It is in the height of summer, prayer flags on the grassland flutter at an altitude of 3,500 meters and Tibetan herdsmen clutch Hada in both hands as they welcome their most familiar guests, the medical aid team from Gansu Province.
"Menpa" means doctor in Tibetan. There are currently many stories spreading around the vast Gannan grassland in northwest China's Gansu Province about "Good Menpa", who bring their kindheartedness and consummate medical skills to the grassland, leaving behind a medical team to help cure the herdsmen of their diseases.
Best hospitals comes to Tibetan-inhabited areas
After some early morning rain, an elderly Tibetan called Dongtrin put on a feather jacket and left the house. After crossing the Gesar Street, he arrived at People's Hospital in the county.
The 74-year-old Dongtrin lives in Maqu County. When he heard that a group of medical aid expert has arrived in the county recently, he thought he might be able to get a clear answer on how to cure the problem with his legs.
The doctor who saw him was Qiu Hao. After careful examination, Qiu Hao gave specific treatment advice and wrote his name and telephone numbers on a piece of paper, telling Dongtrin to contact him as soon as possible if his disease progresses.
Dongtrin has been suffering from varicose veins throughout the year and if he travels to Lanzhou, capital city of Gansu which is more than 400 kilometers away from Maqu, to see a doctor, medical expenses and transportation cost would be thousands of Yuan. Now, he can also see a doctor from the best hospitals in the province at home thanks to the medical aid program.
From the end of 2015 to now, Gansu Province has arranged for two consecutive provincial-level medical aid team to help ten Tibetan hospitals in Gannan and Tianzhu, a Tibetan Autonomous County in Wuwei City in the middle part of Gansu. The medical team consists of experts from the provincial capital's ten best hospitals, covering internal, external, gynecology, pediatrics and other areas.
Bringing consummate medical skill to the grassland
Before the arrival of these doctors, many herdsmen with chronic diseases in Maqu County had to travel far to receive medical treatment. Even some with back and leg pain were recommended by local doctors to travel to big hospitals in Lanzhou and Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province which is about 600 kilometers away from Maqu, while the B-ultrasound and X-ray machines at Maqu County Hospital are basically left unused.
In the winter of 2015, Wang Shibiao, chief Chinese medicine expert at Gansu Province's Second People's Hospital, brought a medical team to Maqu. He discovered that there was a "blank space" in the county's Chinese medicine expertise. Wang Shibiao thought: how to train a local medical team in limited time? He then found Gao Wucai and Yang Xiaobing from the People's Hospital in the County, who both understand some fundamental theories of Chinese medicine, and taught them all kinds of different Chinese medicine techniques.
A year later, Wang Shibiao had to return to Lanzhou. The Chinese medicine department at People's Hospital in the County was on track and in full flow, with everything complete including a pharmacy, an extracting room, a fumigation room and a medicated bathroom.
"I've made great progress from a year of learning," said Gao Wucai. He has learned eight Chinese medicine techniques, including cupping treatment. Aside from common pains such as pain in the limbs, he can even treat some patients with appendicitis and kidney stones using Chinese medicine.
Hope for fellow Tibetans
After Wang Shibiao left, Gao Wucai arrived at the hospital an hour early every day. He said that this is what his teacher does.
The Tibetan aid doctors not only brought medical skills to the grassland, but also their medical ethics. When we reporters made interviews there, we heard lots of stories about them. For example, the 41-year-old Wei Yuhui, deputy director of the pharmacy division at Lanzhou University First Hospital, suffered from altitude sickness when he first arrived at the grassland and had to return to Lanzhou for treatment. After being discharged, he returned to the plateau and stayed there for a whole year.
From the end of 2015 until now, the medical aid program of Gansu Province towards Tibetan-inhabited areas has had 101 experts participate in the aid. According to incomplete statistics, the medical aid team has already treated more than 28,000 patients.