Everyday around the world we hear stories of people who cannot afford basic healthcare, be it from governments implementing policy that deny this basic right to people, insurance companies pricing people out of cover or people living in such poverty they are forced to forego healthcare costs in order to survive. That is why when we heard the story of Angela Bhandari and her project helping some of these most vulnerable people, “Prostheses to India” we were sure it was a story people would love to hear.
For just over two years now Angela has collected used prostheses that are still in good condition and sent them to the Indian Cancer Society in Delhi where they are donated to women who have undergone surgery for breast cancer who cannot afford them. Her story is an inspirational one and it all started with a chance encounter.
The Birth of an Idea
It began a number of years ago when a valued member of the Trulife UK Breastcare team, Helen Lewis first met Angela. Below, Helen recounts their first meeting and how their relationship subsequently grew from there:
“I first met Angela at Birmingham Women’s Hospital in 2004, where I was fitting women with Breast Prostheses. At the time Angela had been attending the hospital as she needed a prosthesis following a mastectomy. Some months later she had a reconstruction and returned her prosthesis to me at the hospital. She asked me what happened with the prosthesis once it was returned and I told her we couldn’t reuse it, that it would be incinerated or just thrown away.”
“That sparked an idea in Angela’s mind and in February 2016 she started collecting pre-loved prostheses. I helped her out wherever I could by donating used prostheses, and I involved the rest of the Trulife Breastcare fitters and territory managers, informing them of Angela’s initiative. Since hospitals around the UK throw so called ‘old’ prostheses away or incinerate them our team encouraged them to save the ones they could that were in good condition. With so many being returned with very little use and in pristine condition, it seemed to me like a great way for Trulife to ‘recycle’ our products.”
Ultimately this proved to be case. The initiative has been a huge success and the relationship has blossomed to the point where Angela exclusively has donations of prostheses from Trulife Breastcare Fitters. From these humble beginnings, things continued to go from strength to strength and Angela subsequently founded Prostheses to India – the project was born.
Today, as Helen explains, Trulife have a streamlined process in place to deliver as many pre-loved prostheses to India as possible. “Our Breastcare fitters make patients aware that when they return to hospital for a replacement prosthesis they must always bring their current prosthesis back. Quite often, women return their prosthesis because it is damaged or has worn out but it is also very common to return it due to changes in BMI, and in those instances the prosthesis can quite often be reused. It is those prostheses that we collect, get them to our Sheffield or Birmingham office and then we send to Angela. These prostheses are from all brands not just Trulife. Our Territory Managers also collect prostheses during their sales calls. Sometimes it can be an update to consignment stock that results in a discontinued line being taken out, meaning our Territory Managers can collect some of this unused stock. We also send discontinued items from our warehouse in Sheffield. I suppose we now supply Angela with a large number of the total prostheses she receives due to her having gotten to know our UK Breast Care team as well as the fact that Angela and I have become friends over the few years that we have been working together. For now Trulife supplying the majority of prostheses to the project is probably a matter of Angela only being able to manage sending a certain amount of prostheses on her own. I am sure as her project grows she may look to expand the reach further.”
The Story Continues
To date Angela’s project has sent 724 prostheses to the Indian Cancer Society, with each one finding a grateful recipient. She has just recently launched a website and she continues to work completely voluntarily to help women in India receive breast prostheses they otherwise would not be able to afford. With a cost of £55 to send a box of prostheses to India, the project is always looking for donations.
As her website says “the project runs on the kindness of breast cancer patients, breast care fitters and the NHS alike. We pass on no longer needed breast prostheses here in the UK, to breast cancer patients in India who cannot afford them.”
The work Angela continues to do in providing assistance to those who cannot afford their healthcare costs is truly inspiring, and a lesson to those who attempt to deny people basic rights to a healthy and happy life. At Trulife we are delighted to support this amazing project and we are proud to be associated with it.
If you would like to find out more about Angela’s project or to make a donation then please visit her website.