After some big challenges regarding permits and weather and illness the team of Grahame and Cheryl Tosh from the UK, Hamilton from Vellore and myself made it to the beautiful and remote state of Aizawl. Over an eventful 10 days we spent time with colleagues from Durtlang Presbyterian Hospital in Aizawl and Serkawn Baptist Hospital in Lunglei. The journey between the two places involves precipitous drops, hairpin bends, near misses, amazing views from tea stalls, stunning early morning mists, some travel sickness and even a beautiful waterfall on the way back. I have even found a mountain called 'leng' - maybe to climb on the next visit. We celebrated my birthday with typical Mizo breakfast and hours of singing! It was very encouraging to see how the principles of palliative care are being incorporated into these excellent hospitals. Dr Sanga at Durtlang has a significant role in caring for young men affected by substance misuse and there is an HIV/AIDS hospice aptly called Grace Home. Dr Lalramzauza, medical director of Serkawn, attended the Toolkit training last year along with the senior nurse tutor. They have formed a small palliative care team seen here and we had the privilege of meeting some of their patients. One very ill elderly man spoke of the incredible hope and comfort he now knows because of the touch of God in his life. We shared and prayed with him and his wife. Mizoram is a Christian state where church support is central to peoples lives. How is this for good advice in a prayer garden? It says 'Listen to God'.
Mizoram's monsoon kept us a few days longer than planned but I was able to visit Bangalore and take part in the first HIV Palliative Care course at St John's Hospital led by Dr Shoba Nair. It was great to teach with Prof Rajagopal again and to see the great work of Snehadan HIV center led by Father Matthew Perumpil.
Off to Delhi in the 45+ degree heat and on to Lucknow with our team for the first ever Palliative Care Toolkit training in Uttar Pradesh. Jo Dunn from the UK works with Hospice Africa Uganda and was on her first trip to India, Chitra is of course my dear friend and colleague and senior palliative care and psychiatry doctor in India and Nicholas Mellor from the Palliative Care Partnership joined us to see the Toolkit training in action. We worked with our local colleagues Sanjay Diraj and Shakeel Ahmed from SGPGI and Piyush Gupta and his team at Canceraids society. We had an amazing week. The participants were enthusiastic and open and shared so much with us as well as seeming to really gain from the training. They came from 6 institutions and organisations in Lucknow as well as other parts of the state. We were also able to raise awareness in medical institutions in Lucknow, hold a press conference, share with senior colleagues in Lucknow and Agra and meet some patients. The press conference achieved great media coverage and there are now many patients asking for help that is sadly very scarce in this huge state. As ever the needs are for continued support and mentoring but we wish all our participants every blessing as they seek to put their training into practice. here are a few quotes; 'It was excellent training and definitely it will be helpful to our work' 'I am really thankful to the organising committee for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful experience. I will do my best to practice my knowledge for the patients from today itself'
India of course offers so much to tantalise the body and saturate the senses. We ate wonderful food; Mogul shami kebabs; creamy buffalo butter in buns, melt in the mouth samosa, succulent bamboo shoots from the mountains, crisp dosai for breakfast, sweet sticky jellabies, burning hot parenthe in the back streets of Old Delhi washed down with spicy chai. We experienced something of the ancient culture - not least the most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
Talking of culture; in the famous city of poetry, Lucknow, I had a poem written and recited to me by one of my students - in Hindi!