India had just completed five years of the national immunisation programme in the country when Madhuri Mishra became a health worker and started reaching out to the children living in the remote villages of Uttar Pradesh.
Before retiring last week, Madhuri served as a nurse for 30 years, since 1983, and walked eight kilometres every single day to immunise those most vulnerable and with the least access to healthcare. She did it despite being 'banned' from entering many areas as people didn't want to get immunised amid the myths and rumours related to it.
Among the popular myths among the villagers were the risk of infertility or fever due to immunisation. "..but I kept walking, stopping at villages and vaccinating children. It had to be done. At times, people would misbehave. At others, they wouldn't let me enter. I would keep going back, sometimes with others who had vaccinated their children, until I could convince them," Madhuri spoke to the Times of India.
If this was not enough, Madhuri was not supported by her family for her further studies, except her father, who passed away as soon as she was about to take up the course of auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM). So, she pursued tailoring to earn enough money for the ANM course and support the family.
Fortunately, she got through and served the Bah city in Agra for 10 years, where the immunisation cover went up to 90 per cent in her time. She then worked at Fatehabad block for more than 20 years, where she managed to take immunisation past the 90 per cent-mark, becoming one of the best immunisation campaigners.
"Not for one day, I sat in the office. I think of myself as a soldier; I can't leave my post," she said.
Her work did not go unnoticed. Agra chief medical officer (CMO) Dr RC Pandey said that Madhuri had a massive influence wherever she worked.
Even when her retirement was approaching, she would work at the district hospital for over 12 hours, immunisation officer Dr Sanjeev Burman told the media.