Tuesday, 26 March 2013

It all started with a mouse...

Just over a week ago, my family and I arrived in Orlando, Florida and since then I've been so busy I haven't posted! We came to DisneyWorld to meet up with our family (my Dad's brother, his wife and their two beautiful kids) who live in Pittsburgh. Last year they came to England to see us so this year we made the HUGE sacrifice of coming to Disney to see them ;)

For the first 4 days in the Beach Club Resort in Epcot (also with Kim's sister and her husband). Then we went on a DisneyCruiseLine ship, the Disney Dream, for 3 days. We have now returned to DisneyWorld but are staying in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Wish I could wear this everyday...
What we have done so far (in a very brief and undersized nutshell):

Magic Kingdom-explored, the ladies had lunch in Cinderella's castle with the princesses (yes, C, E and I all dressed up as Mulan, Ariel and Belle respectively), did rides eg It's A Small World

Epcot-Finding Nemo attractions (ride and live Turtle Talk with Crush), had lunch in France with Remy the rat from Ratatouille, rides eg TestTrack, Mission Space etc, explored some of the different countries eg Mexico, looked at the amazing flower displays/statutes and fountains, took a photo in our matching red Daboo Crew tshirts
May have bought some pink leopard print mouse ears

Animal Kingdom-went on a jeep safari in Africa and a walking safari in Asia, did rides eg Expedition Everest, saw the Festival of the Lion King show (amazing!), saw LOTS of different animals (O kept a record in his notebook) went on the dinosaur ride

Hollywood Studios-rides eg Toy Story and The Great Movie Ride, did Star Tours, saw the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show, did a Studio Backlot Tour
All Aboard the Disney Dream!

Disney Dream-parties and fireworks on board, rode the Aquaduck- the very first watercoaster at sea, swam in the pools whilst watching Disney movies on the big screens, went to Castaway Cay-Disney's private island- and lay on the beach etc, did activities like learning about the animation and drawing of characters, dined at themed restaurants-also went to a VERY posh and fancy adults only one called Remy, went to Broadway-calibre shows in the onship theatre, rather enjoyed unlimited free soft drinks

With Minnie at character breakfast
Other-went to a baseball game (Pirates vs Braves) at Wide World of Sports, had a character breakfast at Chef Mickeys, met lots of characters around the parks, got caught in a thunderstorm in Downtown Disney

Take me out to the ball game...
I'm sure I've missed lots and there is lots still to come!

The accommodation has been amazing. The hotels are all so themed and fun! Animal Kingdom Lodge is particularly cool because the buildings are right in the middle of the savannah so you have African animals like giraffes and zebras right outside your windows/balconies. If you wake up early you just pop outside and watch (or if you get supercold like me you wrap in a blanket and watch through the glass!) The entire building is African themed and decorated, it's beautiful. I don't mind having a double bed to myself either, after being on the top bunk on the ship!

Most of all I am having an AMAZING time with my wonderful family, learning to believe in the magic again and having dreams come true.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Home Sweet Home

Sorry for the delay! I arrived in the UK just after 6am on Monday morning after the journey back from HELL. It involved some panicked crying, endless phonecalls and time spent on hold to BA and a whole load of stress. Basically, I was getting home by a Jet Airways flight to Mumbai and then a British Airways flight to Heathrow. I had booked the whole thing through BA as Jet is an affiliated airline. I arrived at the airport in Colombo about an hour before check-in opened and made friends with a Consultant Radiologist who was Sri Lankan but works in the States. He was getting the same first two flights as me before heading onwards to get home and, though I didn't know it at the time, was a Godsend. When check-in opened we went straight away...and the problems started for me! I ended up spending over 2 tearful, stressful hours at that check in counter. To cut it short, Jet said that I had a ticket for the flight but not a booking...I have yet to work out what that actually means! I spent forever on the phone to BA in London who were baffled. Finally Jet said it was sorted, printed me my two boarding cards and sent my luggage off. I hung up and 2 seconds later was told that the boarding cards had just become invalid and they'd lost me off their system again. I ended up speaking to BA in the States via my radiologist friend Kumar and eventually after 2 hours, it was sorted. I had 2 boarding passes, was assured my bag would be put through and went through to security. It had taken so long that the check in man had threatened he was only going to be able to hold the flight another 5 minutes (at this point Kumar declared he was going to just buy me a new ticket-luckily it was sorted in the next minute but it was so kind of him to offer and to stay with me the whole time.) We went straight through security, to the gate and onto the plane. The 2 hour flight was, on my part, spent watching The Big Bang Theory to relax myself.

In Mumbai we were met off the plane by a Jet representative as we were transits. We were quickly told by the Jet personnel that the boarding pass that Jet Airways had given us would not be accepted by BA so we needed new ones. I was suddenly wondering why we had spent two unnecessary hours at check in in Colombo (whilst there they had said that as I had an Indian Visa they would fly me to Mumbai even though I had no booking but couldn't connect me-I had spent so long on the phone sorting it so they could connect me...) We had to wait for over 45 minutes in a big hall with no water, food, toilets or information but with 100000000000 mosquitoes whilst our passports, boarding passes and luggage receipts were taken away...not a good feeling for control freaks! Eventually though the lady came back with all our documents and our new boarding passes. We went through our own little security (still slower than a normal UK one but a million times faster than the normal one in Mumbai) and then Kumar very kindly took me to the BA Executive Club Lounge. I was so grateful and could finally relax (and use the wifi to let my worried parents know that I would in fact be getting home!) When we got to the BA gate we ended up having an extra security check. I was full body-searched and had two cans of diet coke that I'd gotten from the BA Lounge taken off me.They were even taking away liquids people had bought in duty-free. Not sure what that was about but I was so over it all by then.

Finally on board, the flight was comfortable (if very cold!) and I did end up managing to get some decent sleep. I flew through immigration and beat my luggage to the reclaim belt by about 20 minutes! As I pushed my trolley into the arrivals hall I saw my parents both waiting for me, cameras ready and despite my hellish journey, the biggest smile spread across my face. It was so good to be home!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Winding down...

Today was my last day in the hospital which was a very strange feeling. I spent my sister's birthday delivering babies and even got some more hands on experience doing all the baby are today (weighing, measuring, checking and dressing the newborns). I still feel slightly anxious when I'm holding a minute-old-baby but I'm learning to trust myself! Although babycare is the midwives job and not something I will really ever do, it has been a great experience for me and one of my favourite things. Rubbing the babies clean, keeping them warm and swaddling them nicely takes away a little of the guilt I feel that they are not cuddled up on their mum's chest. Up until now, the youngest baby I had ever held was my cousin Alex when she was just over a week old. She was probably about the same size as some of these as she was born early but that was 10.5 years ago. Having these brand new life forms in my hands and care is such a good feeling. I nicknames the only girl born today Caroline in honour of my very special sis!

Working in the hospital has been an incredible experience. Experience is definitely the right word. Thankfully I came out here prepared for the worst conditions so I wasn't too shocked by what I found (although I was still disturbed by it many times!) I have been pleasantly surprised by the doctors and the healthcare system here. The planning and setup is all there, they just don't have the resources to carry it out in the best way. Some things are good. They have field clinics where they go out into villages and do antenatal and childhood checks. They have a good and entirely free vaccination program. The doctors are generally well-trained and good at their jobs. It really is money and resources that are holding this country back from better health.

For my last weekend I have come down to the beach at Hikkaduwa to chill, relax and hopefully top up the tan (although it has been raining today!) I will spend Sunday with my lovely host family saying goodbye and then I get picked up for the airport at 3pm. My packing is as done as it can be (hopefully everything is going to fit and still be in the weight limit!)

I am so sad that my stay in this beautiful country is coming to an end but I also can't wait to get home, see everyone and share my stories! I will just have to come back to Sri Lanka one day!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Labour is the right word

A quick word of advice...

If you are going to have a baby, don't deliver in Sri Lanka

I've spent two days in the Labour Ward now and am really enjoying it. Seeing new life brought into the world is breathtaking, no matter what conditions it occurs in. However, it is a very surreal experience gien some of the programs I've seen where women have children in the Western world. I feel that the process of delivering a baby should be an incredibly special time for a family and should be a memory that is cherished and held on to forever. Sadly, I think most women in the Government Hospitals in Sri Lanka would be quite happy to forget the experience. Some differences:

  • At home, the husband or another person of choice can stay with the mother throughout. They go through the process together, supporting each other. Here, the woman is entirely alone. Men are only allowed onto the ward at visiting hours and NEVER anywhere near the delivery room. The women have to go through painful contractions by themselves, with no information as to what is happening to of the mothers I saw this morning was 20 years old...
  • All labours are induced here. Even if abdominal pain/small contractions start independently, the labour is induced.
  • All women recieve an episiotomy (look it up if you're not too squeamish) and I've been told by the two Belgian volunteers who are midwives on my ward that they are not done at all correctly.
  • The women are forced to lie on their left hand side throughout the labour. No getting up and walking to ease the pain, no finding the position that is most comfortable for you.
  • During the birth the midwives are violent. The mother's stomach is punched (I'm not joking) to encourage the baby out. The mother is shouted at. Down-there is pulled around, cut with scissors etc. 
  • As soon as the baby is born the mother is shown it's gender before it is whisked away. Forget skin-to-skin contact even though it is in the National Guidelines. Forget any bonding, any benefits such as increasing lactation, warming the baby and providing it with antibodies. The baby is put in a sideroom with all the others until about 45 minutes later when the mother must breastfeed.
  • Waste goes into normal bins. And I mean soiled bandages, placentas, the works.
There is so much more that shocks me but it's the general environment. It is unimaginable until you see it. The funny thing is, the midwives are all so lovely and gentle...until they're examining the patient or delivering. People skills/bedside manner don't seem to be taught here...

Nevertheless I am loving it. I knew (and still know) very little about the actual practicalities of childbirth-it's not something you see too often! Having the Belgian volunteers really helps as they are lovely and find it easier to explain things to me than the nurses. Let's just say I'll probably be very presently surprised the next time Im in a UK hospital!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Camping and cooking - not quite as I'm used to!

This week in the hospital was another good one. I saw lots more interesting surgeries including a huge laparotomy done by Sir on Friday where the guy was cut from his neck right down to his lower abdomen. Friday was my last day of that rotation so tomorrow I am heading to the Labour Ward for my last 5 days on my placement (I know, where has time gone?!)

Yesterday we had the medical camp, where all the medical volunteers go to a rural village where they can't access healthcare and set up a clinic for the locals. We got lots of hands on experience, taking over 150 patients blood pressures, pulses and blood sugars. They then saw the doctor we had brought to get a prescription and a few of us helped our lovely supervisor Roshini, a qualified pharmacist, to dish out all manner of medications into little white envelopes, using a plastic spoon! The locals even "rustled up" a giant, delicious breakfast spread for us including a slab of milk rice (Kiri Bath-one of my favourites) big enough to cover a whole table! It was great fun and I learnt a huge deal, particularly about the uses of all the different drugs. Mostly though, it felt amazing to be helping these sweet, lovely people to get the healthcare they desperately needed and wouldn't get otherwise. The entire thing, including all the medications we gave out, was funded by Projects Abroad as these villagers simply wouldn't have been able to afford anything close to what we were giving. Just to know that something so simple we did and enjoyed will make a big difference to them all is very rewarding.

After the camp, Jeanie and I headed down to Unawatuna, a small beach town near Galle. After our bus breaking down en route and having to find and pay for a new one, we arrived and found our guesthouse. Whilst relatively touristy, Una is small and quaint and lovely. We spent the evening sitting in beach bars, wandering the street and shops, strolling down the beach and taking a moonlit swim (a very surreal but incredibly enjoyable experience, particularly as the water is so warm). This morning we got up early and are quickly topping up the tans on the beach before heading down the road for a Sri Lankan cookery course that includes a trip to the veg and spice market in Galle, cooking, a meal afterwards and more! We are VERY excited and hopefully we will whip up some nice concoctions and get some good skills to bring home!