My first few days at the institute

So I know I’m kind of skipping around on these posts, but my travel week has so much info and is taking so long to write and some people wanted to know how my first days at the institute are going, so here’s that.

I arrived Thursday at about 1:30 pm after an overnight trip from Varanasi (yet only 5 hours of that were flying). I got about 2.5 hours of rocky sleep in a foreign airport next to a bunch of other young drowsy travelers and I will say it was not ideal.

My first impression as I got driven the 1.5 hours from the airport to the institute was that people were right- the north and south are like completely different countries. Though the basics were the same (driving, traffic, selling, people, clothes, etc) everything was much more toned down. (I am now realizing you have nothing to compare it to because I haven’t posted the other one describing the north, so come back to this once I post that haha, or maybe I’ll make another post describing the differences) So we are driving- and wow it is so green and gorgeous here. It is mountainous and hilly and there are palm trees everywhere (which makes sense why every dish has coconut in it). The drive was nice, and I saw many houses that were gorgeous. Like mansions to our standards (with an Indian vibe flare). These were more in the back roads when we were driving to the institute.

So I got to the institute and the public relations officer, Sajith, basically knew I was dead tired and gave me the rest of the day to rest in my room, which is in the facility. No shame I went upstairs and just cried because I had no clue what I was doing (and anyone knows me knows that when I don’t get enough sleep I am extremely susceptible to the water works). I didn’t know anyone here, what I would be doing, what they would want, or just anything. I felt completely blind without a clue and you all know how that’s hard for me too.

At least this place has freaking awesome wifi.

I got settled in and chilled until the next day when I woke up and got introduced to IAD. Everyone had extremely genuine smiles and it seemed much more comfortabe and pleasant than people I have met before. For the next two days I was taking tours and meeting with the workers. Iad is a small, three floor, outpatient facility. It runs everyday 9-5 and mainly services Lymphoedema patients. Instead of being a hospital they are more like a informative self-care service. Lymphedema is the only disease they treat that comes back multiple days, but even still it’s only 14-21 days. All the other patients just have one day consultations. Since most of what they treat is chronic, they give the tools to their patients to take care of their own disease for the rest of their life.

Lymphedema is a disease where there is damage to the lymph drainage so the fluid stays in the muscles and the limb drastically increases in size. This usually occurs in the leg (but can in the arm usually after a mastectomy when the lymph nodes are removed) It can be genetic but is more often Filarial, caused by a type of mosquito usually in wet forest environments (hello, southern India!) ⅓ of all lymphedema cases occur in India.

So lets just say I got to see a bunch of really large gross legs and feet and toes, with some ulcers and fun things 🙂

The treatment they do here consists of patient education, washing the leg with ayurvedic solution (changes depending on the patient and their skin condition, it might be dry or thick or hard or scaly- there are lots of factors)

Then drying or the leg and applying of anti-bacterial ointment in the crevices of the limb. The immense swelling of the limb can cause folds in places like the ankle, and the swelling of the toes doesn’t permit air flow between the, so these places are very susceptible to growth and therefore an infection and fever and the treatment .

Next there is yoga, a dry and oil massage for manual lymh drainage, and then compression bandages are applied to the limb and then there is more yoga. The yoga helps to contract the mucles and therefore stimulate lymph movement.

It’s been interesting being taken around to see this process by different people because every person has a slightly different take on the procedure. They offer different explanations and but emphasis on different things. There are many different types of people working here to definitely give it the integrative feel. There’s an ayurvedic doctor, a homeopathic doctor, a dermatologist, compression therapists, a dietitian, yoga instructors, and nurses

I met with the head honcho of the institute today, and I realized we were on pretty separate pages. I didn’t really have a plan for what I would be doing here, I thought they would have something I could volunteer and help with. That ended up being true but the projects were out of my scope and resources (mainly being time). The language barrier is especially hard when discussing detailed plans about what you are to do, as well. a noun can easily turn into a pronoun, if sentence structure is messy you can mistake an adjective for a verb. I guarantee many things were lost in translation in that conversation.

We ended up coming to the conclusion that I would help with a CD narration and for yoga used in treating asthma and respiratory problems. I think it will be good and the girls I’m working with seem really nice.

Also they are very confused by how little I eat, but I don’t need three servings of rice at every single meal. I usually get my dinner one night and save half of it in the fridge for the next night. And sometimes I just need a piece of fruit or part of the dinner for breakfast. I really appreciate them putting so much thought into me and my stay here, they are so hospitable.

Anywho the girls I’m working with for this are really nice and the rest of the day went smooth. However none of us really know what he wants from this CD (Probably because he was speaking an English neither they nor I could understand). So we’re kinda just winging it. They do some yoga in the mornings before work and invited me tomorrow so I’m excited to see what that will be like.

I find it funny that the people who are concerned the most about me understanding their English I understand better than the people who are extremely confident in their English. Weird how that works.

Here’s a little story just to give you an idea of the culture in India. First off families stay together throughout their life, people don’t usually leave the area where they were born. Kids live with their parents through schooling and life, if a woman gets married she will move in with her husbands family (will be his parents, any unmarried sisters, brothers and their wives and families) and the men will stay with their parents and hopefully bring in a wife. Now I’m terrible at names so I don’t remember those of the girls I’m working with but one of them was telling me her daily schedule (she’s 22). So she’s married and living with her husband and his family, but his mom passed away from cancer so she is the head woman of the house. She wakes up at 4 am every morning to prepare meals and such for the men and then has to get to the train statin and take the train to work every morning. She then works all day and takes the train home and prepares dinner and does all the “womanly” things around the house. It’s a very different life people lead here.

I never know what to write about for these things so if you have anything you want to hear about that I haven’t touched on, shoot me a text or something and I will talk about it!!

**Update**

Today went really well and we kind of now have a direction or our project. We are working on the protocol of yoga poses to be implemented in a study in the prevention/ reduction of asthmatic patients and those with respiratory problems due to allergies. The girls who work here are all pretty young (mid 20’s) and they all act like sisters. It has made it very comfortable and they are so welcoming. Now that I have something to do here I think it’s going to go very well.

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About Hanna Pfershy

Hanna is a sophomore pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering. After graduation, Hanna is considering her career options as an engineer/ researcher or in the healthcare field. She is passionate about holistic medicine and has recently acquired her certification as a yoga instructor. Hanna will be spending 4-5 weeks interning in Kasaragod with the Institute of Applied Dermatology, an organization with a focus on research and application of integrative medicine – combining the benefits of Allopathy with Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Yoga and other traditional Indian medicines to treat difficult skin and sexually transmitted diseases. Hanna’s final project will focus on how this organization has innovated and modernized classic Ayurveda medicine by combining it will Allopathic and Homeopathic treatment to fit the present conditions and needs of its patient population.

One thought on “My first few days at the institute

  1. WOW! I have no idea about half of the things you write about, but it’s fascinating. You are a brave young woman to venture so far away to a totally different culture all by yourself. Your grandma Connie would be astonished and very proud!! The rest of us are too.
    Blessings, Your “greats” Larry & Sandy

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