This rainy weekend in Goa was spent with Laxmi Khaire a contributor to a Goan magazine called the Goenkar. She was hoping to meet a few of the families so that she could write a cover story on their trials and tribulations.
Laxmi met up with Robert late afternoon and headed off to the local slum to meet a couple of the families; as we arrived at the first area our way was blocked by a huge pile of recyclables so we took the scenic root and walked down the small passage way to the first family.
I think Laxmi was taken back a little by their openness and kindness as we entered their room and were offered a seat as one of the young boys rushed to the shop to buy soft drinks for us both. The families are so generous and Laxmi spent quite a while speaking with the first family. It was nice to see the mother root around in her cupboard to proudly show a few of the photos of when they were younger. We then headed to two more areas before heading back as it was getting dark.
Laxmi was interested to meet more families so the next day arranged to return. On the Sunday we visited four different areas, each having their own stories to tell. We spoke to 6 different families and I hope Laxmi got a good idea of how the families live and the struggles they face. It will be interesting to read the final article when it comes out and I hope it paints an accurate picture of the life for these families in the slum.
Three of the children were in need of a visit to the skin specialist. The children had a range of infections, spots and rashes which required the help of Uma Dhabashi the dermatologist based in Panjim.
As Robert is usually reliant on just the motorbike for transport, he asked to borrow a car from a good friend who kindly offered to help which made the journey a lot easier.
As soon as the car arrived at the slum the inquisitive children asked, 'is it your car?...' and as I rounded up the children, a couple of them wanted to jump in just for the experience. After putting in (and putting out) the right children, we set off to Panjim.
Anyone who has been to Panjim will know that parking can be a problem, especially when trying to park a vehicle bigger than a bike in the busy streets. To make life easier we found somewhere on the outskirts and decided to walk the 10 minutes to the surgery.
We waited just 15 minutes to see Dr Uma, and as always she was very good with the children. Two of the children were prescribed medicine and the 3rd need to have a biopsy on her hand due to the continued development of an infection.
The biopsy required a small circle of skin to be removed from her hand and sent off to the lab in Mumbai. The girl (the eldest of the group) decided to act like the youngest as she was worried about the procedure so Rob had to hold her hand while Dr Uma carefully removed the sample for biopsy. A little ointment and a small bandage to cover the wound and she was 'right as rain'. All the fuss was over. It would take around 10 days for the biopsy results to be returned so we thanked Dr Uma and headed home. On the way we visited the chemists and purchased the medicine and instructed the children of how and when to apply and finally dropped them all home.
Due to the Diwali holidays the results took a little longer to return but we now know the girl has a GRANULOMA. Dr Uma has told us to visit the head of the dermatology department at the Goa Medical College in Bambolim, so if all goes well this will be done next week. We will keep you updated.
I would like to thank David Sutton who has been working in professional sport for the last 11 years and is currently the head of Strength and Conditioning at Northants Cricket. David was kind enough to drop of a bag cricket kit off for the children during October, sadly I was unable to meet him personally, but Afonso Guest House in Panjim kept hold of the bag while David was out so that I could pick it up.
Thank you to both David and Afonso Guest House for their help.
I was lucky to have the help of two couch surfers recently (couchsurfing.org) who joined in and gave a helping hand distributing the monthly supplies and rice to each student attending a full week in school.
The two girls, one each from France and Ireland visited three different areas with me and helped give out mosquito protection, rice, toothpaste and brushes and soap which will help the children stay clean and healthy.
One area was kind enough to share some of their vegetables from the small garden which grew on their tin roof as well as the ground outside their house. We came home with a pumpkin and either a large cucumber or a marrow (not exactly sure at the moment as we haven't cut into it yet).
Thank you to the wonderful kids, whose families always make us feel so welcome and of course Lisa and Aline (the couch surfers) for their help.
Many of the elder children in the slums receive 'home made tattoos' often names of their family members or an Om sign or cross on their hand. Others have more intricate tattoos made by people who visit the slums or follow the carnivals around. As you can imagine the quality and cleanliness offered is something that is far from ideal, with the same needle being used on more than one person which can lead to infection and passing on more serious illnesses like HIV, hepatitis etc.
One of the older girls has had a few small tattoos on her arms and hand. The tattoo on her hand caused a severe reaction with the skin, which is erupting around the area where the tattoo was drawn. We have visited 6 different doctors at two hospitals and one private practice.
We have now been directed to have a biopsy of the infected area, on arrival at the hospital we were then told to have more test done before the biopsy, so we spent another few days running around the hospitals while we organised a HIV and Hepatitis test. Both the HIV and Hepatitis came back negative, the girl didn't quite understand why she required a HIV test, the basic understanding in the slums that you just get HIV from sex, the thought that you could contract it from having a tattoo seemed impossible to her.
Hopefully she will be more careful if she considers having another tattoo done. We are now clear to have the bio biopsy which will hopefully be done and returned over the next couple of weeks.
Nanda, was visiting the village in Karnataka when she came down with headaches, aches, pains and fever. This persisted and became unbearable so her family took her to the nearby hospital. The hospital conducted a barrage of tests on her including chest x-rays, sonograms and blood tests. The blood tests highlighted that she had Salmonella typhi bacteria which signified that she had Typhoid Fever.
Typhoid fever is spread by eating or drinking the bacteria in contaminated food or water. People who have had acute illness can contaminate the surrounding water supply through stools. The bacteria in the stools can survive for weeks in water or dried sewage. As a high number of slums have very limited access to toilets the families defecate in the open, and in turn, this significantly increases the chance of infections like typhoid spreading to family, friends and neighbours.
Nanda was sick for a couple of weeks and by the time she got back to Goa she had recovered from the worst of it although she was still feeling lethargic and had prolonged headaches. Robert took Nanda to the local private hospital to double check she was over the infection. The doctors provided a very good examination and Nanda saw three doctors including the head of the hospital, after a few more tests she was given a course of medicine and instructed to take rest.
Now a few weeks on, she is much better and feeling a little more prepared to face the world again. * Names and Photos have been changed for child protection reasons.