June 9: Palamaner

In the days preceding the start of my volunteering in Palamaner, I had some chats with my cousin’s husband Mario, (Dr. Mario!) who is chairman of the governing board for both the Emmaus Swiss Hospital and School. He told me how being a doctor in India, especially in rural India, is very different from being a doctor in Canada.  For one thing, you wear many hats: not only doctor, but builder, engineer, electrician, plumber, planner, shoe-maker, etc. You have to make do with the technology and resources you have. Often, you see more than a hundred patients a day, which means you almost have to make the diagnosis as they walk in the door, using your intuition and experience. When you are out in a mobile clinic this is especially a problem since sometimes the patients travel many hours by bus to get there, and if there is only one bus to get them back home, you have to finish treating them before that bus leaves. You also have to deal with what course of treatment is most likely to be carried out properly, and prescribe the treatment accordingly. For example, you may have to take a more drastic but shorter course treatment rather than a less aggressive but longer treatment if you don’t think the patient will be able to complete the full course of a longer treatment. There is also the problem of India’s caste system, which can sometimes interfere with treatment. One thing I found interesting is that he said confidentiality is not a huge issue. He also said that often in the villages, people die and are buried/cremated before an autopsy, so you have to conduct “verbal autopsies” by talking to the friends, family and neighbour of the person who has died to determine the cause of death. I also at some point learned that its called Emmaus because that refers to the bible story of when Jesus talked to some disciples that were on th road to Emmaus after his resurrection, and this is supposed to symbolize that the Swiss Emmaus project is the path towards hope, or something like that. I really should have figured that one out from my extensive childhood reading of the picture bible. If only all my courses at unviersity were in comic book form, I’m pretty sure I’d have a 4.0 GPA.

Mario also told me about Dr. Auburn Jacob, the director of the Emmaus Swiss project, who is quite the remarkable man. This project was at one point the largest leprosy treatment facility in the world, and is a model for other leprosy treatment sites. Since Dr. Jacob is a bit of a pioneer, he has had to develop and modify a lot of treatments for use on leprosy patients. When he recieved a donation of an oven, an appliance that isn’t really used that often in India, he instead used it to melt plastic to make prostheses for his patients.

On the first day, I walked with Mario to the St. John’s Research Institute, where he works and where the van would pick us up. There I met Ajay, the other guy who would be volunteering with me for the first few weeks. He is 20, going into his 3rd year at Emory and his dad was in the same class as Mario at St. John’s. Ajay and I traveled in the van to Palamaner with Ajay’s family following us in a cab. After a quick breakfast stop halfway there, we arrived at the Emmaus Swiss Hospital. We got a tour of the various facilities including the rehab and physiotherapy clinic, the outpatient clinic, one of the labs where they can diagnose TB or leprosy, and the inpatient wards. We moved in our stuff into our very nice rooms, which are in the staff quarters on the same compound as the hospital and school. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom, with a common kitchen and living room. Dr. Auburn spoiled us and provided a lot of bread, bottled water, jam, fruit, and cereal and canned goods in our room which really isn’t necessary because we are already very well fed 3 meals a day at the hospital canteen. The food here is pretty good and since they make it for a lot of people, the food is always fresh. In the mornings we usually get some sort of dosa, idli or other carb with sambar or dahl. Looks something like this:

Lunch and dinners usually consist of rice, chapattis, dahl, and then some sort of meat and vegetable. The hospital runs from around 9 to 4ish, so after 4 we pretty much have free time, which we spend relaxing, watching TVor movies, playing games/sports, or checking email/internet and blogging.


One Response to “June 9: Palamaner”

  1. Amrita Singh Says:

    Delicious picture. I love South Indian food.
    The SIPL series should be good.

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