Lifeline Express: 25 Years of Health From The Miracle Train

Lifeline Express: 25 Years of Health From The Miracle Train

The sight of a train pulling into a station isn’t one that we consider particularly exciting, but for hundreds of people across rural India when ‘The Lifeline Express’ appears on the horizon it’s the promise of hope and a better future. The Jeevan Rekha Express, lovingly referred to as ‘Jaadu ka gaadi’ (The Magic Train) is the first hospital train in the world aimed at providing free healthcare to people who can’t afford or don’t have access to health facilities.

The Lifeline Train is a concept created by the ‘Impact India Foundation’ which was set up in 1983 by Sir John Wilson, a British national devoted to bettering the lives of people with disabilities in India. The Lifeline Express began its journey in July 1991, travelling across 110,000 kilometres of rail and has helped over 700,000 people over the course of their work. Today, in their 25th year they have helped over 600,000 disabled people across the country.

Image source: The Lancet

Top surgeons from Orthopaedic, Ophthalmic and Audiometric fields have donated their time and skills to changing the lives of people suffering from crippling disabilities. Aside from this they collaborate with local health services and ensure that they follow-up with patients who undergo surgery. They’re also responsible for a project that handles immunisation and nutrition advice because they believe rural India falls far behind in preventative medicine.

Their system involves each team of specialists occupying the train for a week during which people come for examinations and the most severe cases are treated first. Although this means there are a lot of people who may not get the care immediately the team aims to cover as many people as they can. They have permanent 6 man staff to maintain the train, the 2 operating theatres and the state of the art medical facilities but other than that the doctors are in constant rotation.

Due to the lack of connectivity in most of the underdeveloped regions of India news of The Lifeline Express is spread through fliers and word of mouth. People travel for hours to see the dream team of doctors that could potentially change their life. This revolutionary organisation has changed so many lives already and it shows no sign of slowing down, their dedication has inspired similar set ups in China and Zimbabwe, Bangladesh has even developed a river boat for the same purpose. Zelma Lazarus, the CEO of Impact India Foundation hopes that The Lifeline express will highlight the dire need of rural India for better healthcare. The train is a beacon of hope for so many people and the team behind it give everything they have for the good of their patients. As Zelma so perfectly sums up ‘The magic train. We have come for magic. Make the miracle.’