Friday, May 28, 2010

Hands

Why do I feel that since coming to India I have lost my ability to speak? This weekend was, again, something I don't feel I'll adequately put into words, or for that matter, even fully understand the impact it has had on me for some time.
We were so blessed by a slight breeze in the first colony we visited. Thank you thank you to all of you who prayed for us. I genuinely attribute the weather to the prayers sent our way. Unfortunately, I did still get pretty sick, but somehow after being with the people of India this weekend, I would be humiliated to complain.
The trip went well, thanks to the pudja our driver performed. (It's a blessing, or a prayer offered at little road side temples along the way, like this one.)
Since our van was new, he sliced lemons and rubbed them on all the tires, then lit incense and said a prayer.That was new. Then we got caught in a traffic jam where we all got out and wandered around because there was a festival and we knew we weren't going anywhere for a while! It was a festival for the Gods, where they take the statues out of the temple and carry them through the streets.
Everyone eats, buys trinkets and just shuts down the main roads. As we piled out of the van, Dr. Kumar warned us to not make light of the festival because people take their religion very seriously.
video
It was so amazingly crowded.

The first colony we went to we had amazing success. All 45 patients who were to be seen showed up. We got quite a system down of washing, photos, wrapping, and medications. I feel very satisfied and a sense of accomplishment that help was begun with these people and will continue for years. We were the first people to visit them. I was asked to be the photographer.

{Note: some of the photos are graphic}

This was my first patient, so I had to remember his face.
This man wheeled himself around on a skateboard type thing. Everyone had gathered, then here he came down the path dragging himself along in the dirt. So many images I can't forget.
Often times, Leprosy affects their eyes as well.
Wish I could remember her name but they are so long and different.
All I remember was she was chart #17 because I had to track her down and make sure she was photographed. At times it felt like chaos because none of the patients spoke English and none of us spoke Tamil. Somehow, it all sorts out.
The sores on these bodies are hard to see. But there's some sort of strength that comes from physically holding or touching these hands and feet; you don't seem to care how ugly or gross they are, how many flies are crawling on you because you are cleaning the wounds because all you want to do is show them they are still worth touching and loving. And even if their country deems them as untouchable, they are worth touching.
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Whether or not it was the lack of humidity, this morning (second day of our trip) I woke up and finally felt prepared for what I was going to see and experience. Going out into the streets and seeing everything around me, I felt that the first word I would describe this experience as would no longer be a forceful 'hard.' It was refreshing to look at the busy streets and notice all the foreign things and people and feel excited about it again.
As we drove up to the second colony today, it seemed the whole colony was out to greet us. I thought it was a bus stop and that they were flagging us down for a ride because almost all transportation in India seems to be public. Often times when we drive to and from the junction we pick up random people along the way and take them a mile or two. But, it turned out to be the people from the colony waiting for us.
Today I did diabetes testing. 100 people! We could cruise the majority of the time until we would have someone whose hands no longer had fingers. Then they would be so callused from just being stumps it was difficult to pierce the skin and coax out any blood. Sometimes we just moved up to the palm or the arm depending on how much of their limbs they had left. Everyone would smile and watch as we cleaned and pricked their hands and they would always put their hands together in a prayer sign and say 'nandri' (thank you). They may not have hands, but they all still have gratitude.
This lady cracked me up cus she made the biggest deal out of getting her finger pricked for the diabetes testing I did. Out of all the hardships in life, I guess needles are a universal fear.
Their faces and bodies tell stories of having lived 100 years in only 40. I see the little children running around or hear them crying from inside the shelters and just think, "how? How are you going to live? How are you going to learn? How will you find the stamina to live this life of a hundred years?"
Before we left I had the chance to work deep in the colony. Three others and I took our supplies and went to two people who couldn't make it out to us. The first little man. No words. We found him sitting on the cement floor with a cloth wrapped around him, no hands, swollen 'feet', and bones of knees and elbows practically visible beneath the paper thin leather skin of his failing body. Miserable. Just miserable living conditions. I just wonder who he used to be and what it has been like to see his body, his life, and his dignity as a human being just slowly crumble away from him. Sitting there. Just sitting there on a cement floor, in the depths of a maze like community as the flies come and feed on his sores. He doesn't even move. I don't know what to make of some of the trials people of this world are made to
suffer through in this life.
The second person we visited was a lady. She didn't need washing or bandaging, so just Matthew and I went since I knew how to do the testing. Ducking beneath the low hanging thatched roof, we found her lying on sheets making a bed that took up most of the 8x12 concrete room. I sat down on the floor by her and Matthew left me alone to spend a few minutes holding her hand and listening to her explain in Tamil all her pains. We're told the people just want someone to listen to them, even if we can't understand. But it's such a helpless feeling to feel someone is hurting and know I'm not there helping. She rolled over and kept touching her back so I lifted up her shirt and there was a long scar running down her spine. I can only imagine. I rubbed her back and felt bad I couldn't do more. I held her hands, then did the little test, explaining the doctor would be back to see her, even though I knew she didn't understand a single word except doctor, which she repeated after me. I kissed her hands and as I stood she pulled me to my knees to give me a hug. As I ducked back out of her room I turned to wave and saw a hand raise from the sheets to wave in return and could feel her eyes on me as I turned and walked away.

25 comments:

  1. I am very thankful to have a niece who loves and serves all of those around her.

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  2. Anne Marie. You are like an angel. I think that what yuo are doing is amazing. You have always been so sweet. Your blog is amazing to read. I have been trying to stay upto date with it for the most part. I actually started one the other day! thealmalmanac.blogspot.com
    check it out sometime. anyway...you are inspiring! luv ya, miss ya!

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  3. You are wrong about one thing. You ARE helping. Remember President Uchtdorf's talk in conference about the large statue of Jesus Christ that was severely damaged during the bombing of World War II? The hands of the Savior were destroyed. The city, rather than trying to restore the hands decided instead to place the words at the base of the statue a sign which read "You are my hands." Anne Marie...you are His hands. Literally. You are His hands for these people who need hands. I love you. And, thank you for teaching me and for introducing me to these people...God's children.

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  4. As I have loved you, love one another.
    By this shall men know ye are my disciples
    If ye have love one to another.

    Charity never faileth.

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  5. Your entire experience is so moving for me! You are an angel to the people of India. What wonderful love and compassion you have for them. I feel i know you so much better than before.

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  6. Wow Anne Marie, this experience you are doing is who you are ... a person of service! So thankful your mom shared your blog with me. I have gratitude. I am thankful. You are amazing and bless you to continue your love for the people you are so willing to help.

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  7. This is beautiful Annie. I look forward to reading about your amazing experiences daily! You are blessing so many lives and I am sure you are also being blessed by the people you meet and service you do! Love you!

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  8. Oh Anne Marie, what a wonderful thing you are doing. I am learning so much from your experience. We all need to be much more grateful for our blessings. It is so good to know that some day all of them will have perfect bodies.

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  9. What a moving post! In tears- again. I just read a book on leprosy and can't believe their are still parts of the world that don't have it under control. You are such a godsend to these humble people.

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  10. Wow. This is a very powerful post. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  11. Wow Anne Marie, I don't know what to say but bless your heart...these people will be so touched by you, but you will in turn be forever touched by them...it is wonderful how this principle works in our lives.

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  12. Maybe he emailed you (?) but your Grandfather would like to know where you came from. Say's you are a jewel and will be forever changed...

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  13. I pretty much feel like your blog subtitle could be "so quit your complainin'". I'm not even there and I would feel humiliated to complain about any discomfort I am facing. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. AnneMarie, Uncle Mark and I have been reading your posts and have shed so many tears together. You are a remarkable young lady who is so willing to serve others -- especially so many who the world has shunned. You amaze me. Thank you so much for sharing in word and picture what you are seeing and doing. You are truly a servant for Heavenly Father. We love you. Aunt Pat

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  15. I can't help but get teary reading about my little blonde, beautiful Anne Marie being able to do such miraculous things. You are so special. I love reading your posts even though I have to have a good cry after reading everyone! Marsha

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  16. Hi! Its me Megan Elliott from highschool well now it's Megan Creel, I'm married now! Anywho I have came upon your blog sight and was so happy to see you are in INDIA...My favorite place :) A couple years ago I went to YWAM (youth with a mission school)I did my DTS and then went on a 3 month missionary trip to India, and visited Chennye and Calcutta.I Fell in love with the land and people! I also worked for a month with the leporsey patients and towards the end I was asked to be the photographer as well! I have some most amazing pics that just touches your heart for those people. I miss India so much so Im going to follow your blog :) You are a blessing and I will be praying for you while your in India!!

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  17. I just kept thinking about the song, "His Hands"--"His Hands....serve his whole life through, showing man what hands might do, giving ever giving endlessly, each day was filled with selflessness" by Kenneth Cope. A beautiful post.

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  18. Congratulations for earning a well-deserved spotlight in the Deseret News Mormon Times this morning http://tinyurl.com/333kfgs
    Many more people will be reading, and counting thier blessings.

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  19. Annie...wow, am I amazed by my dear, lifelong friend. I cannot believe the amazing things you are doing and the people who are getting to feel of your spirit. This was an amazing post! I love you so much and pray for you in India. Be safe and know I am thinking of you! And also, congrats on the awesome

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  20. ...sorry about that. Oops it posted as I was still writing. Anyway, what I was saying is congrats on the awesome recognition in the Mormon times!!! I read it and that's what led me back to this specific post!

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  21. Words escape me. I really have nothing to ever complain about. I am so blessed.

    I love the title of your post. The simple touch
    of your hands (which so many are unable to do) bring such great comfort to so many others. You are an angel to them and a powerful example to all of us.

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  22. Dear Anne Marie,
    I stand all amazed...
    as will Ron tomorrow when I share this with him.
    I dream of serving some kind of medical-teaching mission with him.
    Perhaps your stories of such unselfish, loving and dedicated service
    to humanity, will strike a familiar chord in his unsung testimony of
    the presence of the Lord in many of the medical mysteries he has seen in his life. You are my inspiration young lady. Thank you for taking time to so eloquently share your service with all of us.
    Love, Linda Arakelian

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  23. Hi,
    My mom knows your dad through work and he is the one who gave me the site to your blog. I am really interested in going to India for volunteer work. I was wondering if there was an organization that you went with that I could get the information for.
    Thanks!
    Erin McElhone

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  24. oh and my email is teddy152@cox.net

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  25. My daughter is in India at Rising Star right now. I saw your name on the list of bloggers for Rising Star.

    My mother is a Hyer from Cache Valley, Utah. Just wondering if there may be a connection? If so, please email me at mmdrasbek@aol.com.

    I love your insightful comments.

    Thank you,

    Mary Margaret

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