I've delayed writing this post to the blog because I'm struggling to come to terms with the sensory overload. Words are really quite inadequate to describe the visual, emotional, olfactory, tactial and auditory experience.
I'm a rookie TWECS volunteer and the entire adventure has been a roller coaster ride from day one. The kindness and gratitude of the people, the geography of the remote areas, the poverty, the devastation from the earthquake, the guilty pleasure of volunteer work all combine to create a swing in emotions from grief to euphoria in a ridiculously short period of time.
I'm at a loss to try and describe the breadth and depth of this experience but what I can do is share some vignettes. Some are clinical and may appeal to those drawn to the necessary and commendable work of TWECS but others are simply insights into my exposure to volunteering. Most of these comments will relate to events and impressions of the last couple of days because the start of this project seems like an eternity ago.
-Our 7 hour return bus ride from Dhulikel to Sindhupalchuk along roads that more closely resembled goat paths. The skill and precision of our driver will stay with me forever.
-Coping with some clinical settings that were less than "optimum", where if a cow appeared I would not have been surprised!!! To call it stable-like would have been an exaggeration of the conditions.
-Examing a 3 month old girl blind in both eyes due to corneal scarring with a heart defect giving her no chance of surviving to her first birthday.
-Prescribing glasses for an 8 yr old girl with crossed eyes providing eye alignment and relief from her double vision. Her name was Angel and the significance was not lost on me.
-The caliber of the Nepali volunteers has been impressive in terms of their ability to work long, busy days yet maintain a level of engagement and genuine interest in their duties.
-Interacting with my 18 yr old translator, Sahanna, and developing our "Rock and Roll" counselling terminology. Basically code for her to tell the patient that their eyes are healthy and they don't require any glasses. As well, Sahanna and I developed a few dance moves together but we'll debut those on Dancing With The Stars so I won't give any more details.
-Today in dispensing two separate elderly gentlemen, one aged 91 and the other 87, gave me very unique and heartfelt gestures as we parted after they received their glasses. The first straightened to attention and provided a full military salute. The second gentleman, ironically wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a Canadian flag, grasped my hand then kissed it.
My heart swells and aches even writing these comments.
For some background, my wife Dr. Cindy Anderson, has participated in previous TWECS projects but this is dawn of a new day having us contribute together. She inspires me to be a more caring and giving person, fully realizing I'll likely never match her generosity. Just as Dr. Marina Roma-March has inspired Cindy and others to give time, money and effort, so that the needs of the impovershed will be addressed. Our TWECS Nepal Team is comprised of capable, kind and caring people providing a desperately required service.
I'm both grateful and humbled to be part of such a group.
By Dr. Nixon White