles it was surely designed for. But it didn’t matter anyways since the road beyond was too narrow for our car to travel down. We traveled the serpentine road, surrounded by lush green rice paddies, by rickshaw instead. It was clear, we had reached “the last mile”.
I had spent the last week with the guys from Jeeon, learning more about their solution and seeing if adding my voice in their discussions could offer them any assistance. I have been interested in medical technology and international development throughout my undergrad and masters, so when a mutual friend introduced me to Rubayat, I jumped at the chance to volunteer with the team he created. Throughout the week I was amazed at how well thought out this solution was and how dedicated everyone was to the cause. By the time we arrived in Kishoreganj, I was truly looking forward to the site visit and seeing the solution in action.
After spending the morning checking out the field site, we decided to speak to some of the patients who had used the service and get their feedback. After a short, bumpy, but breathtakingly beautiful ride, we arrived at our destination. Sitting at his doorstep, was an elderly man who, I was told, was one of the patients who did not get better after using the service. We wanted to use his testimony to discover if there were any gaps in the solution.
He told us his story about how, after seeking medical attention, first in Kishoreganj and then in the hospital in Mymensingh, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. They told him that he would need a surgery to save his life, but it was clear that he didn’t truly understand what was happening to him. So upon returning to the village, the stress of his diagnosis had caused him to grow weaker. He was scared, and this fear added to his physical condition. When he heard about Amader Daktar, he decided to give it a try since it meant he could talk to a “Dhaka doctor” at an affordable cost, only a short rickshaw ride away.
Hearing his story, it was obvious why the he did not get better after visiting Amader Daktar. After all, the patient already had a diagnosis and there is very little anyone can do over the phone to treat cancer. But, instead of finding a “gap” in the solution, I gained an understanding of the potential good an organization like Jeeon can provide.
There are the obvious benefits with this solution. Like providing access to proper healthcare in even the most remote regions. And gathering medical data for physicians so that they can develop better treatment options for people in the bottom of the pyramid. These are not the benefits that this man described. Instead he told us that this service provided him with shanti, which is the Bengali word for peace. You see, he first bounced back and forth searching for someone to help him with his ailment. Then, when he got the proper medical attention, he did not truly understand what they were telling him and that scared him. He did not have the option for follow ups and second opinions. That would mean paying for another doctors visit, or waiting for the designated hour doctors sometime set aside to see the underprivileged. It would means traveling, while sick, to another facility, and maybe even staying another night in a strange town, insecure about where he, and the family who came with him, would sleep. And lastly, when all was said and done, he still felt that there was a better option out there. The legendary “Dhaka doctor”, just out of reach, who might have the cure he so desperately needs.
This man’s story was not unique either. Throughout the day, I heard stories about different pains and illnesses. But, always present, were the stories of wandering through a fragmented and overburdened healthcare system; of needing to rely on charity to see a physician; of not truly understanding or not getting the chance understand; and of hoping for the opportunity to talk to a Dhaka doctor. I think Jeeon can help end these types of stories. With Amader Daktar these patients were able to connect to a qualified Dhaka doctors and get medicine, information and counseling, all from their local bazaar. It opens up options to people who previously had none. It is said that a doctor’s role is “to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always,” and Jeeon is opening a new door for doctors to do just that, even in “the last mile”. In essence, they are working hard to bringing peace to the wanderer, and I am happy to contribute to their cause any way that I can.