Thursday, October 20, 2011

Work in the Leprosy Colonies

WARNING! (this is for you Carrie and Myriah) there will be pictures in this post of those who are effected by leprosy. Some of hte pictures may be unpleasant to look at. (and believe me I'm not posting the worst of them)

Wednesday I went to work with the mobile medical clinic for the first time. That involves piling into a van with a doctor (or two) a nurse (or two) and whatever volunteers are signed up to help in the colonies that day. The van is filled with medicine, tables, chairs, charts and medical supplies. We usually drive between 45minutes and an hour and a half to get to the colonies. The mobile medical clinic rotates between 8 different colonies every two weeks. Wednesday we went to Pallanpakam.

Here's a picture of our van :)
Once we arrived, we set up all the stations for treating the patients. There's a station for cutting bandages, cleaning feet, oiling feet, cutting off dead skin and rebandanging. Anne is sitting at the foot washing station.

Navamani and Melissa were all set and ready to go for the final station of cutting away the dead skin and rebandaging. All volunteers wear face masks and two sets of gloves when working with the leprosy effected patients.
I cut off bandages. I'm set and already to go.
We all got to work. Our first patient was this beautiful woman named Chopama (yes I make up the spellings, I Have no idea how to spell these names). She came up as soon as we arrived. She had on a beautiful pink sari, and was missing most of her teeth. She chattered away joyfully in Tamil, and it was really fun talking with her even though we had no way of knowing what the other was saying. She was a beautiful woman.

The man I'm working with here was probably one of the hardest parts of the whole experience. He was in a great deal of pain, so I had to be very careful while cutting off his bandage. It was hard though, because I also didn't know what to expect as I was cutting off this bandage. As I cut the bandage off, I saw more and more raw infected skin. He was missing most of his feet, and the ulcers were everywhere. At one point, the ulcer was so deep it reached all the way to his bone. To make matters worse there were maggots crawling around on his skin. This apparently was one of worst cases some of the long term volunteers had seen. This is a fairly new colony that RSO is working with, so these patients have only been receiving treatment for the last 3 weeks, so many of their ulcers are still very bad.
Anne was in charge of washing, so she worked on cleaning the maggots off his feet while they soaked in antiseptic.
He was an incredibly brave man. I'm so happy that RSO is working with this colony now. In a year, his leprosy will no longer be progressing, and hopefully he will be able to walk. His quality of life will improve tremendously in the coming year.
Anne and I took some time after we were done treating all of the patients to take some pictures with some of the beautiful women at the colony. The woman in pink next to Anne is Copama.
I really enjoyed my first experience working in a leprosy colony.
And the people I work with are awesome too. Lyndsey, the volunteer coordinator is on the left and Anne the other Promethean Spark volunteer is on the right.

Here's a picture of the whole crew who worked at Palanpakam this week.

I'm not sure why some of the formatting was weird on this blog. Hopefully it won't be in future posts. More posts to come!

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