Thursday, March 31, 2011

Animal Aid: more surgery stories

The other day at Animal Aid was a very long one point, I was in the surgery building (as usual, lately) and the ambulance came back from it's first run. A current hospital patient had just been brought in to have a rectal prolapse fixed, which required anesthesia and a certain amount of orchestration. Then when the ambulance showed up, we got 2 new puppies that were very sick. One kept having seizures, and was mostly was simply unconscious.

We have no idea what had happened to them...the life of a street dog here is fraught with all kinds of danger, and because none of the dogs have "owners", we hardly ever get any kind of history on them. You are walking into these situations blind, trying to help them. THEN another puppy was brought in, this one was having trouble breathing, and was gasping for air.

The doctor was at lunch, the doctors assistant helped with the prolapse but then went to lunch, and I was left standing in the surgery prep room alone with 4 dying puppies. I got them all hooked up to IV drips, and they were monitored until the doctor came back (THAT felt like forever!) (3 of them are in the photo above, on the floor, with a couple of the guys I called in to help me manage their IV's.)

Right after the lunch emergency rush, we had a dog scheduled for a leg amputation. He had been brought to surgery prep earlier in the morning, because he was severely dehydrated, had a gaping hole in his neck full of maggots, and was very sick. I wanted him on fluids as long as possible before his surgery happened. So, in reality, I had 5 dogs in the room with me...luckily the adult dog was very quiet on the floor while he got his IV drip.

One by one, we dealt with the emergencies, started surgery, and the day went on. In the end it was an 11 hour day, non stop. The only thing I had to eat all day (between IV monitoring) was a small bag of potato chips. And I loved every minute of it. :)

The leg amputation went well, and all we could hope for now was that the dog would get better. Sadly, the dog ended up dying a day later.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animal Aid: Leg Amputation Surgery... if you can't handle gore, skip this post

A puppy was brought in with a VERY badly fractured right front leg. There was no choice but to amputate. Broken bones were sticking out every which way, it was heartbreaking to see. Luckily, all went well, and as the staff at Animal Aid have proved, being a 3 legged (or even 2 legged!!) dog doesn't mean you have to slow down. There are so many resident amputees at the hospital, it's really quite inspiring to see how they all get around and play like normal.
Here, we are weighing the puppy before surgery, to determine anesthesia and medication is tricky...they have just a small step on scale that's rather, um, temperamental. I think back to the hydraulic lift scales at Westside, and the digital scale at Lancaster...and I wish I could bring Animal Aid every kind of helpful thing there is...and that includes a new scale!
Yes, those are bones.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

India: HOLI festival

The Holi Festival in India is really something to experience! I had been warned (in past years) that if I were here on Holi to not go outside that can be dangerous for girls, especially foreigners, and you will get covered in colored powder. Info on Holi:

Why is it dangerous? is a day that can involve a lot of drinking, but more importantly it is a day when people let all of their inhibitions go and touch each other...ostensibly to apply the powder, hug you, and wish you Happy Holi. Men will often take advantage of this day to touch women in ways that are not appropriate, especially the foreigners...because those girls don't know that the touching should only be between friends, and so these strange men turn it into a fast and furious grope session. As a society, Indians are pretty hang out with men, women with women. There's no touching, no public displays of affection...and hardly even any hand shaking. (They put both hands together and say "Namaste" as a greeting instead.)

This year, though, I went out with a group of friends, and that is probably the biggest thing to staying safe. We started at one house, and then as the day goes on we drove to other houses, to play colors with friends and relatives. Each time you emerged from another house, you had all new colors. So, pardon the seemingly egotistical amount of photos my myself, I was simply documenting my metamorphosis.

As the day went on, and things got wilder, we also got thoroughly doused with water. So now you've got tons of powder all over your hair, your eyes, ears, etc...and it gets WET and becomes heavier and a bit more damaging. At the end of the day, I was transformed into a redhead. No more light brown or blonde hair...I have got definitive red highlights in my hair...see the very last photo in this post, taken the next day.

Also...because of the water, my G11 got ruined. I was trying very hard to be careful, but there was a sneak attack that involved a large bucket of water, and the G11 has stopped working.

After we were done visiting people, we all went swimming to get the majority of the powder off of us. I brought some clean clothes and changed, which felt so nice! But then I needed to stop by at Animal Aid to pick a few things up, and the staff was all excited to see me, and it was Holi, and they all came at me with colors. I am feeling very badly about it, but I was kinda rude and held them at arms length and just kept saying "No! I'm done! I have had enough" No!" and backed away from them.

Three days later and one of them STILL isn't talking to me. I am sorry that I offended them by refusing, but I was so tired and I wanted to stay clean. Also, the powder tastes AWFUL...and by the end of the day when I'd see someone coming towards me, I was actually grimacing in response.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Animal Aid: Flashback to my vet tech days

A million years ago, I worked full time as a veterinary technician. I started when I was 18, got trained on the job, and proceeded to work at a couple of hospitals for the next 13 years. (The photo above is from my time at Lancaster Animal Hospital) However, it didn't pay the bills, the hours were long, and one day I was given an opportunity to have a job in a different And so I took a chance, and left one career for a completely different one, and haven't looked back since.

When I came to India last March, it was to volunteer as a vet tech for the month at Animal Aid in Udaipur...I was kinda missing the hands on work and animal interaction, and I even left the cameras at home to help me concentrate on the volunteer work!! However, they were so well staffed and had it all figured out, that my vet tech skills languished in the oppressive heat and I spent a month picking ticks off of dogs. Not exactly a challenge for me. I left feeling a bit useless and defeated.

The next visit to Animal Aid (in October) was to help with photography, a skill that the owners actually needed for marketing purposes. Ah! Something I can DO!! I spent 2 weeks going out with the ambulance, at the hospital, and had a ball doing it.

This is my 3rd time to Animal Aid, and I am in India for 3 months this time. I started out doing some video work, but also made time for fun and traveling around. So last week, I go flying off to Kolkata, and when I get back, everything at Animal Aid has changed. One of their vets (and about 5 of the vet techs) had QUIT. They walked out, I think it had something to do with a salary dispute.

The point is, I come back from the trip and...they actually need me! To do VET TECH stuff! Wow. I am loving it. For the last 3 days, I have given injections, started IV's, assisted with surgeries, managed paperwork and schedules for dog care, and started to re-organize their inventory. The project had begun when I was gone, but once the staff walked out, it wasn't exactly a priority...the animals come first.

So I am trying to take everything they have (medications, injectable drugs, bandaging, suture material, surgical instruments, vitamins, etc) and sort thru it...chucking the expired or unidentifiable things, collecting the remainder, and sorting them out in a logical fashion.
This photo is from the Lancaster Animal Hospital, when I worked there oh-so-long-ago. Laurie was in charge of inventory, but we both helped with keeping things organized. Anyone that's ever worked with me knows JUST how obsessive I can get about organizing on a large scale. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

India: Indian Style Toilets and Delicate Feminine Issues, all of your questions answered!

Blog post disclaimer: for those of you who don't really know me...or know me too well...or are wedding clients (but check my blog to be polite/curious/kill time)...perhaps this isn't the post for you to be reading. For those who know me "just right", or are a woman, or are considering travel to parts of the world that lack *GASP* modern toilets...keep reading. Do not get to the end of this, groan in disgust, and say I didn't warn you.

Ok, that said, I have a few things to educate you about regarding bathroom facilities, and in a related sub to best deal with getting your period. Let's tackle the toilet issue first, shall we?

Every single person I have spoken to from home gets a little weird when it comes to matters regarding bathroom facilities here in Incredible India. I sorta roll my eyes, and respond along the lines of "it's not really that bad" and I mean it. In fact, I have grown so fond of the system, that if I were ever to be, say, building a house of my own (we can all dream, right?) I'd INSTALL one. Yes. I would truly choose to have a hole in the floor and NOT use toilet paper.

Let me explain how this system works. You already have the was the first thing you saw when you tentatively clicked into this post. The basic idea is that you straddle a hole in the floor with both feet (in the photo above, you would be squatting and facing me as I took the photo), do your business, and then use your...left clean yourself. No toilet paper.

How do you do this, you ask? Not intellectually how do you do this, but realistically. Physically! Alright, if you've made it this far, I have to assume that you have no limits to your curiosity and aren't freaked out enough to have stopped reading. I'll tell you.

In every Indian toilet, no matter how far removed from the world (bus stop, train station, anywhere) there is a water spigot and a cup or bucket of some kind, located right near you, close to floor level. You fill the cup a little way with water. You pick it up with your right hand. You use your left hand to clean yourself, and then pour some of the water from the cup (still in your right hand!) onto your (left!) hand. Repeat until you're satisfied that you've been sanitized.

Now, note that you do not dip your left hand into this cup of water. Why not? What would that do? Think. It would contaminate the water AND the plastic cup. Let's not do that.

Ok, so you've been squatting very close to the floor now, shifting your weight so that you can clean and wash...there's a good chance you've sorta lost your balance a bit, or been completely undone by the sheer oddity of the position. It's ok. Keep practicing. I am always amazed at how limber Indians are. They squat down at ground level for a lot of things...working, eating, killing time. You name it, they can get into the most amazing positions. Thus, squatting over a hole-in-the-floor toilet is no big deal. And it works quite well.

But I've been squatting and cleaning, trying very hard not to topple over. Now what? Your pants are around your knees, your hand is really wet, your squeaky-clean-parts are what? Well, you can shake the excess water off, I guess, wipe the remainder on your clothes (or something), pull your pants up, and leave. Any moisture will evaporate quickly enough. You're done! Usually there will also be a small sink and soap with which to wash your hands with, outside of the actual toilet stall.

All is well with the world. You no longer need to pee, your hands are clean, and you can get on with the rest of your day. Easy!

Given a choice between western style and Indian style side by side, I will choose Indian style every time. Why? Because there's still no toilet paper (unless you're one of those folks that carry it around with you in your backpack). And all that water business? It's...wet! And you are positioned differently on a western toilet. Your thighs are closer together. The spigot is still at floor level. You need to lean waaaay over to reach it. It's harder to get your hand thru your thighs (or around them) to do the job. You drip water all over the toilet seat trying to get it to where you need it, make a mess, and then feel badly for the next person that comes along...and there's no way for you to clean it up, because there's still no (guess!) toilet paper.

Now, we've covered normal bathroom chores. It's time to move on to the next section, so I will give one more disclaimer. If you are NOT a woman, you probably should stop right here. We're gonna talk about bleeding now. Monthly womanly bleeding. It's such a joy.

Are you still reading? Ok. Skip to below the next image to learn about the wondrous thing that is the Diva Cup.

This little invention is the most amazing thing that has come along entire mature female life. Not only does using a Diva Cup stop you from needing to buy, cart around, and dispose of bulky "sanitary products", it is easy and much more...ummmm...comprehensive? Natural?

It is a simple idea...instead of a tampon, you put this soft plastic cup inside of you. It acts a catch system right underneath your cervix, and as your uterus bleeds out, the cup catches it all without leaking.

Did you just blanche?? I'm sorry. I DID warn you.

Ok, so, catches the blood, you remove it when you go to the bathroom, empty it, rinse it off, and put it back IN. Yes, folks, the days of going thru ten tons of tampons and pads are over. You will never have to contribute to the feminine hygiene trash heap ever again!

For me, it has also been easier to use the Diva Cup for one other India, there's no trash cans. I mean, none. No "special" womens trash cans in the toilet stall. No "regular" trash basket in the bathroom in general. No trash cans. Trash goes on the get swept up and burned, or eaten by cows, or just ignored.

When I came to Animal Aid last year, I was here for a month. I got my period. (Hey, it's called a monthly cycle for a reason, what can you say?) Anyway, at one point or another I started bleeding. I go to work. Eventually, I go into the toilet stall to deal with things...which, by the way, is located pretty much dead center of the property. Everyone can see you coming and going from that toilet. They know what you're doing. I take out the used and very bloody tampon (gross), and replace it with a new one. Now I am sitting there with a bloody tampon in my hand, the wrapping and cardboard tube from the new one, and...nowhere to put it! No toilet paper to wrap it up in. What do you do?

Well, for starters, you need to put it down long enough to at least wash your hands, etc, but then you can't just leave it there. You need to take it with you. Yep. I had to walk out of that stall with a bloody tampon pressed to my palm (so much for the clean hand) and then hide it in some random scrap of (something) and stuff it into my backpack and...take it with me.

Oh! And try walking thru a place with 100 plus dogs (and a bloody tampon) and NOT have them call you out on it. They have pretty keen noses, and blood is just one of those scents that carry. You cannot try to throw it behind a bush, because the dogs will go and get it, and drag their new toy out in front of everyone at chai time, just to teach you a lesson.

So, basically, the Indian toilet is perfectly suited to both actual bodily elimination issues AND menstrual issues. Still don't understand? The cup needs to be emptied (you pour it into the hole that you just peed in). The cup needs to be rinsed (wallah! A water spout is right there!) and then needs to be replaced. It is a perfectly balanced system, between the unavoidable monthly thing, amazing product, and the existing toilet facilities.

Questions? Comments? If you made it this far, I give you credit.

Now, if you're a girl, go try the Diva Cup, and then tell all your friends about it. I realize it's not exactly casual conversation material, but you'll have trouble keeping it all to yourself. I can (almost) guarantee it. :)

Diva Cup web site: For $33, you will never have to buy feminine hygiene products again! Ever!