I woke yesterday at 7am. Terry and Ritesh were up washing their faces. We'd already missed the sunset but we walked up to "Taichi Hill" to see if we could see any of the mountains of the Himal. Terry pointed a white tip out to me and named a peak that I'd never heard of. Otherwise, she said that we couldn't see much.
I did a few minutes of standing meditation and then ran through the Yang long form. I thought about my teacher, PikShan Ko. Though I was standing on a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountain range, I had to imagine that I was in his garden. I have a hard time orienting myself without his osmanthus to my left, the peony directly in front of me and the witch hazel and cherry trees to the right.
Suman's mother brought us a breakfast of pressure-cooked garbanzo beans, fried roti and a hard boiled egg. We sat next to each other on the small bench outside our bedrooms and ate. I always peel my egg and break it apart in my garbanzo beans. I noticed that Terry and Ritesh just ate their egg whole. We grabbed our things and began the walk to the clinic.
I had seen pictures of the clinic on the ARP site but it looked different to me now that we were here. I could see it clustered in with a few other small buildings as we approached from the road. Once inside, I saw that it had two front rooms and a larger back room. John Timm, a volunteer from the earliest camp of the year, had put plastic over the windows to try and keep the back room warmer. There were blue handprints and trees painted on the walls back there and a few things had been written next to them.
I looked closer: People Change Feelings Change Things Change. Underneath the handprints, someone had written in a black marker, To Make a Difference in Someone's Life You Don't Have To Be Brilliant Rich Beautiful or Perfect You Just Have To Care Enough And Be There. Another set of blue hands with a strip of blue paint under it. Nepali script ran across the top of the strip in black marker. Underneath, the marker declared in English: You Are Not Alone.
I tried the light but it didn't work. Terry and Ritesh were setting the chairs up outside. I set my bag down in the small front room that served as a medicinary. I grabbed a clean stainless steel tray and started selecting needles, cotton balls, hand sanitizer. I grabbed a moxa stick and a box of matches, threw on a white coat with my name tag and went to join them. A woman with back pain handed me her booklet of patient notes and I took her inside to the small front room with a massage table. I inserted needles into her back, legs, arms and scalp.
An older man on crutches came into the room and laid down on the bed. He had deep scars over his hip that were attached to the bone from a surgery to remove cysts there. He'd been getting treated by our group since September and was showing a lot of improvement in the range of motion in his hip. I wished that I had more time to spend with him and the ability to look over his case in greater detail. It looked like a practitioner in the camp before me had done a case study on him and she put a lot of time into accurately charting all of her objective data.
We treated more back pain, knee pain and stomach pain and then it was time to walk back up for lunch. We ate our dal bhat and returned to the clinic to find a few adults and a number of teenagers who had just gotten out of school. Almost everyone was there to be treated for a cough. Terry and I took turns with my thermometer, pulse oximeter and stethoscope. We listened for clear lungs and made sure that everyone with a low-grade fever knew what to watch for. We ladled loquat syrup into their mouths using the bottle cap and handed out paper envelopes of Chinese herbs. The young girls giggled at the acupuncture needles and the boys watched intently as we inserted them into their hands.
Twenty-patients later, we were invited by one of the boys to go to his grandmother's house and have a tikka. The full-moon was coming up and it's a special month that ends in the Holi color festival. We followed him home and took our shoes off and came inside the house. The family was sitting against the walls of the room eating dal bhat. Grandma was cooking over the small hearth and the room was filling with smoke as they stoked the fire. The three of us sat under the window and tried to get a breath of air as we could.
A woman came around with a thick mixture of rice powder and red paint. She slathered a dab on Terry's head, put a yellow dot on top and then stuck a marigold in Terry's hair. She did the same thing to me. They gave us a small dish with two slices of banana, a couple of wedges of tangerine, a sliver of coconut and an inch-long piece of fresh sugarcane. Shortly afterwards, three plates of dal bhat were passed to us with dried rice, garbanzo beans and fried roti.
"Raksi?" the old woman asked?
Terry answered, "A little bit," and two 8-ounce cups were filled to the brim.
I tasted the distilled corn alcohol and it made me cringe. Somehow, I had to find a way to swallow it down. A few minutes later, two mugs of hot tea were set in front of us and I followed Terry's lead as she mixed the raksi into the tastier decoction. As soon as we were done, we made our way out of the smoke-filled room back onto the porch. My eyes were burning and I searched around for my headlamp. I got my shoes on and we hiked up to Suman's house. His parents were there with food waiting for us. We sat down on the floor and ate another plate of dal bhat.
As we walked back to our room, my stomach was far too full. I hadn't felt hungry at any point in the night but out of politeness, I'd eaten all the food that was offered. We sat down on the bed and started watching a movie on my ipad. Twenty minutes into the movie, Suman's mom shuffled his little sister, Rista, into the room. She had a sprained ankle and Ama wanted her to be treated.
We set her up on the extra bed and I put some needles in. Ritesh found some herbal patches and Terry dug out a sheet of ibuprofen caps. As we were doing this, it started hailing outside and I went to see the commotion. The wind was whipping brutally at the scarce sprinkling of trees where we stayed. I came back inside and finished the treatment. Ama and Rista stayed and talked with us for a while. We started the movie back up when they left but the wind started blowing the windows and door open and Ritesh scared us with talk about demons coming in.
I woke up with a stomach bug. I managed to pack my bag and get it on top of the bus before it left at 7am. Ritesh and I took the three-hour walk back to Bhimphedi, getting in around 11. I tossed my things on the floor near my bed, unpacked my sleeping bag and crawled inside for an hour. I woke up and tried to drink a little water. I took a cold sponge bath and changed my clothes. I grabbed my lab coat and headed over to the Bhimphedi clinic to treat patients for the afternoon.
When I got to the clinic, I saw an older man on crutches making his way around the building next to us. I see this man everyday. He barely touches the toes of his left foot to the ground and his leg is atrophied. His clothes are dirty and his crutches look too small for him, they are making his back look humped. Milan walked over to the barbed wire fence with me and I shouted at the man to come over. I asked him if he would come to the clinic and let me treat him. He told me that he is hopeless, untreatable, not worth it.
I talked with this man for 20 minutes, making one of my regular patients wait. He told me that he is 60 years old and that he fell through a door sixteen years ago when the power went out one night. He broke his ankle and because he couldn't afford to go get it set, he ended up crippled. He fell a short time after this and broke his hip. They feed him a lunchtime meal at the army barracks. He told me again that he is hopeless and old and will die soon. I told him that I see him everyday and I will continue to bother him until he comes through the gate for some treatment.
I treated a few patients and then walked to Uncle Lal's house to check his vitals. (I wrote about Lal a couple of weeks back on the ARP blog: http://www.acupuncturereliefproject.org/news-blog/227-mirrors) His pulse oxygen was low and I recommended to him that it might be time to go to the hospital if he wants some morphine to help ease his discomfort. He refused the hospital again and I told him to call if he needs somebody to come and sit with him.
At home, Debbie and Tiffany were rolling buffalo momos with Auntie. We always have dal bhat here and so having momos is a huge treat. They are very similar to Chinese steamed potstickers and served with a spicy tomato sauce. Andrew was back from his trip with his dad, so I was excited that we get to spend some more time talking about cases with him. We all had dinner together and did just that. Tomorrow, after work, we will present summaries for our potential case studies.
I have three patient cases that I need to write up for the team to look at....but I am slow to get there. I can't stop writing!!
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