Month: June 2020

India

Blog Post by Catherine Watkins, Chaparda 2020 Volunteer

I have travelled to India a few times before my time with World Medicine in Chaparda and thought I remembered it well, however when we left the airport at sunrise I realised I had completely forgotten about the bombardment of sights and sounds on your senses!! India is like no other, an organised chaos seemingly disorganised to the newcomer!  Bet as you let go of where you have just come from and ride with it, the charm of India takes you under her wing and guides you along…with many laughs along the way.

1This was my first time volunteering with World Medicine; we were based in an ashram in Chaparda, a small village a million worlds away from the noise of the cities from where we had just come.  Here, you are immersed with sounds of the birds, insects, children playing, and women in the ashram clapping and singing.  It is so peaceful.  The grounds are full of organic fruit and veg and a family of dogs roam happily free with a stunning sunrise and sunset.

 

I recall thinking how modern the hospital was that we were to be working from, after a day setting up the clinic, selecting our own treatment area within the multi-bed set up, we were ready for clinic to begin.

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We quickly form a daily routine, with early breakfast, morning clinic, delicious lunch, afternoon clinic, delicious evening meal, chatter and rest.

 

It was refreshing after the cold winter and busy festive period to be in such beautiful, peaceful surroundings practicing acupuncture 5 days per week with such a high turn over of patients and a great team.  We could gauge how busy our day ahead might be by firstly the number of shoes lined up at the hospital entrance and secondly the number of people sat on the mats awaiting our arrival up on the first floor of the building.  I must admit I succumbed to the wearing of socks and flip flips…those mornings could get so cold!

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I was based in the women’s clinic; the majority of the women we saw worked hard in the farms and sought help for various musculo-skeletal problems associated with that type of work (predominantly back, knees, shoulder injuries).  There were also many women with varying degrees of numb extremities, pins and needles and digestive complaints such as indigestion and constipation.  I was surprised at how many of the patients were yang deficient (aka very cold!) but I soon realised that they walked around in cold wet socks all day, heat lamps and moxa were loved by these women.

Each patient was given access to 6 free treatments and it was fantastic over those sessions to witness the cumulative effect of the acupuncture treatment.  With the help of our fabulous translators, many of the women used percentages to express how much better they felt, however the most encouraging information was when we would discuss what they could do now compared with what they couldn’t do previously.

I would hear such encouraging accounts from them….

“I can now sit and eat on the floor with my family, rather than on a chair on the outside”

 “I can sleep on the mattress on the floor…I used to have to sleep upright on the chair”

 “I went for a walk yesterday so I could tell you how much it hurt, but it didn’t hurt at all!! I don’t remember when I was last able to walk pain free for 2km”  I recall this lady holding my hands tightly as she started to cry with appreciation.

“My hot flushes have completely gone!”

 “I have had a headache constantly for 2 years, no tests could diagnose why and no medication could help, my head has been pain free for 5 days, I can sleep again”  Over the 6 treatments this young woman greatly improved and gradually the number of pain free days increased.   When the pain returned it was at such a low level that no longer affected her quality of life, her face looked much more relaxed and she smiled again.  I would have loved to have been able to treat her for longer to see what further improvements could be achieved.  I sincerely hope they are able return again on the next visit for further treatment.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this experience was truly humbling and to have the opportunity to be immersed in nothing but Chinese Medicine during our time in Chaparda really highlighted how powerful the practice of acupuncture can be.  The three weeks we were there went so quickly and as well as feeling humbled, it was a whole heap of fun too.

Returning to Chaparda

Blog Post by Sally Connelly, Chaparda 2020 Volunteer

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At beginning of 2020 I was fortunate enough to embark on my second trip with World Medicine, to Chaparda in Gujurat, India. This year, fully versed in what to expect in terms of accommodation, food and clinic life I was far less trepidatious and was able to enjoy the excitement. I also knew to pack a 12 cup cafetiere and copious packets of coffee. Oh, and lots of chocolate.

The adventure began immediately on arrival at Ahmedabad airport, with a mad dash to catch our train to Rajkot. Those who have travelled by rail in India know it isn’t for the faint hearted, the crowds, the chaos, the sights, sounds and smells were all overwhelming. Coupled with 2 suitcases a piece and a hefty does of jetleg we stood out a mile. After waking the entire carriage on our sleeper train we finally managed to find somewhere to sit and were on our way once more.

The peace and tranquillity of the Ashram awaited with open arms, and arriving there felt just as welcoming as the first time I stayed. There is something really special about this place, the people, their hospitality, the food! The view from my room is now a screen saver on my phone, drinking my morning coffee everyday with my fellow acupuncturists with the sun peaking over the horizon is something I will never forget. After a days rest we were ready to open our clinic up to help the local population with a wide variety of ailments. Let the hard work commence!

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The challenges faced by the patients we were helping were very different to those of the people we work with at home, the access to healthcare, the physical work expectations and poverty all contribute in ways we don’t experience in the west. As an acupuncturist it’s a such a great opportunity to witness just how much the medicine that we practice can achieve, with one patient that we treated particularly highlighting this.  A gentleman in his early 50’s attended the clinic, his chief complaint being severe dizziness on lying down, so severely that he was unable to sleep at night. He had been blind for around 15 years after an unsuccessful cataract operation. He returned to the clinic after his first treatment to report that his dizziness had gone, he was understandably ecstatic as it had impacted his quality of life so much. Galvanised by the success of his first experience of acupuncture, he asked the translator if we could help to bring his eyesight back. A heartbreaking request. We explained that this was highly unlikely, but that we would continue to treat him with the focus being on eye health. We administered points Bl 1, St1, GB1, GB37 & Liv3 to treat the eyes, and He7 and yintang to calm the mind. He was instructed to return the day after next.

Return he did, and with much excited chatter the translator finally reported (having checked 4 times to be sure he could believe what he was hearing) that the patient had experienced some improvement in his sight and was now able to make out his hand in front of his face (lots of visual demonstrations and hand waving at this point!). After 6 sessions he was able to differentiate light from dark and see blurred shapes moving towards him. This enabled him to grow in confidence and gain a small amount of independence, his spirit was well and truly lifted too. We were moved to tears at this point and it was a true reminder of how incredible acupuncture is. This is just one of the remarkable changes we were able to facilitate in Chaparda for the people who live and work there and each and every patient was a privilege to help.

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My second year working with World Medicine was just as humbling, inspiring and life changing as the first, a reminder of how lucky I am to do what I do, and how important it is to put energy into helping others. Thank you World Medicine for having me along, and thank you to my fellow travellers, acupuncturists and translators.