Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cleansing Lepers

Summer flies out of Chennai for Delhi in one hour to start her touring leg of the trip. Here is her last email from the leper colony:
(Caution: some descriptions might be a bit graphic) 

So today was my last day at rising star's campus and I'm a little bit heartbroken. It was hard saying goodbye to all of the kids, especially the adorable Sarabi who I posted the picture of. 

Today we had the medical rotation, best for last I must say. A few days ago I had mentioned to Michael (the medical coordinator) that I was interested in the oil station, where basically you rub oil on the patient's legs around their ulcers. However....on the bus ride to the colony, he handed me the super long list of instructions for the washing station. Without a doubt the most difficult one. For some reason he felt like I needed to do it haha, which is actually so true....I was convincing myself that doing oil would be just as good, and there was no need for me to do the hard washing job. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking I would be disappointed in myself if I went home without doing the washing. Buuuuut that didn't stop me from being extremely nervous!

After several quick prayers and a few deep breaths, I watched as the first bandage was removed. And it was the biggest ulcer I'd seen so far. About the size of a softball, it covered the entire top of what's left of his foot. Since this colony didn't have a community hall, we had to work outside. Never in my life have I hated flies so much. Seeing them swarm to eat the ulcers nearly made me sick, it was definitely the worst part...seeing each ulcer covered in flies. 

Here's a bit of the process if you're interested: when the patient comes to my station, I inspect each foot/leg and count the number and size of each ulcer. Judging on the sizes and locations, I fill my basin with enough water and antiseptic solution and count out the needed number of towelettes. I let the ulcers soak for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring the water and battling flies when necessary. When their feet are done soaking (sometimes it's only one foot, depending on how many ulcers or legs each patient has) I use the first towelette to firmly wipe the ulcer (that part was tough at first). Additional wipes depend on the size. Once it's cleaned out, I dry the rest of the foot and put a booty on then send them to the nail clipping station. 

The last patient was even harder than the first. He's currently in the process of losing a toe, so what remains in the toe's place is a pink ball that looks very similar to a small brain with the blood and veins visible. The flies were exceptionally fond of this patient, and wiping his "toe" was hard because I think he felt it. Most patients lose feeling around their ulcers, but some aren't so lucky I suppose. People told me after my 18th birthday adventure that once you go skydiving, you can do anything. I've found that's not entirely true.....but once you've cleansed the ulcers on a leper's foot, then anything is possible. I'm so grateful I had that amazing experience, it is certainly something I'll never forget!

She had her name written on her arm in henna. 

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