Thursday, February 25, 2010

On the Road Again

Our final days in Delhi were quite busy as we all tried to spend as much time with our new friends at ISIC as possible.  Jon spent most of his time in the physical therapy gym working one-on-one with three young quadriplegics. 

The basic bed mobility rehabilitation techniques (learning how to sit up from lying down, move your legs to the edge of the bed, shuffle and balance while sitting, etc) that set the stage for quadriplegic independence are not being taught at the hospital.  Thus, Jon spent hours with those couple patients and young physical therapists in the hope that they will be able to continue this training and teach it to others in the hospital.  This becomes more difficult with the realization that most all the therapists in the hospital were still in training and many do not stick with the profession for very long because of the low pay.

Two highlights from the week both involve our good friends Riya and Rahul.  First, on Sunday afternoon Jon, Raman, and I arranged to take the two (plus their families) to a big new Bollywood film in a local theater (“My Name is Khan”, featuring Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan).  Because Riya and Rahul live on opposite sides of the city it took a bit of coordinating but all ten of us arrived with plenty of time to spare.


Unfortunately the theater we chose was not accessible (something nearly unheard of, and illegal in the US or Canada), so Rahul’s brother, Riya’s father and I carried each of our three friends up three flights of stairs, one after the other.  The theater itself (which mostly looked like any multiplex at home) did not have aisle seats reserved for wheelchairs and the theater staff made no effort to accommodate or help us. 

Jon and I (who know what this experience would have been like at home) were very frustrated and angry with the hassle.  However, our Indian friends seemed not to notice and were mostly just excited to see the film.  Although we were glad that the lack of respect and help did not hamper our friends’ spirits, it was a telling sign that here in Delhi, quadriplegics do not hold much hope for being accommodated in society.  So while it was wonderful that we were able to do this (it was the first time Rahul had been to a theater since his accident), I sadly doubt that either family will try attempt it again given the amount of work it required.


Anyways, big picture was that the movie trip was still a highlight.  It was great to hang out with Raman, Riya, Rahul, and their families now that we’ve developed more significant friendships. (oh, and the movie itself was pretty good, no singing and dancing though like a typical Indian film)

The second highlight occurred Wednesday afternoon just before leaving ISIC.  With some of the funds raised by the International Humanitarian Foundation we were able to purchase two active wheelchairs for Riya and Rahul.  These will replace their bulky, heavy, and old passive chairs and enable them to pursue more aggressive rehabilitation (if they and their families put in the effort).  The new chairs arrived at the hospital and are waiting to be modified whenever their new owners can come in for a fitting.

I’m now writing from a hotel in Ahmedabad in the western province of Gujarot.  We arrived by train this morning and will be heading out tomorrow to fetch another quadriplegic friend, Samir, in a smaller city.  Ahmedabad seems very friendly and relaxed compared to the business-minded capital city of New Delhi.  In my wanderings around the neighborhood I was quickly swarmed by a group of curious teenage boys, asking questions in broken English and shaking my hand.  From this crowd, a couple brothers invited me into their home to meet their family.  In addition to the 15-20 family members I was also able to meet the wild monkeys that scurry between roofs and trees in their courtyard. 


Besides just being a fun afternoon for me, I was able to connect the oldest brother in this family (who works as a physical therapist with spinal cord patients) with one of the directors of ISIC who is here in Ahmedabad with us.  These are the kinds of interactions I enjoyed so much in rural Morocco last year and have missed in my first weeks in India.  Hopefully our remaining time in Gujarot will allow us the opportunity to meet others in such a manner. 


This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24


Photos:
1. one of the several local paper articles published after the press conference on Friday (Jon, our quad friend Harsh, and myself)
2. Jon looks up at the stairs that must be conquered before the movie
3. happy movie goers (and tired, after all that lifting)
4. the posing is not quite right but I'll name them George, Thomas, Theodore, and Abe (anyone?)

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