Acupuncture Camp at Chaparda 2015
Recollections from Barbara Robinson from 2015.
Day 4 – The morning is chilly and I hop to put my socks on before the cold strikes up from the tiled floor. There are sounds and movement from the elderly folks’ hostel adjacent to our accommodation as
someone tries to get the boiler going for hot water and children’s chatter floats up as a caterpillar of students winds round the path heading for the school for the blind about 100 metres up road. Its half past 7 and I pull on an assortment of clothes ready to meet up with the others to go to breakfast – the spicy warming masala tea is a treat to look forward to every morning. It is several days into the two-week acupuncture camp at Chaparda, and we are settling into our stride. There are six of us who have travelled from UK to run multi-bed body clinics (male and female), an ear clinic, and to train 6 local hospital staff to run their own ear clinics after we have left – and its going well.
Our host charity, has been busy putting round the word that we are here – adverts around the villages before we arrived, and sending out messengers on motor bikes once the clinics were set up and many have responded with a variety of problems, a high proportion of them musculo-skeletal. The clinic has been set up consisting of 4 rooms – the ladies have two rooms totalling 10 beds, and the men 2 rooms with 8 beds and there is a large ear clinic with chairs for 25 patients. When our students finish their training, it is planned to add another smaller ear clinic room of 12 chairs. By 8.45 the day is warming up, and the walk to the hospital in the bright sunshine is an uplifting start to the day. Approaching the main doors, we have a quick look around trying to assess how many patients are waiting by the number of flips flops laid out around the entrance, and the motor bikes in the car park. It’s going to be a busy day today.
This is a rural part of Gujarat growing food crops, mangoes and with a lot of land given over to peanuts and cotton. This is laborious manual work that all members of a farming family would be expected to do regardless of age.
Painful backs, hips and especially swollen knees – and as the weather gets colder, stiff shoulders and ‘pain all down one side’ – is prevalent. Diamond polishers present with dense, over developed musculature down their backs and shoulders on their working side, so hard it was difficult to get a needle in. Here we use cups, Gua Sha and some very yang Tui Na.
There is high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, headaches and ‘digestive’ here as anywhere else and sequelae of old accidents – an overloaded motor bike going into a ditch or someone falling out of a tree was surprisingly common. Complaints tend to be chronic with the patients putting up with their conditions for many years.
The ear clinic presented different considerations, mainly cultural, (though the tendency for ear needles to jump out a fair distance can happen anywhere). They came in good humoured clamorous groups all with the aim of getting into the treatment room first, with swirling saris and bare feet, half of whom preferring not to sit facing their menfolk. However, after a few sessions everyone has got to know how it should run, the needles do their work, and peace quiet and tranquillity for 25 people, 4 times a day, is established.
Day 12 – Into Day 12 now and this has been hard work; while 2 weeks does not seem a long time, the concentration and energy required to work a multibed of this size over this period has been fatiguing.
There have been surprises too – from conditions which we wouldn’t see at all in UK, because it would have been sorted out in childhood or cases where you know you are not going to get to the bottom of it such as a young boy I saw brought in by his concerned parents last week. He appeared to be about 6 yrs old, but was actually 10 and he just would not eat. History was sparse, and in UK thoughts would be turning to his home and wider environment, in a way not possible here with enthusiastic but limited interpretors and everyone listening in. He was not happy with the idea of needles either so I treated with Tui Na and showed his mother how to gently massage his abdomen, palm, Kid 3 and sweeping down his legs from St36 to his ankles. I saw him a second time yesterday, Mum had been massaging every day and Dad was so pleased that his son had started nibbling on some bread of his own accord. Tuina is lovely to receive but I would imagine the additional attention from Mum had a big part to play.
Despite being located near a large boys school and a smaller girls school, we saw very few children as patients. I did see 3 brothers from the school who had wandered in to find out what was going on. While they were there the older brother decided the middle one should be treated. He was slighter than the other two and I originally thought he was the youngest. He had muscle wastage and ‘often fell down’. It was difficult to gather any further information from the boys other than before their father died he had had the same problem. I pondered on the possibility of ALS which can be inherited, but here there was no muscle twitching, his few words were shyly spoken but not slurred and altogether he was young to be showing these symptoms. TB was also another of many possibilities, but given the lack of information and that they probably would not visit again I settled for tonifying qi, especially Spleen, an ear Lung point and moxa to St36.
The camp has acquired a winding up feel, only two days to go although there are still occasional first time patients who we can’t turn away. We are seeing many returning patients showing good results with reduced pain, greater flexibility and smiles. An elderly gentleman produced a pocket full of peanuts for me in a little bag, and there are many ‘Namaste’ salutations.
This is a wonderful place to volunteer, the range of conditions and pace take your practice on to a different level but the proof of a successful trip lies not in what you have gleaned but how your patients have benefited; what have you left behind? There has been some sadness, particularly when children are involved, but mostly there’s a satisfied feeling that people feel better for having seen us, and of a job well done.
And thoughts of .. I’ll be back next year!