GREAT THINGS FOR GOD Part 1 (#115) told how William Carey brought the Bible to India and challenged widow burning, burning of lepers, killing of the sick, sacrificial drowning of infants, the caste system, and the ideology behind these evils – reincarnation and karma.
Part II tells
Sophia Scudder (1870-1960)
brought scientific medicine to India's women and children. Her 1-bed
hospital became the Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital,
of the great hospitals and medical teaching centres of Asia.
As a 7-year-old on a mission station in India Ida Scudder spent mornings distributing bread to starving children. It was the "Great Famine of 1877". It didn't rain for three years and 5 million people died.
The parents then sent Ida to school in America where she lived the life of a 19th century city girl. She determined never to be a missionary – the heat, dust, flies, and squalor were not for her.
At 19, however, a letter from India told of her mother's ill health. Ida hastened back to the three-roomed, sun-baked brick, mud-plastered, thatched-roof house.
Ida's parents, Dr John Scudder (known as Dr John) and Mrs John, were Christian missionaries in Tamil Nadu, South India. Dr John was constantly on the move preaching, healing, and baptizing. He preached in little mud-walled churches or on outdoor pulpits, his words sometimes drowned out by chanting Hindus dancing around incense altars.
Hindus and Muslims kept their wives secluded and wives spent their lives hidden in hot, windowless, mud brick houses. A sick wife would put her hand through a hole in the wall for Dr. John to take the pulse. He could do little more than give advice, based on examining the hand, and prescribe medicine.
tells of the following conversation
between Dr. John and Ida:
Next day the three girls – they were child brides – died and the rhythmic beat of tom-toms announced their deaths. Dr. John explained, "It's their law. It's their right and wrong."
tragedy and felt God calling
her to minister to the health of India particularly women and children.
"I met God face to face," she said and decided to study medicine.
DOCTOR IDA SCUDDER
Few 19th century women studied medicine – it was a male profession. But in 1899 Ida graduated from Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Cobb suggested a hospital
for Vellore. Ida made many public appearances to raise money. Finally a
Mr. Schell donated $10,000 equivalent today to about $500,000.
HOSPITAL IN VELLORE
Ida Scudder returned to India. In 1900 she opened a one-bed clinic in Vellore and named it Mary Taber Schell Hospital (after Mr Schell's wife).
In 1902 the hospital had two wards with forty beds, an operating theatre with glass table, kerosene stoves to sterilize instruments, and a dispensary with shelves of medicines.
Ida worked under her father's supervision, giving out medicines and helping in operations, and studied the local language, Tamil. After five months her father died. She trained a local girl, Salomi, as nurse and carried on setting broken bones, extracting pebbles from ears, issuing ointment for eyes – saving people from blindness – and delivering babies, often in 110oF heat.
At the first
Scudder attended, the mother
was dying of thirst but the grandmother refused to bring sufficient
brought; the girl recovered;
a boy was born.
DOCTOR AT WORK
Long lines of barefoot patients queued daily keeping Dr. Scudder busy from dawn till night while Salomi fetched bandages, lotions and needles and rocked crying babies. Patients in the hospital often brought their own mats to sleep on because they feared the height of the hospital beds.
After a long struggle to save a Muslim girl giving birth, then tending the baby girl several days, Dr. Scudder sensed unease among the relatives camped outside. The baby was healthy but the relatives called it an "evil day" and did not want to see it.
One morning prompted by an inner voice Ida rushed out of the dispensary, along the verandah to the ward. A female relative was suffocating the baby with a pillow while the mother watched and cried.
Ida screamed "Stop!" and "How could you?" and pulled the pillow away. The relatives shrugged and said, "It is the will of Allah. She was better dead." The grandmother added, "You don't want her to die? You can have her."
Ida took the baby across to the bungalow to Mrs John who named the baby Mary Taber.
orphans were saved from death
and received a Christian home at Vellore:
In 1904-1907 the rat-borne plague, the Black Death, struck. In area after area people loaded wagons and fled. The local Indian Municipal Chairman in Vellore refused inoculation:
He believed that Kali, Goddess of Death would be angry with him if he tried to cheat her. Nothing would have persuaded him to allow his own family to be inoculated. (p. 58)
Similarly most people. Plague was the will of the gods and would not be stopped with a needle – rather, sacrifices in the temple. Fires blazed before altars and people brought gifts to placate the goddess of disease and drums throbbed to announce deaths. Fear made the bottles of vaccine in the hospital useless.
Ida sought out
people left behind when families
fled. She cajoled, persuaded, burned contaminated clothes and straw,
Dr. Scudder began going further afield to take health care to the poor and disabled.
In 1916 she had a car and, with Salomi, visited villages up to 50 miles away and set up roadside dispensaries. A table could be slid out and medicines and instruments arranged on it. Many villagers had never seen a modern doctor, or nurse, or a car. "The devil!" some screamed.
In ignorance and prejudice village headmen often ordered Ida to leave. In another instance:
The villagers were well-bred and very proud of their high caste. Ida was a stranger. Because she was a stranger, they considered her "unclean", and they certainly weren't going to accept medicines from unclean hands. (p. 63)
Gradually, however, perseverance brought change. In ever more villages people lined up to receive medicine, get broken bones set, tumors excised, drops put into eyes, or be inoculated.
dispensaries, over decades, developed
into extensive, internationally acclaimed, rural health programs to
medical students, nurses and surgeons from around the world contributed
In 1909 Dr Scudder's mission at Vellore had a School of Nursing, a white building with white pillars and stone steps, and a car from America.
There were now so many patients she wanted to train Indian women for the Licensed Medical Practitioner diploma. Indian men could become doctors if they passed the British Medical Department exams in Madras – but women?
In 1918 Dr. Scudder opened the Vellore Medical School for Women to train women as doctors and 14 women completed the course. All passed their exams, competing successfully with the men! With training of women as nurses and doctors Indian women began getting access to health care professionals.
Again years passed and "eye camps" organized by the Vellore Medical Mission became reality. A blue van carrying two doctors, nurses, orderlies and a cook, pulled a trailer piled with medical supplies, lanterns, mats and pillows from village to village.
operations each per hour the two
doctors operated on 70 blind people per day. Returning a week later to
remove stitches they also dispensed glasses.
MEDICAL COLLEGE and HOSPITAL
First a tiny mission dispensary where patients wouldn't come; then the Vellore Medical School that became a college; then mobile clinics that cured the blind; finally a great teaching and medical centre where thousands every day are treated.
The Vellore Christian Medical College & Hospital employs 4500 people, treats 2000 outpatients per day, has 2000 beds, holds Bible Classes, and sends numerous medical workers to outlying rural areas. It has dozens of clinics and departments including Accident and Emergency, Anaesthesia, Blood Bank, Cardiology, Child Health, Clinical Genetics, Dental & Oral Surgery, Dermatology, Endocrinology, General Surgery, Hematology, Immunology, Leprosy, Nephrology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics, Physical Rehabilitation, Plastic Surgery, Psychiatry, Pulmonary Medicine, Radiation Therapy, Radiology, Reproductive Medicine, Urology, etc. (Krishnakumar 1999)
At 80 Ida Scudder still supervised younger doctors:
Her original hospital had spread. Students had graduated and gone to every part of India, taking with them the knowledge and love she had taught. And now, every day brought in new stories, new miracles, new discoveries, new cures. (Scott p. 87)