With so much traveling in the last week I have not been able to sit down and type much. Usually I am able to write after a couple days of getting settled in at a location, however, we have been two days in Ahmedabad, a day of traveling, two days in Mumbai, a day of traveling and now one day in Hubli. So by the time we meet whoever we’re supposed to meet or go to whichever hospital or school, it is already time to pack up and get moving again.
So the quick summary is the following:
In Ahmedabad Jon, Vicky, and Jyoti (our friend from ISIC) presented at the city’s government hospital and medical school and at another private physical therapist training center. Jon did bed mobility demonstrations and Vicky got to practice her new found motivational speaking skills. We’ve found that it might be more effective to talk with student physical therapists (to change the mindset and rehab practices for quadriplegics), rather than with medical professionals (who are less interested in new ideas and more set in their ways). Jon is already planning his next trip to India as a nationwide tour of these medical schools, teaching the techniques he learned in Connecticut but are not valued or known in India.
In Mumbai we met with two quadriplegic individuals and also visited a paraplegic live-in rehab center. The first quad was from a very wealthy family who had taken him to the Shepard Center in Atlanta (the best spinal cord rehab facility in the world) after his injury. This young man, Vaibadh, (who went to College at Northeastern in Boston) seemed interested in connecting with other hidden quads in Mumbai and perhaps starting his own rehab center.
The paraplegic rehab center was a simple operation, 25 beds, 2 full-time physical therapists, and some rehabilitated paras helping with therapy. However, apart from ISIC, they had the best set up and seemingly the best results (all the paras were transferring themselves, on their way to independence) in all of India. Here we met with another young man, Oliver, who was a Catholic from south India, spoke perfect English, and had been living in Mississauga, Canada. His accident took place while visiting home in Mumbai, and while his family returned to help with his rehab they lost their permanent resident status in Canada and were not allowed to return. Despite these difficulties Oliver is living independently now and even working for a friend in the city.
In Mumbai Jon was also able to reconnect with some friends and the church he attended while he lived here for two months on his own last year. In my own free time in the city I made some new friends and had a couple challenging experiences that I won’t share here. Unfortunately, I fell sick again on our last night in the city (food poisoning from street fruit) and have been slowly recovering ever since. This has been made more difficult because all the travel has left me particularly exhausted (heat, bumpy train rides, don’t always fit in beds, etc).
Now we have reconnected with Joy and Karen in Hubli. They have been working here for the past couple weeks with an organization called Equip India (the Indian partner to the major disability organization Joni and Friends in the US). We are staying in EI’s complex out in the countryside where they provide therapy and vocational training for disabled persons (mostly polio) and run a hostel for 40 local disabled Christian college students. These short trips are a bit frustrating because we are introduced to so many new people yet have little time to get to know them. I am having trouble understanding how much effort I should put into developing so many new friendships when I will probably only be able to keep in touch with a few once I return home.
We were supposed to get a grand tour of the complex today, however, most of the staff had to leave for their homes in the city early because of a 6 pm curfew that has been enforced for the last week. The curfew and heightened police presence in the city is to due to increased Hindu-Muslim tensions since a mosque was vandalized during Holi last week. All the troublemakers have been arrested though and the curfew should be lifted soon.
In spite of all of this, we are enjoying the laid back atmosphere at the EI complex and happy to be with Joy and Karen again. I will try to post once more (plus photos) before our flight back to the US this coming Sunday night!
"Come," he said, "and you will see."
1. Vicky speaking to a room of physical therapist students.
2. Paraplegic rehab center (with wheelchair-level training beds! very important, almost no one has them though)
3. Reconnected with Karen and Joy (and their two new assistants, American students from a bible college in Chicago) in Hubli