Monday, October 13, 2014

Going out with the Mobile Medical Clinic

Now that the kids are back in school and we have our homeschooling schedule, we go out with the Medical Clinic once a week...usually on Wednesdays.

At 9 a.m. we board the van with the other long-term volunteers that are here with us.

Today, there was me and Avery and Cohen along with Brooklyn--who is serving as the Medical coordinator this Fall. We were joined by two wonderful girls--Ciera and Berlyn--who are here as long-term volunteers and are so wonderful. They are both recent High School graduates and we all love them. My kids really love having them around.

It takes us, on average, about an hour to get to a colony. So on the way...we do homeschooling!!

The kids are actually quite cooperative and we get math, reading, and some writing done before we arrive at the colony.

Our first stop was at a LKG (Lower Kindergarten) class where they were doing check-ups on the kids. We just played with the kids and helped them draw pictures. They were kind of shy and many of them are known for absolutely screaming when white people come around. ; )

This is Avery and Berlyn with all the kids as we said goodbye. The little boy in the blue and white in front was a total chatterbox the whole time we were there. Of course, none of us could understand a single word since he was speaking Tamil!

Our second stop was a small leprosy colony with just a handful of patients.

 Ciera and I are ready and waiting for the patients to arrive...

When we arrive at a colony, the first thing we do is form a line to unload the medical van. We set up stools for us and chairs for the patients all in a row. The first station is bandage removal, then washing, then nail clipping and oiling, and then they see the nurse where their wounds are treated, sometimes having necrotic tissue cut away, and then re-wrapped.

This is the nurse, Navamani, working on a patient's foot.

I have done all the stations except nail clipping. At larger colonies, we split up the nail clipping and the oiling and it was at one of those colonies that I was asked to do the oiling station and I think it is my very favorite!  You simply oil the patient's leg above their wounds (that are on their feet) and all the way up the calf. It is very hands-on and you get to spend time rubbing the oil into their (often) leathery, dry skin. It just feels like a very tangible service. There is time to look into their eyes and make a small connection and simply share a smile.

Here is a picture from earlier in the summer when I did the blood pressure station.

Today, I was on bandage removal. There were only three patients today and the first man that sat down had the worst sore on the bottom of his feet that I have ever seen. It was hard for me to not wince or show a painful look on my face.

The entire bottom of his foot was an open deep sore. There was only a lip of healthy flesh all around the edges and at the bottom of his heel. I don't want to gross anyone out, but I thought I would show you what leprosy sores actually look like. This is just an image that I found on the internet...

This is what this man's foot looked like, except that the sore covered the entire bottom of his foot. It was so sad. Leprosy causes a person to lose feeling in their extremities (which is one of the reasons they can get such ghastly open sores), but it is also a tender mercy, because they do not feel the pain of these injuries as we would. 

Often, these sores start simply because they step on something sharp without shoes on.  They get a cut or a puncture on the bottom of their foot and since they can't feel it, they keep walking around and it gets infected and over time becomes a sore like you see above.

Our medical unit includes a shoe maker, who comes and measures the patients' feet and hand makes custom sized shoes for each patient.

After all the patients have been seen, we clean up, reload the van, and scrub our hands and arms before we head home.

On the way home on this particular day, I had asked for us to stop at a food stand to enjoy some parotha and omelet.

I absolutely love this stuff! It is a buttery, layered, soft tortilla and comes with this amazing savory sauce. It costs 30 rupees (50 cents) for two parotha and sauce.  And for another 15 rupees, you can order a small onion and egg omelet. I am sure they are not good for you, but they are so, so very delicious!

The next time we go out with the medical clinic, we get to go to the Chennai Zoo.  We are excited to see all the tigers, elephants, and crocodiles....well, at least Cohen is!

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