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A growing number of medical professionals are offering their services to aid those most in need. Wang Xiaodong reports.
After working at a large, well-equipped hospital in Beijing, Chao Shuang could not have been more astonished by the conditions in Conakry, capital of Guinea, and the China-Guinea Friendship Hospital during her first visit to the West African country.
"I was prepared for the worst before I set out, but it turned out to be worse than I expected," she said. "There are virtually no roads in the city. The hospitals, even major ones in the capital, are in dire need of basic equipment. Some of the testing equipment was made in the 1970s, so most of us had no idea how to use the machines."
Chao, a pediatrician at Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, was part of an eight-strong team organized by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association. The Chinese medics - neurosurgeons, gynecologists and pediatricians from three tertiary hospitals in Beijing - provided voluntary services at the hospital in Guinea for three weeks.
They mainly treated children with hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Though the illness is common in Guinea, the patients often had a serious form of the condition as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment, according to Chao.
"Working there was completely different from working at my hospital in Beijing," she said. "We were constantly under pressure due to a lack of equipment, despite the things we had brought from China. The power supply in the operating rooms often failed, and sometimes the backup generator was also out of operation so we had to use the flashlights on our mobile phones to conduct surgery."
Moreover, none of the Chinese doctors could speak French, the official language of Guinea, so it was difficult to communicate with the patients.
Luckily, they met an interpreter who was working for a medical assistance squad dispatched by the Chinese government. The two groups shared the interpreter"s services whenever possible, which was a great help, Chao said.
In addition to providing diagnoses and surgeries, her team also helped to train local medical professionals.
"I was pleased to see some of the children with serious conditions improved after we treated them," she said. "The experience was a spiritual baptism for me because I was finally able to help others in need, and I was so proud of myself."