Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 7: In Sickness and in Health

     Week 7 began in my beloved slum clinic, where there was a lot of the same and I saw another ear repair. But come Wednesday I was at a different event: the blood drive. On Wednesday, Samantha was sick so Jess and I were dropped off at a bank in Faridabad to watch and learn. We started out at the front table where 2 assistants were blood typing, checking hemoglobin, checking weight, and taking blood pressure. We were able to do a few blood pressures and some blood typing as well. For those of you unfamiliar with the process of finding one's blood type: we first pricked the person's finger then got 3 drops of blood onto a clear glass plate. We dropped anti-A on the first drop, anti-B on the second, then anti-D on the third. The first 2 drops denote the blood type based on if parts of the drop congeal together, and the third denotes Rh factor (+ or -) based on the same visual. We checked hemoglobin the old-fashioned way: dropping blood into a beaker of copper sulfate solution to see if it sank or float. Blood pressure was taken old-fashioned too, with an ancient tool using millimeters of mercury. After being at the table a little while, we were offered to come back into a room where they were actually giving the blood. The needles used here are HUGE! Even if my iron was high enough and I wouldn't pass out, I would be absolutely terrified to have that in my arm. On the plus side, the bags fill faster, so more people can cycle through. Thursday, the 3 of us were driven by Dr. Prabhat to a college campus in a neighboring town where the blood drive was taking place and where he was the medical overseer for the day.  We were able to watch a few more sticks, then he let me try one! Unfortunately I did not get blood at first, but the phlebotomist came in and adjusted the needle, and the man was fine. No harm done, but it was still embarrassing and they did not let me try again.  On Friday, Jess and Samantha went to Rishikesh, so it was just me and I went back to the clinic. I guess they were too afraid I would try and stick someone's arm again :P  At least at the clinic I get redemption, because I do all the intravenous injections and those go just fine.

     Saturday held all the promises of gorging myself on delicious food at Cafe Parmesan....until I woke up horribly nauseous. I didnt want breakfast, and the nausea had subsided enough to still make it to lunch with Sam and Morgan. I managed to slowly consume a small slice of veggie pizza, then promptly made my way to the bathroom where I threw it back up.  I thought I would be fine then, so we all went to the grocery store to get a few things. I was waiting in line when suddenly I had to drop my bananas and toothpaste and run outside to throw up again in a sewage ditch. We made it home, where I hoped a nap would have me feeling better. I knew eating a full dinner was too optimistic so I opted for just a chapati (a wheat flour tortilla we eat with most meals). Halfway through that, I just couldnt eat anymore. Then after a few steps into the bedroom, I had to quicken my pace and run to the bathroom where I then threw that up too!
     Sunday, I was fine. I have absolutely no idea what caused my stomach to reject all food for a day, but at least it is gone and I am back to normal.

     Hoping for a full healthy week!

Much love,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Week 6: Food, Glorious Food

     Last blog entry left off right before the weekend after my first 2 days at the small clinic.  That weekend, Morgan, Sam, and I went to the SurajKund International Crafts Mela in a nerby city called Gurgaon.  It was enormous, and packed with people! The crafts mela consists of booths of merchants from places all over India who come together to put on a 15-day fair and sell their items. There was furniture, tapestries, wooden figurines, pottery, jewelry, purses, name it. I did not buy anythign since it was expensive for India prices, but it was still really cool to walk around and see.

      I was at the same small clinic every day this past week!    At the clinic I just give injections, take blood pressure, listen to lungs, and do a lot of sitting. But I don’t  mind the waiting or the monotony because I have the chance to do something hands-on and can watch and learn as well.   .
    Sector 49 and the rest of Faridabad are becoming quite familiar, and familarity is comforting.  Just in the area surrounding the clinic, people are starting to know me a bit and wave when I arrive. The man who owns the sweet shop across the street will let me try something he made that day, and the doctor always has a smile when I arrive.  Getting around town is becoming easier too: I know when I am being overcharged by a tuk-tuk driver so I can say no and move to the next one, and I know how to get to a few places the cheapest way by taking the public tuk-tuks to major stops. I feel more like a local than a stranger, although the stares and the language barrier like to keep reminding me otherwise.
     This weekend was also one of the most fun I’ve had while still remaining in Faridabad.  Friday was Valentine’s Day, which was a bit rough at first considering my current romantic life, but ended up being a ton of fun.  I went to a place in Sector 15 called Parmesan Cafe with Morgan, Sam, and Jess.  And oh did we feast! Morgan and I started off by splitting cheesy garlic bread, then we also split a double cheese pizza. 3 of us ordered belgian chocolate milkshakes, and it was one of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had. Then we all got dessert: I ordered a rather disappointing cheesecake and the other 3 each got a dessert waffle with ice cream on top.  Saturday was pretty uneventful other than finally watching Frozen. We had to watch it in 3 parts though since the movie would only buffer to a certain point then we would have to wait for more to load before continuing to watch it.  Sunday was another glorious food day since we got up and made a Western breakfast for the family! We had pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns, and they were so good! The little twins didnt like the pancakes (blasphemy, right?) but they loved the hashbrowns and our host parents enjoyed it all as well.   After breakfast we watched the Princess and the Frog since we were on a Disney kick, which was also quite a cute movie. 

     And to top things off, the fun carried into today (Monday) because I GOT A CARE PACKAGE! Mandi is the best! She sent me a box loaded with Cheez Its, Fudge Stripe Cookies, Chips Deluxe cookies, Cheetos, Skittles, Propel packets, dry shampoo, tampons, Love Actually DVD, and a pink hedgehog mug, all sitting in adorable heart confetti with little notes on everything :D  It made my day and probably my week.    

The rest of the week is looking to be good, and we will see where my adventures take me next.

Much love,


Friday, February 7, 2014

Small Clinic, Big Heart

     The last 2 days of my placement this week were absolutely fantastic. I didn't get to do too much, and I didn't see any more cool surgery. But I got to do what I am happiest doing: work in a clinic helping the under-served. 
     The clinic is located in the same slum area where we set up the free clinic my first week after orientation.  Calling this building a clinic is a tad optimistic: it is a single room, with an alcove curtained off to hide an examination bed. The doctor was not particularly friendly but neither was he mean. This lack of speaking was mostly (if not all) due to the language barrier, so we communicated a lot through motions and single words.   The doctor let us take the blood pressure of all of the adult patients, and listen to the lungs of the patients that complained of a cough.  We were also able to give injections: Courtney gave one intravenously yesterday while I gave one intramuscularly today.  A woman came in today with a splitting nail, so he let us dress that as well.  The doctor had a certain procedure he followed with every patient: first he would see them and get some vitals, then he would write a prescription down on a small piece of paper for them to take across the road to the small pharmacy. The patient then brought back the required medication, the doctor crushed up vitamins and pills then separated the powder, then the patient paid and left.  We found out later from our driver that the doctor sees and treats patients for 20% of the typical charge! We discussed a lot about why he would do that; why would someone who has spent all that money going through medical training choose to come to a slum and make next to nothing. He may have a few shifts at a hospital elsewhere to make money, or family and a desire to help his community may have brought him back....but whatever the reason, he has gained my utmost respect.
     I am hoping to return here for the next few weeks and get some more hands on experience. Dr. Prabhat said I could because I loved it so much.  But I never know until I get in the car what the day will hold.

Much love,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cholecystectomy and a Solo Tuk-Tuk Adventure

**DISCLAIMER: While I do work in a medical field, I am not familiar with surgical terms. Please be understanding if my descriptions of things seem a bit simple because I don't know the actual name and that's all I can do to give you an idea of what things look like**

This week I have been in a surgery observation placement at Ghai Hopsital.  It is a very small hospital with a mere 40 beds, and when they do a surgery they call in a surgeon from Delhi.  There are only a few patients currently in the hospital: one being treated for pneumonia, one who came in yesterday for something I couldn't quite hear, one who is soon to be discharged, and one who is recovering from her Monday cholecystectomy.  Both yesterday and today proved very uneventful, and we spent the whole time there just sitting and talking since there was nothing to see or do. Monday, however, I felt silly for how excited I was.  I realize that gallbladder removal is not an exciting surgery, but it was only the second one I have ever seen (the first being that C-section) so I took it all in with a smile.  The surgery was laparoscopic, which means they went in with small tools and had everything magnified up on a TV screen rather than cutting the body open and leaving it exposed.  There were 4 main people: the anesthesiologist, the head surgeon, the surgical assistant, and another assistant who didnt understand enough English to give me his job title.  The body was punctured in 3 places so various instruments could be inserted.  The magnifier/light/camera went into one, then tubes where the tools could enter and exit were placed in the other ones.  The surgeon mainly used a claw-like tool to hold the gallbladder away as he worked, one tool for cauterizing, and one for cutting.  The surgeon had to hold the gallbladder away as he cut through membranes and cauterized small vessels in order to clear the way to reach the cystic duct and cystic artery.  He used a clamping tool to put these little metal clamps on the cystic artery close to the gallbladder, then more little clamps farther down closer to the aorta, before cutting between the 2 areas. He then did the same process to the cystic duct to free the gallbladder, and pulled it out through one of the holes with one of the tools.  It was so weird seeing this small organ just dragged out of a hole in a body.  The surgery was really cool to watch though because we could see everything up on the screen and had a good view no matter where we stood.  The surgeon was nice about telling us what he was doing and why every now and then, and also pointing out the different things in the body we could see in that cavity.

     To make the day even better, we walked down to the previously-discovered gym and got our first workout in! Yay treadmill! Membership is 1500 rupees a month for 2 people signing up together, so it came out to 750 rupees each (about $12.50).
     As if the surgery excitement wasnt enough, on Tuesday I went to Sector 15 market to meet up with Morgan to try and get bus tickets for a trip to Dharamsala. I opted to just pay a driver to take me straight there, figuring I could do the longer but cheaper way home. I got there no problem, discussed travel with Morgan, then decided to walk a little ways to a place where tuk-tuks usually stop in order to catch the first part of my trip home. The plan was simple, and one Sam and I usually do: get a tuk-tuk from Crown Plaza to Metro Mall, then one from Metro Mall to home. Easy peasy. Well, on my way to Crown Plaza, a tuk-tuk passed me. I couldnt believe my luck that I could save some walking. I told him Metro Mall, he said yes, then we were off. He ended up stopping for directions after a while, then took me to some giant mall called Mall of Manhattan that i had never been to before. I told him this wasnt it, so he tried to find more directions but it was clear he had no clue so I just decided to find another one. I was headed the wrong direction (I thought) so had to walk a little ways down the road in order to find a hole in the fenced median to then cross the road.  After battling terrifying traffic, I found a tuk-tuk on the other side who said he knew where Metro Mall was, and hopped in. In talking with the other passengers, the driver discovered that Metro Mall was actually in the opposite direction.... So I got out, crossed the road through traffic again, and found yet another tuk-tuk to take me to Metro Mall. I got there finally, and getting from Metro Mall to home was thankfully simple after that. Since the trip home took a ridiculous hour and a half, I missed my gym window :( It doesnt open until 5 and we have to go right at 5 in order to be back before dark.

Wednesday was much less eventful, with the only noteworthy event being the removal of the drainage tube from the recovering patient. And I went to the gym this evening.

 I guess I will finish out surgery this week and see what my next week holds! I keep being told I'm going back to gynecology but it hasnt happened in 2 weeks... Oh well.

Much love,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Week 4: Homesickness, Reflection, and Perspective.

     I've never felt homesickness before. I've been to multiple camps for a week or 2 at a time, I've been to 2 other mission trips in another country, and hell I've spent 3.5 years away from home at college.  But it's not about being away from your family, because you still have friends who you love as family. And its not about being away from almost everyone for a week, because you know you're returning in a few days and life will go back to normal.
I've been away from EVERYTHING I know for a month now. 4 weeks of a complete lack of familiarity. No hugs from the best friends, no silly inside jokes, not going to favorite spots with favorite people.  Yes I have made friends, but this is not my life with the friends i've grown so close to and the boyfriend I was starting to fall pretty hard for. I've been aching for the people I love and the places I know and the job I was working, and the...rightness of everything. But I am only 1/5-20%- done. Home isn't even something to get excited for yet because it is still 4 months away.  In a way it makes things easier, since the logical part of my brain acknowledges most of the time that if I get sad now I will just be miserable. But in a way, it is also a bit overwhelming thinking of how many days are still left.

     Despite that, I don't regret coming. If anything, I regret not applying for 2 different programs and splitting my time so I could live in 2 different countries for a while. I've already learned and discovered and felt so much here.  The culture is very different, and I am still discovering new things the more time passes. Nothing shocked me about the living conditions: I expected an abundance of garbage, mud, dust, and poverty. And I guess nothing particularly shocked me about anything else either, it is just different. The procedure for using the bathroom is different, squat toilets are different, having to pay to use a public toilet is different, being stared at is different, everyone thinking its okay to skip in line is different, women being less important is different, tuk-tuks are different, the food is different, the common religions are different, cows and dogs and pigs roaming around everywhere is different, seeing monkeys is different, and being a minority is different.  Some of the horrible stereotypes are true: since being here, we have seen multiple news stories of gang rapes; it is something way too common for comfort. Little boys have tried touching our butts. If I am with a male and we meet another male, the male we meet will talk to the friend and might not speak to me. But I have met some very nice people and some more "progressive" thinkers that are trying to break the bad stereotypes. We stayed with a family for orientation week where the wife does as she pleases and is working on opening her own business; she said in the past she had to ask the in-laws and her husband to do anything, but now she just hops in the car and goes. I have yet to be groped on the metro or in a crowd-something I was worried about.  I was squished in a tuk-tuk with 7 men (one being another volunteer, who was sitting across and down a little from me) and the man next to me kept asking if the volunteer wanted to switch with him so I would feel more comfortable. We were in Riskikesh and had to meet a taxi at 4am, so the waiter at the restaurant we frequented said he was too worried about us being alone in the dark and would walk us safely to our taxi. This doesnt mean there is nothing wrong with the country and that I shouldnt still be on my guard.  But there is a lot of kindness here. And it does make me feel good that things seem to be changing for the better, at least in the area I am in.

     I wrote in an entry recently about how I feel useless since I dont get to do much.  I still feel useless, but not as pessimistic. Dr. Prabhat had a conversation with us last week about how volunteers in the past have been really terrible and ruined a lot of opportunities for future volunteers with their sense of entitlement, complaining, and not learning from the doctors.  Many of the doctors in the medical facilities IVHQ is partnered with don't make it a point to jump right in and give the volunteers opportunities. Rather, they want the volunteers to prove their willingness to learn by being there and being patient and waiting. So when I had to just sit in gynecology, it was because the gynecologist didnt trust me and wanted to find out if I was really there to learn or not. In contrast, I spent a few days in the eye hospital with an optometrist and he was fantastic from the start about telling us what he was looking for in each of the tests, how he fitted them for glasses, how to tell if they have had cataract surgery, what a cataract looks like, and he even gave us an anatomy lesson for the eye when we had a long break from patients (stuff I knew, but a gesture I appreciated).  So I am trying to look at things different and not mind the waiting as bad. I go back to gynecology for the next few weeks, and I plan on trying to get more involved and show them I am worthy of teaching.

Much love,