Panchkelguri Block Primary Health Center. Jalpaiguri District. West Bengal.
It was precisely at 7 something PM that I was informed. ‘Ice Packs have not frozen’.
It was around 10 ish that I was informed that three ice blocks had been placed in the cold chain room.
It was around 11 something, after I had had dinner and Tintin had slept that I left my quarter for the hospital.
I woke up a drunk Grade 4 staff sleeping on a bench in front of the Emergency Room.
And with a hammer from my father’s tool box and an iron rod from somewhere we began to break ice.
For the next three hours we broke ice. We stuffed ice in vaccine carriers. Carefully protecting the paper labels on the Vaccine carriers.
Sister Runa Di boiled water with tea dust and sugar. Many cups.
At 4 AM the first car arrived to take the first batch of vaccine carriers for the forest bastis.
I walked with a vial home. For my son. The first child to be vaccinated in my PHC area.
Mousumi and Ma had not slept that night. Angry that there was no one else to help me break ice. They were concerned I would catch cold. Winter. Ice.
I was afraid. Because the District Magistrate has warned. ‘If the program fails in your block, heads will roll.’ He had thundered in the District meeting of medical officers last week.
As I prepared for the day’s program with a bath at 4 AM, Mousumi said ‘God is watching. He will reward you for your labour.’
God heard His favourite child. And has given me so much reward in form of satisfaction from my work in life.
India is today Polio free.
Another Pulse Polio program was launched at Rashtrapati Bhavan today. As Honourable Rashtrapati Ji administered vaccines to our youngest generation, I remembered 1995.
When it all began. The journey has been long. A quarter of a Century. For Public Health. But such rewarding for all involved.