Last week in India…

Aaaah, I can’t believe I’m posting this already!¬† My time here has gone far too fast ūüė¶

This last week I’ve stayed in A&E, the head consultant there is just amazing, he clearly loves his job and his enthusiasm is infectious. On Monday one patient was admitted bleeding out of everywhere. All three doctors and about six nurses had started working on him when his med files appeared on the desk and revealed he was HIV positive. The staff leapt away from the bed like they had been electrocuted. Up till now, the use of gloves was inconsistent but they took all the right steps… double gloves, surgical masks, aprons, the lot.¬† If you could see a before and after picture of this guy you would not believe it. He was in such a bad way when he came in but five minutes later the doctors had stopped the bleeding, removed clots from his trachea, totally cleaned him up and put him on a ventilator.¬† It was amazing to watch.

Unfortunately, not everyone was so lucky this week and there were several deaths. There are a lot more cardiovascular problems in India than I had expected. I reckon 50% of patients admitted to the A&E dept had suffered an acute M.I. and I’ve also seen a lot of meningitis/septic shock and tuberculosis.

We were expecting another volunteer to arrive on Monday but she’s yet to turn up so she’s probably been placed in another house. Two girls from London arrived unexpectedly on Tuesday. This week saw Esther go to Agra for three days and yesterday we (Esther, Jenna & I) went shopping in and around the temple. I managed to pick up a cabin-size sports bag f0r Rs 160 and it is completely full, mostly with fabric and jewellery!

So other than the clothes I’m wearing and my toiletries, I’m now completely packed. I’ve reconfirmed my Air India flights but the Jet Airways line seems to be permanently engaged. I’m glad the journey home is much faster than the journey out but I’m praying for no delays anywhere…¬† I have less than 2 hours after landing in Heathrow to collect my bag, go through customs (I’m expecting to be stopped), change terminals, check-in, get through security and board the plane to Glasvegas. Esther & Jenna left for an organized P.A. trip to Ooty this morning so I’ve already done the worst of the goodbyes! Today I packed, cleaned my room and wandered around the house taking photos. Later Geeta (my host mother) is going to put some more henna on my hands and then after thaat I’m just going to chill out and read.

It’s going to be very odd coming home but I can’t wait to see everyone. It really has been the trip of a life-time but I’m already planning my trip back here next summer :p However, I am very much looking forward to friends, family, my animals and NO RICE FOR A MONTH.

See y’all soon!



Week 3 in Madurai…

Ok, a little catch-up with the pictures! This is a view of the (North?) gate of Meenakshi Temple from inside the buiding itself. VERY pretty. One of the gates is covered in hundreds of statues of the gods. Each gate of the temple is said to have been built by a different ruler.

This is an example of the art work on the ceilings of the temple. Every single surface is decorated in paintings and sculptures.

This is one of the two elephants resident in the temple. One elephant stays in the temple and the other roams the streets of Madurai and then the next day they switch. If you give the elephants a few rupees they’ll bless you on the head with their trunks! It’s very cute. I have a great video of the other elephant walking up our street yesterday…

This was the amazing colour of the sky last Thursday evening. We saw the orange through a tiny gap in the roof inside the marketplace and thought there must have been a fire! It was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen and the orange chnaged to the most amazing purples. I have LOADS of photos of this… and everything else :p

This is me with a newly married couple inside Meenakshi Temple.  I must have been in the wedding photos of at least 20 couples.

Anyway, there are more photos on my facebook page, they upload to facebook much faster than they do to wordpress!

So this week, I spent two days in the paediatric department and the remaining three in A&E. I think I’m going to spend all of my remaining time in A&E, the doctors there are really great and are always happy to explain things. In other wards/departments, the doctors will do their rounds and then spend the rest of their time catching up with paperwork. There’s also a huge variety of cases in A&E. Saying that, on Monday I correctly diagnosed a baby in the neonatal ward with Wilson’s Disease. I have to admit, the only reason the symptoms have ever stuck is because Wilson’s Disease was the diagnosis House made in one of the Season 1 shows, hahaha! But yes, the doctor was very impressed (none of the junior doctors knew) and afterwards called me ‘doctor’!!!

So today has been a bit odd as there’s been no power for most of the day. We got home and without the fan it was just too hot so we headed straight back out to the ice cream shop where they have a generator for air conditioning and, of course, ice cream. :p

This weekend Jenna, Esther and I are hoping to get some more shopping done. Everything here is so cheap and I’m DEFINITELY going to have to buy a hand-luggage-sized-suitcase to get everything home. But yes, better dash before there’s another powercut. There’s already been two in the 20 minutes I’ve been here! Thanks again to everyone for the lovely comments, they mean a lot. Lots of love xxxx

Meenakshi Temple & Courtallam

So Thursday I finally made it to the Meenakshi Temple and it was amazing. The entire temple was beautifully decorated and it was so colourful. It was marriage day and I was invited to join every ceremony and all the families wanted me in their wedding pictures. It was very, very odd.

On Friday, Jenna, Celine, Emerence, Christine and I took a train to Tenkasi and then a bus to Courtallam. All in all the journey took about four and a half hours. The only way to get a seat on the train is to either climb through the window or push in the door as people are trying to get out. Its not very polite or comfortable but its how its done here and we certainly didn’t fancy standing for almost four hours!

Courtallam is the Spa of the South and is a big tourist destination for Indians. The town was packed and there were little stalls everywhere, just like the German Market in Edinburgh at Christmas. It was very obvious that a huge number of Indians had never seen a white person before and we got a serious amount of attention from families, women and children. Generally the young men here seem to be terrified of us! I am SO glad I do not live in the public eye. It was exhausting. Even in restaurants people would be taking pictures of us as we were eating. Families constantly wanted us to take pictures of their children and absolutely everyone wanted to know where we were from.

On the Friday night we went to the Main Falls which were beautiful. Saying that, all the bins from the stalls are emptied in to the water which we just couldn’t believe. Beautiful but definitely not clean.

On Saturday we took a bus from Tenkasi to Papanasum. The plan was to then visit the dam. However, it emerged that the info we had been given was very wrong and the dam was actually another three hours away and we’d already travelled for about two hours. Instead we went to another waterfall about 3 km away. Before reaching the falls, there was a set of steps which we decided to climb. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been. We were in the mountains between the two states (Tamil Nadu & Kerela) and the views were spectacular. I have SO many photos. At the top of the steps was a tiny temple. The whole thing was just gorgeous. There were also a lot of monkeys; they were very cute until they decided they liked the look of Celine’s jacket!

When we got back to Courtallam we went to see the stalls we had missed the night before. It was seriously packed… until the monsoon rains started! The streets emptied instantly and everyone ran for cover underneath the shop/stall roofs. The next thing, the power goes and everything was plunged in to darkness. We were stood there trying to find our torches, soaked to the bone with rats running around our feet… not an experience I will forget. We found our phones (with built in torches) in our bags and followed the crowd of people heading back in to town. It was too dark and wet to do anything else so we just headed back to the hotel and had a chat before heading to bed. Yesterday we got the train home and today we were back in the hospital.

Today is also Celine’s last day in India so we’ve been for the traditional ‘a housemate-is-leaving’ ice cream. I’ve brought the wrong memory card with me so there are no picutres of the temple/the weekend but I’ve attached some of the leprosy hospital. I was in the Cath Lab today at MMHRC and I’ll hopefully be in the paediatric unit tomorrow but I’ll post about that later in the week. x

The Leprosy Mission (TLM) Community Hospital

Yesterday and today were spent in TLM Community Hospital in Dayapuram, about an hour away from the house in Madurai. When we arrived yesterday we met the Medical Director and he gave us a lot of information about leprosy, the causes and treatments available. Afterwards, we were taken on a tour around the hospital and then to the Nurses’ Station for a coffee break. After the break, we started following a timetable which involved spending about an hour in each of the different departments in the hospital. In every department we were given a tour and more information. The hygiene practices are a million times better than at MMHRC and gloves were available and used as readily as they are in the UK. The lab was extremely basic but they guys there had a lot of experience and knew exactly what they were doing.

At the end of the day, we went to visit the patients on the ward. It was really nice to see a lot of happy patients. They were all cared for really well and one woman had been receiving care in the hospital for over 40 years. Since the recent recession, a lot of big companies have stopped making donations which is why they’re desperate for volunteers to make up for staff shortages. Whenever we walked in to the wards the patients would sit up, the women would put on their jewellery and the men would comb their hair becuase they’re all desperate to have their picture taken. Whenever we walked past the door they would shout ‘”Camera, camera!”.

Today we were cleaning and redressing the ulcers, assisting the physiotherapist and sorting medical records. After a million hours in the labs at uni, I know how to run a Gram Stain test in my sleep so I was sent to the lab where I assisted in diagnostic tests. I was trained how to take the samples for the Skin Smear Test (SST) which is used to diagnose leprosy so I also spent some time taking samples from the out-patients. All in all it was a pretty good day.

I’m not back in MMHRC till Monday so I’m going to (finally) see the Meenakshi Temple tomorrow. The temple has its own elephant which I’m really excited about… I’m also going to get some more trousers made. I’ve only been here 13 days and I’m already calling trousers ‘pants’. I’m having to talk soooooo sloooowly becuase absolutely no one, even the Americans and English, can understand anything I say. We’re exchanging lots of words which is fun and there’s been a lot of confusion.

Anyway, this weekend we’re off to Courtallam which is often called the ‘Spa of the South’. The area is famous for its many beautiful waterfalls and cool temperatures which I am VERY excited about. I’m exaggerating really… the heat really isn’t that bad and I’ve so far avoided getting sunburn. Saying that, the nurses at MMHRC call me Snow White! But yes, fingers crossed for a nice breeze and I’ll post all about it when I return next week :p

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures… only the temperamental computer was free in the tinternet cafe… xxxx

First Weekend in Madurai/ A&E in MMHRC

This weekend Esther, Celine, Jenna and I stayed in Madurai to see some of the sights. On Saturday morning we went to the Ghandi Museum which was a very impressive building.

The museum houses the cloth garment Ghandi was wearing when he was assassinated and copies of the letters that he wrote to many world leaders. There is even a copy of the letter that Ghandi had wrote to Hitler which reads,

“It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?”

There was a school trip in the museum and all of the kids were very friendly and wanted us to take their picture. Next to the Ghandi Museum is a ‘Government Museum of Natural History’.¬† The outside of the building was the funniest thing I have seen so far in India… as you’ll see from the picture, there were a load beautiful carved stone gods next to a HUGE plastic dinosaur.

In the afternoon, we went to the cinema to see a Tamil film called Raavanan.¬† There were no subtitles but the plot was extremely easy to follow and you could pretty much guess what the characters were saying. Films here are around three hours long but there’s an interval half way through which is nice. However, the films are so incredibly loud that we watched the entire film with ear plugs. Even with the ear plugs in, the volume was MASSIVELY louder than it is at home. Not only did the ear plugs protect our ears, they also prevented extreme annoyance due to mobile phones. People in Madurai seem to answer their phones whenever, even in the operating theatre or the cinema!!

On Sunday, Jenna and I stayed at home and had a nice relaxing day. It was far too hot to do anything else! I’m planning to go to the Meenakshi Temple one day after work this week, probably Thursday. The city is built around the temple so I’ve already seen the East gate whenever we visit our tailor :p

Today in MMHRC I went to A&E. The consultant there is fantastic and volunteers a lot of information. In many wards, the staff are happy to answer questions but will volunteer nothing. A&E was really busy due to quite a few traffic collisions. Today was less hands on but that suited me fine; the hygiene procedures are not great and needle safety is pretty shocking. I’m still really struggling to accept the lack of pain relief… one elderly gentleman was suffering from renal failure and¬† septic shock and was also having severe chest pains. He was screaming in agony and only after 3 hours of writhing in pain was he given paracetamol. I did get to take vital signs and learn how to apply a cast or slab to a fractured arm and digit.

The last patient I saw today was a 15 year old boy who looked about 9. I have never seen anyone so thin or ill in my entire life. It was absolutely heartbreaking. He was brought in to the department in a wheelchair, a nurse holding his head because his neck was too weak to do the job. He must have weighed less than 4 stones. He was too dehydrated to talk and didn’t respond to any of the doctors’ reflex tests. It was really upsetting because his parents were not ill or malnourished and they didn’t seem to be very concerned for their son’s welfare. The consultant explained that this is common in cases such as this where the child suffers from developmental problems.

This weekend we’re planning on taking a trip outside Madurai. We’re not entirely sure where but we’re hoping not to travel for more than four hours each way. Its Celine’s last weekend so she’s really keen to see some more of India before she leaves. The weekend after that, we’re going to Ooty with some other Projects Abroad volunteers and the weekend after that is my last! I can’t believe how fast the time is flying. The days can sometomes drag what with the heat but the week seems to fly by before you know it. Tomorrow Christina, Annais, Marie and I have a 5 a.m. start to head to the leprosy hospital. I’m there Tuesday and Wednesday and then back in to MMHRC on Thursday.

So yeah, that’s all that’s been happening here the past few days.. I’ll try and post something about the leprosy hospital before we head off at the weekend but if not will try and post Monday =] xxx

Smile Train

A 24-hour sickness bug kept me at home yesterday but after some sleep and a lot of water, I was back to normal. Today I went to the Smile Train clinic and it was incredible. Most of the children on the ward today were under 6 months old. After a ten minute tour of the ward, I was invited to scrub up and join the surgical team. I’ve attatched a picture of me rocking surgeon chic… its all blurry because I was shaking from adrenaline! The first patient in theatre was a 12 year old girl who had previously undergone surgery to correct a bilateral cleft lip. However, she still had structural problems with her posterior pharyngeal flaps which meant that her speech was extremely nasal making it almost impossible for her to be undrestood. The surgeon was so relaxed about the entire operation. Saying that, as he is operating on one patient, another is being prepared and he works in a convery belt type fashion so he’s extremely experienced. He allowed me to assist him in using the suction tube to drain blood and fluid which at first was terrifying but also pretty cool. I assisted him for five operations in total, each lasting between 45 minutes and an hour… during the last op he even allowed me to tie the last knot in the surgical thread! I’m heading back there tomorrow, it was amazing and I’d definitely like to see more. The Smile Train op theatre is also shared by the plastic surgeons who occupied the room for the rest of the day.

I was much happier today with the cleanliness and hygiene. All surgeons and op theatre staff were required to scrub up in the same way¬†as in the UK. Gloves were disposed off after use and you could’ve eaten off the floor. Saying that, I’m noticing that regardless of the ward, pain relief is not high on the agenda. I saw a two year old boy screaming with pain, the entire left side of his body had been crushed under a motorcycle and he had lost all but two of his left fingers. He was clearly in agony and he was given nothing. The nurses are incredibly efficient, they keep the wards spotless and do an amazing job under the circumstances BUT they give very little comfort to the patients. Children¬†crying in pain are scolded and hit over the head and heavily pregnant women are left to get themselves out of bed and on the trolley.

After work Esther, Annais and I went shopping and picked up our clothes from the ‘temple tailors’. The tailors all sit in a row waiting for business in an abandoned 500 year old temple. The fabrics, jewellery, bed spreads, cushion covers… everything is just amazing. Today I bought the most beautiful cushion covers and a wall hanging. I also¬†bought some scarves and¬†7 bags. HOW I’m going to get everything home I’m not entriely sure.

This weekend Jenna, Esther, Celine and I are staying in Madurai to visit the Meenakshi Temple and the Ghandi Museum. Next week, I’m getting a change of scenery as Annais, Christina, Marie and I head to the leprosy hospital which will be really interesting.¬† So yeah, that’s what’s been happening in the last couple of days. I finally got round to topping up my (Indian) phone today so if a crazy number beginning with ‘7’ calls… c’est moi =]

First day of volunteer work in Meenakshi…

Today has been the most incredible day ever. This morning we headed to work for 9 a.m., signed in with our supervising nurse, Meena, then headed to our different departments. Today, I was in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department. I started out in the High Depedency Unit (HDU) and the female surgeon there was fantastic. As soon as I arrived, she started explaining things, what was what and¬†how much I’d be able to do. Most of my work involved taking the vital signs,¬†¬†blood pressure etc but within ten minutes of arriving Dr Sophia allowed me to remove a Foley’s catheter from the urethra of a woman who has just undergone a C section. I was shown how to inject a needle for an IV drip but I don’t really fancy working wth needle as only the doctors have disposable gloves and they are washed and reused.

The hospital is huge… really, really massive. Luckily the layout is quite simple so I’m finding my way about already. The hospital is very advanced in some areas but 50 years behind in others. Most of the meds come in 2 ml glass vials which the nurses have to hack open with a rusty strip of metal. I witnessed one nurse open eleven different vials when she only needed four…¬† they keep smashing all over the place because there was no easy way to open them. The nurse actually ended up cutting her finger and it bled quite heavily. Despite the fact that she would be using her bare hands to rub alcohol on the wounds and stitches of women who had just undergone operations, there was no bandage, cotton wool or plaster to cover her wound. I offered her a plaster from my bag and as soon as she took it, all the other nurses flooded over to her, examining this plaster which was very obviously new to them. I just can’t believe that a hospital which uses fingerprint technology to safegaurd the Intensive Care Unit can’t provide gloves or plasters. Saying that, I think a lot of the better equipment has been donated by large companies.

In Indian hospitals, no food is provided¬†for the patients so it is up to their families to bring their meals. Madurai is well known for its medical facilities and there are ‘hospitals’ (more like clinics) everywhere. Families will often travel hunderds of miles over many days to reach Meenakshi Mission Hospital. The relatives stay, eat and sleep on the corridor floors whilst their relatives are being treated.¬† When there are (scheduled) power cuts both the patients and their relatives lie on the foor, taking refuge from the heat under the shade of the hospital beds.¬†

At the end of the day, Esther, Luke and I were asked to joined Naza, the volunteer coordinator, for some sort of photo op in a restaurant. We ended up being lead to the most beautiful five star hotel opposite the hospital. We were shown around the rooms and taken to the roof to enjoy the view. Afterwards, we were taken dowstairs to the hotel restaurant and given some pakora and a cup of tea.¬† At this point, some photographers started snapping away… I think they just wanted some ‘touristy types’ in the background shots.. anyway, the photos will be in a supplement of¬†The Hindi, a very popular Sunday newspaper so we’ll defintely be buying that to see if our pictures have made it in to the article. Fingers crossed they’ll photoshop the mosquito bites off my face, haha! I only have two or thee bites… the first night at the beach in Kanyakumari it didn’t occur to me to spray my face… I quickly learned to spray EVERYWHERE! Anyway, because we were an hour late in the leaving the hospital, Naza arranged to have a car drive us home. We took a JEEP. You know you’ve made it big in India when you’re in a Jeep.¬† There are a few private cars but most Indians use a scooter or a motorbike. I have only seen one Jeep that did not belong to a government official or the police force so to be inside the Jeep was¬†a huge deal. When Esther and I were dropped at the house, Sri and Sahrika (host father and daughter) were outside the front door playing badminton and they were so unbelievably impressed that we were dropped off in a jeep. Our host mother is called Guita and it’s her birthday today. The previous volunteers left her a saree as a present and she looks beautiful in it. I’ve attatched a photo of her in it along with some of the better photos I didn’t get a chance to upload yesterday. Anyway, I better head off for dinner. Tomorrow will be another busy day in the hosptal but I’ll be working in the Smile Train Clinic. Will update again¬†soon, hope everyone is well xxxx

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