Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Every Day Is A Good Day"

Day 7 - 19Jul2012

I was awoken this morning in mid-dream to someone saying my name softly.  Because of my dream, I thought someone had died.  But it was Julie (the program director) and she had the most excellent news for me.  My luggage had arrived!!!  After six days (two of traveling and four here) of living out of my carry-on backpack, my luggage was here!   It felt just like Christmas!  It was 1:30AM, but I was oh so happy.  I went back to bed absolutely ecstatic.

I slept in a little more today and woke up at 6:00AM.  I spent the morning reading in Luke about Christ healing the 10 lepers.  I didn't wake up early enough to watch the sunrise, but I did take a few minutes to just sit and look at my surroundings.  It is still surreal that I am in the middle of India.  I ate breakfast and got ready for the day.  I was on medical rotation today so I was in a chudidar.  We had morning conclave and I packed my daypack for a day in the colonies.

We drove about an hour and were told that we were stopping at a school to do check-ups on some kids.    When we arrived, I quickly realized that we were not at an ordinary school.  We were at a special needs school.  The kids lit right up when they saw us and offered huge hugs.  It was a little intimidating at first because I have a hard time being myself around people with mental disabilities, but for some reason, I felt so comfortable with these kids.  Maybe it was the language barrier or maybe it was their obvious love for me.  I like to think it was the latter.  I sat with several of them for a while talking.  I had no idea what they were saying and they had no idea what I was saying, but we laughed and smiled a lot.  I held their hands and they climbed on me and sat in my lap.  These kids ranged from young (about three) to 15 or so.  There were even a few adults.  This school is a place where special needs kids go when their parents abandon them.  This was the first time Rising Star has ever visited.  We were there for about two hours.  We played "Ring Around the Rosie" and that was a huge hit.  And of course the cameras.  They loved taking pictures and videos.  We also sang "As Sisters in Zion" to them.  That was probably one of my favorite moments.  The spirit in the room was palpable.  Nine young volunteer women singing that song...speechless.  After the song, a little girl reached for me, asking me to hold her.  I sat with her in my lap for a few minutes.  She stared at me without a smile on her face.  I started tickling her back and she put her head on my shoulder.  A few minutes later she was asleep.  I don't think these children get a lot of physical contact.  That is one thing that stood out to me.  They always wanted to be touched.  A hand held.  An arm around a shoulder.  A head laying in a lap.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stay there forever.  When it was time to leave, I tried to lay the little girl on a mat to keep her asleep, but she woke up.  As I was saying goodbye, she reached for me and started to cry.  I held her hand for a few seconds, but I had to leave.  It is an indescribable feeling to leave a child that you barely know and yet have such a bond with.  I'll never see her again.  But it was off to do other good works :)

Our next stop was a preschool inside one of the colonies.  These children have parents with leprosy.  When they are old enough they will attend school at Rising Star.  We were warned that these kids were terrified of white people.  And they were...they cried when they first saw us, but they soon warmed up to us.  These children were also just getting check-ups (eyes, ears, weight, and vitals). There weren't very many kids so we didn't stay there very long.

After that, we went to a very small colony with only four patients.  We unloaded the van by an assembly line and set up each station.  The stations are as follows:

1. Blood pressure and glucose - BP is taken and recorded in the patient's chart.  A glucose test is performed because a lot of patients do become diabetic.
2. Bandage removal - The old bandages are removed by cutting or unwrapping.  The gauze padding is also removed.  Toenails are also cut at this station.
3. Washing - The limb (only feet today) is washed.  The ulcers are never washing directly.
4. Oiling - The leg and foot are rubbed with oil.  Again, the ulcers are not oiled.
5. Doctor's station - At this station, the doctor removes the dead flesh around the ulcer.  Medicine is applied and the limb is re-bandaged.
5. Eye drop station - Each eye received two eye drops to help clean them out.  Patients with leprosy lose their eyesight because their eyelids start to droop and they are unable to get a tight seal when they close them.  Infection sets in.

I was at station number two today.  I wore double gloves and a face mask the whole time.  I wasn't allowed to take personal pictures while treating patients, but Rising Star did take some that I will be able to get later.   I removed the bandage of one man and three women.  The first patient was a woman.  These patients are very familiar with the routine.  When I cut the bandage off and saw my first ulcer, I was shocked.  The ulcer went all the way to the bone.  I've seen pictures of it, but when the sore is less than two feet from your face, it is a whole different story.  My hands were a little shaky after that.  I felt uneasy not knowing what I was going to see under the bandages.  I helped the man next.  He was very talkative and knew a little bit of English.  He was very friendly and appreciative.  Both of his feet had ulcers.  The entire bottom of his right foot was an ulcer.  I watched his face as the doctor cut off the dead flesh.  Facial expressions for pain are universal.  Another lady had a really fancy boot that laced all the way to her knee.  She kept saying, "Shoes and socks."  All of the patients we treated today had missing toes.  This is such a sad disease.  Sad because it is curable and yet there are still people suffering with with it.  Such a humbling and satisfying experience.  I would do medical rotation every day if I could. 

After we treated all of the patients it was time to go back to Rising Star, but we made a couple of pit stops along the way.  Our driver, Anandan (we call him "Anan") asked us if we wanted to climb a hill.  He also said it was "just a little walk."  We agreed and he took us to climb a hill.  It was really hot, but it wasn't a bad climb.  At the top, there was a Sheeva temple.  We asked him who Sheeva was and he said, "I don't know.  Ask someone else." :) Before I go on, you must understand that Anan is the sweetest and nicest of all people I've met here in India and he smiles all the time.  Anyway, we also had to take off our shoes.  I did NOT like that idea, but what do you do?  At the top of the hill we saw the view to the city (hmm...I'll have to insert this later because I can't remember) and a lake.  When we headed down the hill, there were three men sitting on the side of the road.  Anan yelled at them and we quickly got into the van.  Once in the van, Anan said, "Bad guys."  We don't know what they were doing, but we trust Anan.  

Going on!  While driving, Anan said that he wanted to listen to his favorite song and then he made some weird "who-ing" noises.  We laughed because we had no idea what he was talking about.  But he played the song and it was "Who Let the Dogs Out."  We sang the song together as a van as Anan belted it out and snapped his fingers. :)

Next, Anan said that he saw Amy's (the medical coordinator) favorite fruit, the pomegranate, being sold on the side of the road.  So he decided to stop and buy us a few.  When he put the car in park though, it started to roll backwards.  Amy asked him if we could put the parking break on and he said, in the most loving and kind-hearted way, "Oh, shut up."  We all burst out laughing.  Instead, he placed a rock behind the tire.  Amy offered to pay, but Anan said, "I know a guy."  Anan cracks me up!  He knows a pomegranate guy!  

Then, still on our way back to Rising Star, we stopped at a restaurant for poritta (I think that is how you spell it).  Basically, it is a flaky tortilla that you wrap an omelet in and dip in curry sauce.  It was actually quite delicious!  While we didn't have any more stops, Amy asked Anan if he had had a good day and he replied, "Every day is a good day."  I am going to adopt that attitude!

I played with my usual girls tonight.  They are adorable and they keep trying to teach me Tamil.  They ask if I can switch to their house for family time, but I can't.  I wasn't really feeling dinner today.  I didn't love curry before coming and I don't love it now.  But it was hot and it filled me up.  We are out of bananas though and that makes me sad.  I guess we're getting another order soon.  Family time was short and the kids were surprisingly mellow.  Vicky wanted me to try "tooth powder" which I think is like tooth paste, but I didn't dare to.  So he wrote my name on my arm instead.  Another boy wanted me to write him some math problems.  So I did and he got every single one right!  Seriously, these kids are so smart!

And then I took a shower and headed for bed.

Day 7 Complete

Firsts:  I learned that there is actually a flush feature on the squatters and I've been doing it wrong this whole time ;)

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