In order to get a certificate and recommendation letter from Dr. Hanumantha Rao, chairman of Sweekar, I was required to write a report with a detailed account of what I did here at Sweekar. I have typed this report and attached it to this blog post! Here it is!
My experience at Sweekar-Upakar has proven to be enlightening, satisfying, and even life-changing. I began working at Sweekar as a volunteer but emerged as a better person, with a new perspective on life and medicine. Over a period of three weeks, I was able to spend time in each one of the departments. Whether it was the Child Developmental Center or the Out Patient Department, the staff was extremely gregarious and knowledgeable. I was able to learn so much through observation, and took extensive notes on each of the patients I saw. Overall, my time spent at Sweekar was extremely informative and interesting, and the exposure to a facility like this allowed me to learn a lot about Indian culture as well as to appreciate my own circumstances more.
Approximately twelve to fourteen percent of children in India have a learning disability. The first department that I began volunteering in was the CLD (Center for Learning Disabilities). The staff was very hospitable, and explained all the different educational techniques utilized in this department. They began by discussing the team that travels to KV schools to pinpoint the students who have learning disabilities. Once they have found these students, they bring them to Sweekar and use a myriad of educational procedures to help these students learn. There are four targeted components in the CLD, which include sight, speech, sense, and writing. Some of the methods used to improve these components include sand writing, far-point and near-point copying, window therapy, sponge therapy, clay therapy, visits to the sensory park, dribbling, and puzzles. They are timed for all of these tasks and although improvement is very slow in these children, it is noticeable. In this department, I had the opportunity to work with the children, and this hands-down experience was very beneficial. It was such a wonderful feeling to teach these children, especially when they finally understood a concept or showed signs of improvement.
The next department I visited was the OPD (Out-Patient Department). This is the department in which all patients begin the process of treatment. The families arrive and are asked a series of personal and medical questions so that they can be sent to the appropriate department for treatment. One of the most important things I noticed in the OPD were the cultural differences between India and America. Sweekar is a multispecialty rehabilitation center in which all different disorders are in one place. In America, there are different facilities for each disorder. This simply means that there are an immense number of patients using Sweekar-Upakar for treatment. In the OPD I was startled by the vast number of patients. Each patient came in with different symptoms and backgrounds, truly proving that “no case is the same.” Another cultural difference I noticed was that the parents did not appear to be well informed about their children’s medical history. When asked simple questions, like whether or not the delivery was natural or a caesarian section, they did not know the answer. Information like this is crucial for diagnosis, and if the parents cannot provide this, the doctors are not able to analyze the child appropriately. After the OPD I went to the clinic to observe the diagnosis of the patients done by Dr. Hanumantha Rao. This was one of my favorite facets of my volunteering, because I was able to observe a doctor interact with patients and diagnose them. In my future I hope to pursue a career in medicine, and this experience made me sure that my choice to become a doctor was the right one. Dr. Hanumantha Rao was so compassionate towards the patients, and was able to quickly diagnose each one of them. This affection and empathy shown towards patients is a vital part of being a doctor, and I really enjoyed observing this. I also gained a lot of valuable knowledge about different disorders by actually seeing each patient and the symptoms they showed. I also noticed another cultural difference during my time in the clinic. A lot of the patients that visited the clinic were much older. Early detection is such an important part of treatment, and this was not the case for many patients. Because of this, many patients were advised to focus on vocational skills rather than academics.
The next few departments I volunteered in were Psychology, Physiotherapy, and the CDC (Child Developmental Center). In the Psychology department, I received exposure to the actual social, academic, and behavioral analysis of children. The first day, I observed a variety of tests being administered to a child. It was so interesting to watch the child either struggle or successfully complete each tasks. Some of the things I noticed in this child were lack of focus and concentration, hyperactivity, and educational difficulties. The ultimate diagnosis for this case was moderate mental retardation. I asked the panel of psychologists what the next step was in treating this child and they said they would send him to the CLD, and provide counseling for the parents. The next department that I visited was Physiotherapy. One of the crucial things I discovered in this department was that improvement and success was far more noticeable in physiotherapy patients than in mentally handicapped patients. The staff here was very informed and helpful. They taught me about the function of each machine. Foe example, the TENS (Trans Cutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) was one of the many machines I learned about. This machine pinpoints small areas. A pad is applied to the damaged area and then electricity is sent through the pad in a diagonal direction with a small point at the center. The center receives the electricity and removes lactic acid and other fluids which cause the pain in the specific area. These fluids are then sent to the lymph nodes so that they can exit the body. In addition to the physiotherapy machines, I also saw several patients. Some of the disorders I saw were Bells Palsy, Cerebral Palsy, Radial Palsy, inflammation of the joints, and lower knee weakness. In most of these cases the physiotherapy doctors stretched and massaged the damaged areas or used one of the various machines. I found that improvement was usually visible after the first few weeks of treatment. The final department I visited was the CDC. In this department there were various sectors such as behavioral therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and ADHD and Autism therapy. I was able to spend time in each of these departments and observe the interaction between the doctors and patients. It was so interesting to watch each child, and I again noticed that each case is so different. Some of the cases I saw in the CDC included Cerebral Palsy, Mild mental retardation, and Autism.
There are so many important lessons that I have gained through this internship at Sweekar. The biological and scientific knowledge was invaluable and seeing this information in practical examples was so beneficial. I have also learned the importance of awareness. Exposure to a rehabilitation center in a developing country gave me a huge appreciation for the facilities we have in the United States. Finally, the most important lesson that I have learned is the value of community service. “The smallest good deed is better than the greatest good intention.” The validity of this quote was confirmed by my experience here at Sweekar. Knowing that I was able to use my time to help those in need is an indescribable feeling. It is a tremendous feeling; one that you can only obtain through volunteering. I arrived at Sweekar hoping to make a difference in the community, but I found that Sweekar changed me. I have discovered a newfound appreciation for my own life and health, as well as a love and passion for medicine and helping others.