I went to four different villages today. Angieben and I left at 10:30 am to visit Undale. Unfortunately, when we arrived most of the women were still busy with household chores and the only woman there was the nurse who organized the visit. While we waited for the women to arrive, I watched the nurse administer vaccines on a 15 day old infant who was born at 3 kilos and now weighed 2.8 kilos. The grandmother who brought the child was concerned and said that the mother was not making enough milk to feed the baby. Another woman came in to schedule an appointment for a tubectomy. She already has two children, and facing the realities of poverty in rural India, had decided that the only way to protect and feed the family she has was to ensure she did not have more children. Despite the little material goods that they have, the people in these small villages are always smiling and happy. I think we can all learn a lot from their outlook on life.
After about an hour, twenty five of the village women arrived. Although this was less than expected, I am more than happy to deliver my presentation to even two women because I know they can share the information with their family and friends. I’ve realized that I end up adding new things to my presentation every day because I learn about the new myths that exist in every village I visit. For example, I make sure to tell all of the women that wearing a black bra and tight clothes will not make you more prone to breast cancer. Following the presentation a few women approached me with concerns. One of them had a sonography that reported two lesions in her left breast and was planning to have a mammography soon. One other woman said she knew three women who had some complaints about breast pain and we advised her to encourage all of them to visit the Center for an examination and mammogram. The women were a bit concerned about who they would have to meet when they arrived at the Center, so we asked them to bring the pamphlet with them so that the staff would point them in the right direction.
At 12:30 pm we were on our way to Syama, a village about 10 minutes from Undale with a population of 3000 people. We ran into the same problem as Undale when we arrived. A female doctor met us at the PHC and informed us that the women were probably busy at home with lunch. While I waited for the women to arrive, I read over all the health awareness posters they have up. You only find out how much information these communities received when you actually go to visit. The ‘Kisoriben’s and Asha worker women do an amazing job of keeping track of the 1000 people to whom they are assigned to relay medical information. We only have to wait 20 minutes before about 25 women had gathered to hear the presentation. Although these women didn’t have any questions, they seemed to understand everything I had shared between the video and presentation. I’ve started spending a bit of time talking about daily life at the end of each presentation, just to make sure that women are hearing other important health related information often.
We were already running late to our next presentation in Vatadara when we finished in Syama. The PHC had invited all of the women to gather in Vatadara at 1:00 pm being conscious of the fact that they may run on Indian Standard Time, one hour late, and arrive by 2:00 pm, our scheduled presentation time. We probably shouldn’t have been so presumptuous because all of the women arrived on time at 1:00pm and waited an hour for us to arrive. I felt so bad that they sat around and had already left by the time we arrived. Hopefully we will be able to schedule another visit before the end of the week.
Before moving on to Khatnal, we called to make sure that the village women would be there for the presentation. We found out that Khatnal has a female panchayat that was already holding a meeting so the women would not be leaving until after my presentation. This group listened very attentively and had a lot of questions. They talked about a few different cases of breast cancer within their village and in neighboring villages as well. One 19 year old science student had a lot of insightful questions to ask. They offered us tea before we left and the PHC and Panchayat invited us to join them in Anand tomorrow for a talk by Narendra Modi.
Today was incredibly productive! I really enjoyed meeting the women from all the villages and appreciate that they treat me as their own.
Also, check out these websites for more information on the PHC system in India and the Role of the District Public Health Nurses in India.