Thursday, July 21, 2011

Medical Day #3 Complete With Symbolism.

Everyone!  I am so anxious to share this day with you!  I have only a few days left in India, and this day was amazing.

After re-reading my blog from yesterday, I felt like the biggest whiner!  Here I am complaining about a silly common cold when I am surrounded by people who's lives have been transformed by a dehabilitating disease.  After today's experiences I particularly feel blessed by my health and am glad I only have to deal with a cold.

Because the program cycle is reversed for the last two days, my group was assigned to medical a day earlier than normal.  The previous two medical days were a little commonplace and I was eager for a chance to get some hands on work in the colonies.  My wish was granted.

We arrived at a local medical facility (aka small rundown house) and began to set up our stations.  There was a station to check the colony member's blood pressure, pulse, and blood glucose level which required the group member to prick their deformed thumbs.  Another station was used to cut off the bandages and take pictures and document the numerous sores and ulcers the individuals had.  Following the documentation, there was a foot washing and nail clipping station.  Accompanying that job was a place where the individual would get their feet massaged with some type of oil (neema?) that kept bacteria and, more importantly, rats away so that they wouldn't get their digits gnawed off in their sleep.

I volunteered with my cousin to head the foot washing station, knowing full well that while it is the most gruesome station, it also has a lot of symbolism behind it.  I remember growing up and hearing how, in the scriptures, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  As a small child, I didn't understand why that was so interesting.  Jesus is a nice guy, and he wants the people he cares about to have nice clean feet, so what is so remarkable about that?  Picturing the task before hand, and having seen some of the disease ravaged feet I was about to wash over the last couple of weeks, comprehension of the task Jesus preformed to his disciples began to dawn upon me.  The feet Jesus washed weren't the typical pedicured western style feet that stays protected in shoes all day.  The feet he washed belonged to people who walked around 2000 years ago without shoes and often with bare feet.  Before the Koreans and Vietnamese were able to establish day salons that perfect the figure of a foot down to the smallest cuticle.  I imagine the disciples feet were much more similar to the feet I washed today.  And, to top it all off, Jesus was the Master of the apostles.  No wonder the apostles were so flabbergasted when Jesus asked to be allowed to wash their feet.  All of this was running through my head as we set up the stations.

We were told to wear two layers of gloves as well as a surgical mask to prevent whatever sicknesses the patients had from spreading to us.

I'm not going to lie, I was tremendously apprehensive about washing the feet.  It was a simple enough task, but I had symbolic thoughts running rampant throughout my mind and to me I believed the gravity of my task was greater than it perhaps was.  As my first 'patient' sat down, I took a close look at his feet. There were massive and deep ulcers on his knees, shins, ankles, toes, and on the bottom of his feet.  And I'm not exaggerating when I say they were massive.  They put the ulcer my Grandpa Nelson had once to complete shame.  To make the grim picture worse, there were countless flies landing on the ulcer... and it appeared like they were dining on it.  There would be four or five flies on, or inside, each ulcer just bathing in it.  As I gazed at the flies feasting, or doing who knows what to his festering wounds, I felt a few land on me.  I understand now why people think flies cause such a hygiene problem.  I felt the beginning of a wave of anxiety threatening to wash over me but I quickly squelched it.  If I got sick, I got sick.  There are medications for that stuff.  What mattered was helping this man in front me.

As he approached I smilingly told him "Vannakum!"(the traditional Tamil greeting)  I asked him, as I directed his feet into the wash basin, "Unga perdna?" (What is your name?)  His reply was lost to an untrained ear.  I poured the soap and water onto his feet and wounds, scattering the flies for mere moments before they again hungrily dove back onto his wounds.  Looking up at his face, I could tell he was a little nervous.  Despite largely not having any feeling in his feet, getting your feet washed can make one a little anxious or self conscious... particularly if they aren't exactly in pristine condition.  I tried to reassure him with my smile and my body language that it was fine, and I believe, as I continued to rub away at his feet and ulcers, he began to become more comfortable around me.  It was dirty, but I believe he enjoyed it so it was worth it.

I won't go into all the thoughts that I had while washing feet.  It was definitely my first big emotional/spiritual experience I had here.  Also, the symbolism behind everything didn't escape me.  My religious upbringing came into play and I couldn't help but thinking that as I physically scrubbed away at the deformities and wounds of his flesh, I also spiritually scrubbed away at the deformities and wounds of my soul.  The thought occurred to me that perhaps this act so perfectly echoed and followed in the footsteps of Jesus that perhaps it would be sufficient restitution of my own sins.

Despite having a lot of thoughts percolating in my psyche, I managed to correctly wash his feet and moved on to the next patient.

Here are some pictures.  I'd like to thank Amanda, the wounded volunteer for taking pictures as we worked.

With my first guy

Now that's what an ulcer looks like.

My man making another appearance.

Nelson the future doctor

As we continued working, I managed to keep my emotions under the surface.  Soon, an elderly lady needed her foot washed.  She was just bubbling over with excitement.  I looked at her and smiled and laughed with her as she put her feet into the basin.  What she did next completely caught me off guard and went straight to the heart and past the defenses.  She pointed to Me and then to Nelson, crossed us, and then said we were Jesus.  Nelson looked a little confused because it was so random.  But, having that symbolism running through my head, I knew exactly what she meant.  Suffice it to say for a little while my emotions weren't under the surface.

The lady with the glasses is the one responsible.

I had to get one with her.

 Here is a video of her I took as we were packing up.  I'm sure you'll be able to get a better picture of her personality.  So cute.

Right before we packed up, Nelson and I got transferred over to the blood pressure/blood glucose checking station.  Our job was to prick people's fingers and...uh... check their blood pressure and blood glucose.

Nelson and I manning the station

Some additional photos:

That's all I'm going to blog about today.  I would have come to India if today was the only day I could spend here.

p.s.  Doesn't her voice in the video sound like an ewok?

1 comment:

  1. David, your Mom came over today and told me about your blog. I am so proud of you!! You really were "Jesus" to those beautiful people.I am excited to read more.
    Love, Lisa Randall