Notes from My First Screening Camp
December 29, 2023 | Contributed by Dolly Malvai
I have been working with Genesis Foundation, a children’s charity, since it’s inception and needless to say, committing myself to Save Little Hearts is something extremely close to my heart. Each child that we save amplifies into many lives given an opportunity for a better future. Lives of children, their parents, grandparents, and their siblings. Being a part of that journey is truly magical.
Registering children and their families at the camp
In 2018, to expand it’s footprints and be able to support the children living in the hinterlands where access to specialised medical care is unavailable, Genesis Foundation started conducting screening camps. Screening camps have enabled us to not only reach children in remote areas, diagnose them and facilitate free heart surgery for child in India but have also been critical to spreading awareness about Congenital Heart Defects at the grassroot level.
Even though I have worked with Genesis Foundation since the beginning, I have never had the opportunity to attend a screening camp. So, when I heard that we are organising a screening camp at Ramanathapuram, an aspirational district with 31.2% of the population living below the poverty line, I could not resist the urge to go and witness the real work we do on ground.
Waking up on a cold winter morning to board my flight to Ramanathapuram, I was excited and full of emotions – to be able to experience my first screening camp.
Going through a final run of our check list, my colleague and I boarded our flight to Madurai. My heart was a mixed bag of emotions – there was excitement to be able to meet so many children and their families, a sense of purpose fuelled by the long trek we were making to go into an area where there was no medical access and a lot of nervousness. While I have donned many a hat for the Foundation, being a part of a screening camp was a first.
Hundreds of children came to be screened for a congenital heart defect
On reaching the venue, a large school called AMRITA Vidyalayam, we met the medical team from AMRITA Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center, Kochi. The hospital has been playing a leading role in carrying out path breaking interventions to treat children with congenital heart defects and in facilitating free heart surgery for child in India. The team was the medical partner for the camp. We did a full background check to ensure that we were all set, and I sat down on the registration desk to welcome and register the children and their families that would come. But what ensued was something I had not prepared myself for. At first a few families started trickling in allowing me the opportunity to interact with these children and their families. Though language was a barrier, we had some translators volunteering with us. Talking to them gave me window into the hardships they faced on a regular basis just to be able to go to a proper medical facility for conditions which are beyond a fever.
In just a matter of an hour the small group had transformed into something I had not witnessed ever before. We registered 250+ children that day. The ques were serpentine. Overwhelmed by the heat and large crowds, all of us tried to do our best to accommodate the massive crowds. Senior boys from the school came forward to help us with registrations and in settling the families and their children. AMRITA hospital ensured that there was enough food for every family that had come as many of them had traversed long distances with the hope of healing their child. Each child was accompanied by parents, relatives, siblings. The crowd on my table was massive – diligently registering every child, there was suddenly no room left to look up and interact with families in the detail I was being able to in the morning. They came from various parts surrounding Ramanathapuram, they came from all ages. What struck me was the large need that existed – that there were so many children just waiting to get the right facility to come their way to get a diagnosis.
Dr Krishna Kumar examining a child at the camp
Once I dealt with the rush of the registrations and things became a little calmer, I started participating in other activities of the camp. The look of worry on the faces of the parents was something that hit me deep down- it was not the first time I was witnessing that worry and look on the faces of parents but watching hundreds of family members with that expression- on whether their child was fine or not, on whether their child would heal, how would they get through the treatment. The poverty that many families must endure was hard to miss. Most of the families that came were farmers. Dependent on mother nature to decide their fortunes, they were all struggling and in the face of that struggle to have to deal with a serious condition concerning their child is something horrible – no parent should have to go through that. And this is where our children’s charity is making a difference – giving parents the chance to save their child.
The patience the doctors showed was hard to miss. Despite the crowd of children that had to be screened, the doctors kept their cool going about their work with utmost diligence. In fact, Dr. Krishna Kumar, not anticipating the large number of children that showed was originally booked to leave in the evening as his sister was going through a procedure. But when he realised that he would not be able to screen all the children he rescheduled his departure.
We would up at 8:30 pm. Over 12 hours of being in the heat, standing – our bodies tiered but hearts full. Satisfied in the know that we had reached hundreds of families whose children would not have got diagnosed or diagnosed too late- satisfied that we will be able to give these children an opportunity for a better life and satisfied that we will be able to transform the worry of their families into happiness.
To read more about the details of the screening camp visit: