Visakhapatnam was a break from the usual routine for Jon and Vicky because all of the organizing and logistics - where to speak, what to talk about, how to get in contact with therapists, patients, doctors in the city, even meals and taxis – were taken care of by their friend Dillip.
Dillip is a quadriplegic that met Jon during one of his earlier trips to India and quickly arranged for him to come visit his home. In Jon’s telling of this story, he was ‘held hostage’ on the top floor of Dillip’s home (with no lift to freely move between floors) until Dillip was satisfied that Jon had taught him all the rehab and independent living practices that he knew (he was ‘released’ after 10 days).
Since that time Dillip has been one of the most motivated and proactive contacts the Sigworth’s have in the country. He has fully embraced the ‘pay it forward’ attitude that Jon first experienced in with members of his wheelchair rugby team. This means that the quads on Jon’s team taught him many independent living techniques, which he passed along to Dillip, who is now teaching them to other quads in the city (peer mentor rehabilitation). Dillip has also started a disability advocacy NGO, “The Ability People”, and is planning to open his own rehabilitation center to facilitate the training that he is doing with individuals.
While in Visakhapatnam, we participated in a two-day “Active Rehabilitation Conference” put on by Dillip and the doctor whose home we stayed in. Dr. Prakash was a surgeon who experienced a spinal cord injury and was left with similar mobility to Jon. While he can no longer perform surgery, he has now turned part of his home into a walk-in ear-nose-throat medical clinic. Thus, each day as we walked in and out of his living room we passed a line of patients waiting for the doctor.
The conference included different doctors, rehabilitated quads, wheelchair distributors, and Jon and Vicky as speakers. It was targeted at therapists but also injured persons themselves. Each day included a large portion of time where all the speakers just walked or rolled through the crowd to talk with individuals and give personal counseling and rehab advice. Visakhapatnam faces many of the same challenges as our other stops - no rehab centers, uninformed physical therapists, poor treatment of bedsores, etc. Despite these problems it was encouraging to participate in an organized conference, hear positive attitudes, and see effective rehab practices being taught - especially considering that people other than Jon and Vicky took the initiative (giving them a well-deserved break).
As I am writing this we are currently flying back to Delhi from Visakhapatnam. We will arrive around 2 in the afternoon and will then have to battle Delhi traffic to cross the city for one last speaking engagement at a college at 6 in the evening. The Yale gospel choir is completing a short tour of India and has asked Jon to share a short message during their performance. We found out about this opportunity from a recent Yale graduate/youth pastor whom we met at church in Delhi during our time at ISIC. We will unfortunately probably have to leave the second half of the gospel choir performance early in order to return to the international airport on the other side of the city and catch our midnight flight back to New York.
So while we’re heading home, don’t tune out from this blog just yet. I will try to post a photo summary of this last week and write one more review post once I am settle back in the US. Happy travels!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
1. The Visakhapatnam seaside.
2. Three quad conference MCs: Dr. Prakash (our host, former surgeon), Jon, and Dillip.
3. Jon's bed mobility demonstration in a very hot, humid conference hall.