Monday, September 17, 2012

Lily: A Medical Mission To India, Or, Loving Your Karma


What is it that brings you joy and happiness?  The answer to this is truly different for every person, but the question is vital.  And one that each person needs to solve themselves.  Friends cannot, significant others cannot, society cannot resolve this matter for you.  They may attempt to, benevolently or not, but until we look within and understand ourselves and our motives, any happiness we achieve by others dictating our alleged desires will be fleeting.  The amazing point is when you realize that you really do control your own happiness, and you don’t need to rely on or be disturbed by outside influences.  Okay, maybe a little deep- but simultaneously so so simple!

I’ve had several friends recently come to me for advice regarding their life situations.  Some serious, some not so much.  You really have to just be amused if the most tragic thing in a friend’s life is that people are gossiping about her at work and spreading false rumors.  (I mean what are we, in high school still??)  Don’t bother to recognize these petty girls, who are likely just doing this out of jealousy.  You give them power by acknowledging their insults.  Even more legitimate anxieties can be handled similarly.  Another friend is going through a somewhat nasty divorce, and has serious concerns regarding the provisions her ex is stipulating for their children. Yes, it’s shitty that your ex-husband who makes $350k a year is refusing to put money aside for your childrens’ college – but he’s doing it just to get a rise out of you!  Don’t give him that power.  Life will go on.  Your children will go to college.  It may be unfair and you may end up paying more toward their educations- but do it with a smile, because you love them, and because your happiness is worth it.  You are the only person responsible for your reaction to any given situation. 

So maybe this is turning out to be a bit more Buddhist than intended.  But once you realize you control your own happiness, your life will change. You will be happy with what comes your way, because that is the only response you know.  You will love your karma, and good things WILL come your way.  Take care of yourself and make yourself happy, because then you can bring happiness to others.  Which is actually what I intended for the topic of this post.

Once you have own affairs in order, you can offer your talents to others.  Philanthropy is nurturing to our own souls, in that wholesome, selfless way that is too infrequently experienced by most of us.  I had a rare opportunity last year to travel to India with a group of colleagues on a medical trip.  We were working with cardiac surgeons in a mid-sized town in the North of India, teaching them to do more complex operations on children than they regularly performed.  This sort of sustainable medical mission really appealed to me, and I was honored to be included in the group.  


A journey through pictures of my experience:


Medical mission to India; Jaipur Hospital

A view from the front of the hospital where we were working.  There were hordes of people outside the hospital at all hours, hoping for a chance to be evaluated.


Medical mission to India, neighboring area, destitution of India

The surrounding area is extremely poverty-stricken, as is most of the country.  The level of destitution is astounding and not well displayed by these pictures.


An interesting cultural phenomenon.



Don’t be fooled: the amount of congestion and crowding in the city only appears to fade with the sunset.



Evaluating a child to determine if they are appropriate for the proposed operation.



The families were very grateful for treatment at this hospital, because that meant not having to travel many hours to the nearest large city where this operation was typically performed (Delhi)…and the fact that in this context it was financed for them didn’t hurt, either.



The babies are very sick postoperatively, and as in this child’s case, sometimes have to return to surgery due to complications.  All ended well!


The staff were a pleasure to work with, and actively engaged in how they could improve their techniques and processes.  They definitely have us beat in some areas, though…it’s amazing to realize how much we WASTE in this country.


 Of course we made time for some culture and fun!  The palaces were beautiful – I can’t do justice to their descriptions and history as Alex does in her blogs, so I’ll just stick to what I know…


All of the monkeys were one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Medical mission to India; Indian palace

The palaces had amazing gardens.


The palace on the hill in the distance is where the previous three photos were taken.

Medical mission to India, snake charmer

Yeah.  Snake charmers actually DO exist.  Crazy, right?


Elephant ride up to the palace, anyone?


Oh yes, we took in a Bollywood show.

Medical mission to India, Taj Majal

A trip to northern India would not be complete without visiting the Taj Mahal.  Even if it took six hours…each way…of driving on painfully slow pot-holed dirt roads (we were told it was 2 hours from our hotel, talk about managing expectations!).



One of the adjacent mosques in the Taj Mahal complex.





Oh how the Indian boys loved our Theresa, they couldn’t stop taking pictures with her and her blonde hair!




Quite impressive architecture, even if not at one of the Seven Wonders.



Viewing ancient astronomical instruments makes you realize how far we’ve come.




The whole gang: surgeons, anesthesia/critical care physicians, nurses, a cardiologist and a perfusionist.


Moral of the story: Change your outlook.  Choose to be happy, no matter the circumstances.  You’re guaranteed to have good karma, and then you can spread that to others.  What more could you ask for?


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