Metrolife: Doc sans frontiers enjoys city 10K run

Metrolife: Doc sans frontiers enjoys city 10K run

Nishith Kumar

The recently concluded TCS World 10K saw active participation from an interesting mix of people. Among them was 35-year-old Nishith Kumar, a doctor working with Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian medical non-governmental organisation operating in conflict zones and countries affected by endemic diseases.

Hailing from Bihar and having received his medical degree from Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Nishith has been on three missions with MSF — South Sudan, Yemen and Iraq. He spoke to Rajitha Menon about life in the warzone and beyond. 

How did you develop an interest in the medical field?

Growing up in my village Darbhanga, I had always been curious about the animal life I saw around me. Later, this interest narrowed down to the functioning of the human body. I felt that studying medicine would be a great way to learn about it and apply that knowledge. Another thing that influenced my decision was seeing my father, who is a doctor himself, practise in our village.

Can you recount an experience you had while in Yemen?

We had received a group of soldiers whose vehicle had been ambushed on the road. That was the first mass casualty incident I had seen. Two were already dead and one was bleeding heavily from gunshots to the head and arms. In such cases, we have to understand our limitations and try to save the patients who still have a chance. It is practical but leaving a heavily wounded patient to die creates a feeling of helplessness and guilt, especially if you experience this situation for the first time. The soldier with head injuries did not survive, but the others were managed well by the team and recovered after undergoing surgeries.

Is running marathons a hobby?

I have never run a marathon in my life. This was my first ever official 10K run. It was a good opportunity to help with fundraising for MSF, and the date of the TCS Run matched with my dates in India. It was a lot of fun though.

How has your experience with MSF been so far?

Every mission has been an amazing though challenging experience. In South Sudan, living conditions were harsh — extreme heat, long and exhausting working hours, bumpy beds on the floor in tents, restricted movement, and frequent visits to bunkers to shelter ourselves from gunfire. Our living conditions in Yemen and Iraq were much better although freedom of movement was restricted due to security concerns; you remain confined to the house and the hospital. We were advised to keep our calm while dealing with the national staff workers because they have gone through so much that their occasional poor performance could result from the stress and ongoing grief. 

What are some of the do's and don'ts that you follow while working in conflict zones?

In conflict zones, we are asked to keep our luggage less because quick evacuation is always a possibility. We have to follow strict protocols which MSF is very particular about. Even a little irregularity on your part could lead to you being sent home. We also have to be very careful about the local cultural norms and respect them.

But all said and done, once you go on a mission, usually you want to go again.